The Essence of Sportsmanship

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At the time of writing this piece, I was still reeling from the cricket world cup finals that took place in July 2019. At the time of posting this article, a few may remember the roller coaster ride that the two teams took during that eventful night, which may very well be the definitive game that decided a champion (two champions in fact) in cricket, if not all sport. So for those who witnessed it, here I am to remind you, lest you forget. The calm and collected faces on the field hid the emotional mayhem that must have played out in the minds of all men involved in that contest. And when the game finally ended on one delivery after over 600 deliveries were unable to decide a clear winner, a winner was decided by the smallest of margins, there was no margin at all. And unlike in trading, in cricket, there is no provision for a margin call.

Agony, elation, nightmare, relief, disbelief, joy, pain, living a dream, a dream being shattered, euphoria, heartache, a contrast of emotions ran amongst the English players and the Kiwis. Yet, nothing separated the two and while some were whooping in ecstasy and others held their heads in despair, they were all champions. The Kiwis could take pride in their verdict, while there seemed to be a sense of embarrassment on the part of the English in theirs. England had won without New Zealand losing and every participant in this game was aware of this fact. New Zealand was gracious in ‘defeat’ while the English were empathetic and respectful towards their opponents in celebration. The English fans I’m certain were stunned because sporting history is testament to the fact that they have been at the receiving end of such outcomes more often than not.

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The New Zealand cricket captain, Kane Williamson embodies the spirit that his team wears on their sleeves and in their hearts. They are the perennial nice guys of the cricketing world, which should not be misconstrued as soft. They are as fierce as they are talented, as competitive as they are good-spirited, and they play as much to win as they do to uphold the standards and grace of the game. As much as this is an English product, in my mind, the term ‘gentleman’s game’ reflects the characteristics displayed by the New Zealand cricket team.

It was very difficult to not let emotions run beyond their control at the end of that final. It was hard not to be distraught and lash out at the unfairness of the outcome. There was every reason to be inconsolable, for a lifelong dream that almost came true was taken away in a whiff by the cruelty of life. A dream that life may not offer another opportunity to fulfill. The English players, on the other hand, did everything they could to console their opponents and remind them that they were as good on the day. And this is the essence of sport.

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This cricket match is just one instance that personifies the true spirit of sportsmanship. During the 1992 Olympics, pre-race favorite Derek Redmond tore his hamstring during the race but helped by his father decided to continue to the finish line limping. Finishing the race was as important as finishing first. During the single hand around the world yacht race, Pete Goss abandoned his lead to rescue another competitor whose yacht was destroyed in an ensuing storm. One may have many opportunities at sporting victories but just one at life. During the Winter Olympics in Italy, Norwegian ski coach Hakensmoen offered Canada’s Sara Renner a ski pole after another competitor accidentally stepped on and broke the one she was using. Canada won silver while Norway could only finish fourth. Generosity over victory. The Indian captain, M S Dhoni withdrew his appeal on a dubious run out decision of English Batsmen Ian Bell (yup, these English are everywhere) despite being in a losing position. Fair play took precedence over the desperation to win. During the 2012 Olympics, Usain Bolt decided to stop his interview in respect as the US national anthem began to play, and continued only after it was over. Respect over stardom. From Shawn Crawford returning his silver medal to Churandy Martina after the latter was disqualified at the Beijing Olympics to Canadian skater Junio’s selflessness in giving up his spot to teammate Morrison who failed qualification during the national trials owing to faulty equipment, there are innumerous acts of heartwarming sportsmanship that will reverberate through the sands of time.

Yes, sport is meant to be competitive. Yes, sport is about coming out on top over opponents. Yes, sport is about being relentless in one’s pursuits. Yes, sport is about skill, discipline, consistency, and hard work. Yes, sport is about beers, fan fights, and stadium ejections. But in the end, sport extends beyond winning. Its symbolism transcends beyond that trophy or medal. It is not just about getting to that tape at the finishing line but how we conduct ourselves before and beyond it. Only if we all conducted our lives with this equanimity.

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‘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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Dream On

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If I were to tell you that dreaming could likely be the single most productive task you’ve done in your life, would you believe me? And I don’t mean having a life long dream that we care to achieve, but dreams that occur on most nights while we sleep and try to restore our energy to ensure that we are ready and fit for all the activities we don’t intend to do the following day. I wouldn’t believe me. I mean imagine yawning, sleeping, dreaming, checking social media messages, snatching the blanket back, dreaming, sleepwalking, dreaming, and finally waking (or not) becoming the logistical mantra for a successful life. It sounds too good to be true.

The first science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, the concept of the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein, the structure of the Atom by Niels Bohr, the composition of the famous hit ‘Yesterday’ by Paul McCartney and The Beatles, the structure of the periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleev, Dr. Frederick Banting’s discovery of the use of insulin for diabetic patients, a few of Srinivas Ramanujan’s mathematical theories, as well as my theory of procrastination, all find their roots in vivid dreams. An argument can be made that a majority of these discoveries are scientific and educational in nature, and if these people decided to not doze off while working, we would have a lot less to study in our schools and colleges. Nevertheless, these discoveries are groundbreaking, to say the least. Take my theory of procrastination for instance. If I had not decided to sleep and dream aimlessly and endlessly, how would this theory ever have come into existence? In fact, I am willing to wager that the impact of the theory of procrastination has been on many more people than the impacts by Google, the Avengers movie franchise, and even sliced bread.

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It’s fair to assume that we all spend a third of our day sleeping, and therefore a third of our life asleep too (except the few spots when we endure ‘all-nighters’ to read comic books on exam nights, to watch our sports team take a beating in a different time zone, to transfer items from the refrigerator into our tummy, which we apparently term as a midnight snack as opposed to a midnight banquet, and even getting thrown out of bars). This is a significant portion of our lives, and studies show that the average person spends about a quarter of their sleep time dreaming. Two hours of dreaming a night? We must have hit that ten thousand hour mark many times over. Now I’m not sure how the eminent people sans one mentioned in the previous paragraph managed to discipline their minds enough to engage in meaningful, structured, and creative dreams. I, for some reason experience dreams that I cannot even begin to explain. They range from ‘shame shame puppy shame’, and falling from the sky (gravity has already been discovered so it’s pointless), to storylines changing faster than the speed of light, ‘pee-pee’ dreams and being on a sports team with pizza slices and muffins (I don’t know what this is even meant to signify, except that I need to stop gorging on them). Or maybe I just haven’t bothered to remember a dream that may have actually offered some guidance and enlightenment.

My point here is that we all have issues and challenges that we are in a constant tussle with. While these challenges exhaust us and put us to sleep, our unconscious mind continues to try and solve them well into the night. Based on several studies by experts, there are numerous areas that our dreams help us in. Here are some.

  1. We have emotional trials that we constantly deal with. While we may not be able to understand or relate our emotional duress to their causes during our conscious hours, our brains are highly capable of joining the dots and forming connections, without our annoying waking interference while we sleep. This allows us to find some answers and obtain emotional balance to a degree. We potentially have a chance of healing over time. We have a free therapist in our head and we don’t even need to be awake as she speaks.
  2. Dreaming helps us reflect on our actual lives on a daily basis. Our unconscious mind helps replay situations, our actions in those situations, and alternate courses of action that may have been apter under the circumstances. This offers perspective and learning for future situations. This is our automatic problem-solving kit.
  3. Often dreams can lead to premonitions of threats and other occurrences in our lives. It gets us battle-ready (or ready to flee).
  4. Creativity can be at its highest in our dreams. Pioneering discoveries and creations born in people’s dreams are a testimony that the deliberations by our mind as our body rests lead to revolutions. It’s probably happened to every single one of us as well. A business idea, an idea for a new advertising campaign, a movie theme, a poem, or even the idea to write about dreams may have occurred in a dream, without our conscious knowledge. So pay attention boys and girls, for your dreams may lead to solutions for first world problems like finding enough storage for the consequences of our compulsive shopping habits, fat burning desserts, self making beds, getting every single one of our connections to like our social media posts, phone charging trouser pockets, and even a spouse proof television remote.
  5. Dreams also act as a sorting mechanism for all the information we absorb during our waking hours. It would be highly improbable for us to retain all the information we encounter in our lives and our dreams help decide what to keep and what to discard.

Research continues to find more benefits of dreaming and if we care to pay attention to them and remember them, we may become mentally and emotionally healthier, and experience boundless creativity. There are several ways to remember our dreams and brain coach Jim Kwik recommends simple steps like making a conscious choice to remember our dreams, writing them down immediately when we wake up, keeping our eyes closed as we wake up and reflect on our dreams, tell ourselves daily that we will remember our dreams, and manage our sleep well to ensure a dreamy nightcap.

The benefits of paying attention to the small little stories in our head as we do what we love most are astounding. It truly is ‘lights out’.

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Shadow Cat

The title may have you believe that I refer to the popular member of X-Men (who by the way is Shadowcat, one word), a new, sinister, back alley, comic villain set to disrupt life in New York City (or the monk life in Tibet if you prefer), or just a kitten roaming the ledges outside your bedroom window at night, at a distance from the street lamp that casts a feline shadow large enough to scare the bejesus out of you. If we let our imagination run wild, shadow cat could also mean an eclipse involving the sun, the moon, and Halle Berry. I have written a few blogs now and none of them have featured my customary ‘pj’ (poor jokes) so I had to put this in here. Anyway, let’s move on.

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The term ‘shadow’ to me apart from the mute scary black thing that follows us around, has meant to learn a trade, task, or skill by observing someone else do it. It’s something that can be practiced in any conceivable profession or aspect of our personal lives. Usually, when a fresh recruit arrives at a company, she is asked to ‘shadow’ a more seasoned pro to learn the practical ropes of the trade. We learn not just physical skills like construction, engineering techniques, healthcare delivery, farming, cooking, stealing, tying one’s shoelaces, and stapling a bunch of papers, but also soft skills like negotiating, selling, coaching, manipulating, throwing tantrums, and snoring, by shadowing people that excel at these skills. I believe in learning by doing and observing. In fact, being a big advocate of sport and someone that has played a fair amount in my younger days, I believe shadow practice plays an important part in many sports, especially ones that involve a ball, like cricket, table tennis, and tennis. The idea is to practice one’s technique by observing one’s shadow, without the use of an actual ball. I wish they had this option available during school examinations as well, where we would imagine writing our answers and not have to actually pen them on paper.

Shadowing people through the course of my life has added tremendous impetus and growth to my being. Not only did I draw value by observing leaders at work, veterans on my sports team, seniors at the university, family members, and George W Bush, but also the unsuspecting mentors in my daily life that genuinely made me feel positive and empowered. And that for me has been the key to forming more holistic and sound attributes. A majority of us only look as far as the physical or verbal nature of an art form. We feel that as long as we learn how to build, or program, or repair, or present well by shadowing people, we will become perfect specimens in our professional and personal lives. We feel that mastering skills that appear on a typical job advertisement is what it takes to excel. Providing a big home, fast cars, regular exotic vacations, and material goods, makes us feel like irrefutable success stories in our personal and family lives. Sure, these skills are important but shouldn’t we learn more about the people we shadow, which is every one of essence around us? No matter what our profession is, where in the world we live, what our principles and cultural outlook are, there is one common tie to us all: relationships with other humans.

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We pay attention to what our mentors do and how they do it but rarely dwell deep into why they do it. We spend little time understanding the man or woman behind the machine. We see everything our eyes show us but very little of the unseen that our mind is capable of perceiving. We want to learn a skill quickly and be one of the top dogs as soon as possible but we fail to grasp the essence of being a leader. We misconstrue a designation for the position of a leader. A leader is made not only on her superlative abilities to deliver results, fluent communication, great decision-making skills, commitment to the cause, brilliant creativity, or the ability to create irresistible strategies. A leader is also made on her abilities to gain the trust of others by being inspirational and not by power or authority. She flourishes by her facility to understand people and empathize with them. She is respected by being accountable for problems and sharing the credit for success. And she is an indomitable leader when she can stimulate those around her to act beyond their own needs. To be able to do this, it’s not only important to know what people can do, but also who they are.

When we observe to learn and grow it seems almost selfish in nature. As long as we derive whatever value we can to help ourselves, we don’t feel the need to look beyond. Almost every candidate I have interviewed for a job has spoken about how they would want to learn and grow, but rarely has one spoken about the contribution they would like to make. We learn as much from giving as we do from taking. By giving, we understand the true extent of our intent and abilities that take us beyond the threshold for success we create in our minds. So even if it’s for purely self-oriented reasons, understanding people and contributing to their growth will, in turn, promote ours to new heights. When we observe (and I don’t mean going around being the peeping tom in your locality) with empathy and the intent to understand people it becomes innate over time and we become better leaders and humans.

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Shadowing fills us with knowledge but eventually stepping out of the shadows to make contributions beyond the self rewards us with wisdom, courage, and inspiration.

 

Who I Want To Be When I Grow Up

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I celebrate only my 38th birthday this year so I definitely do have time to figure out who I’d like to be when I grow up. And it’s not just about figuring out who I want to be, but also as much about who I do not want to be. I guess it’s just a human tendency to let reverse psychology work on our minds. Try telling your 4-year old not to paint on the walls. Try telling your boss you did your best despite the horrendous outcome. Try telling yourself not to think about anything while meditating. Try telling your love interest that you only checked your messages when you got up to pee and weren’t chatting with anyone special at 2:46 am. I’m sure we’ve all put ourselves through the ‘let’s not think about the pink elephant’ test and failed.

I’m sorry, did you think this was a career post? I’m sure we will all figure that out through our own abilities and guidance from some very effective career coaches. We gain knowledge and skills through our education (At times only on the basis of our grades, which in my opinion is a poor indicator by itself. And no I didn’t have poor grades just in case you’re wondering…:)…) and work to get to very impressive positions in our career. We garner wealth and then some. We become managers, lead organizations and further the vision and reach of our industries. We continue to educate ourselves and update our skillset on a regular basis to stay relevant and ahead of the development curve (Including our selfie-taking skills, social media handles, and being updated on the latest gossip). We want to be the best at what we do and that’s the way it should be. However, despite this level of growth do we really have everything we need to hold us in good stead not just on the professional front but also in our personal lives? No matter what our business is, eventually we deal with people in every facet of our lives and there will rarely be a skill that is going to be more significant than people management till we get to a point where AI runs the world (Then it will be up to the robots to understand good people management skills. Unless they want us to get pissed off and send them Candy Crush requests).

Many of us believe we have impeccable people management skills (Like micromanagement, verbal dress downs and passing the blame around). However, I believe what we really lack despite our experience, abilities, and accolades is emotional maturity and emotional intelligence. I see a dearth of emotional maturity and intelligence within myself and all around me. And I believe this really is a defining virtue in forging a strong understanding of ourselves and each other, as well as being able to truly and wholly service a healthy relationship.

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Here are some of my trademarks of an emotionally mature and independent person

  1. They are able to handle a situation with objectivity and don’t allow personal feelings to drive their response. They contain a situation and don’t let it escalate.
  2. They face the reality staring at them with humility, honesty, and transparency. They don’t let their egos cloud their judgment or willingness to accept their faults.
  3. They don’t blame the world around them for the soups they get into. On the contrary, they take hold themselves accountable for their mistakes and take responsibility in addressing issues and resolving matters.
  4. They care about the people around them and study them closely to understand and serve them better. An emotionally intelligent and mature leader will make every effort to understand the strengths and weaknesses of her family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and humans in general around her. She will then use this knowledge to bridge gaps, make up for emotional weaknesses in others (because she cares about the relationship and won’t have that ‘why should I do all the hard work?’ attitude), and instill confidence and security in them. Sometimes we need to be emotional leaders to help others arrive on that same plane.
  5. They don’t dig up the past and launch scathing personal attacks in any situation.
  6. They don’t have the ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’ attitude. They accept that a problem exists, no matter how bad it may make them look.
  7. They don’t resort to bullying others just to relieve themselves of blame or responsibility or just because of their own insecurities.
  8. They don’t react (I need to keep reminding myself of this one). They have a lid on their emotions and don’t come out all guns blazing.
  9. They truly understand how they and others feel.
  10. They do not let their weaknesses prevent them from pulling themselves outside their comfort zone for the greater good of healthy relationships. They rely on honest and open communication, no matter how difficult the subject or situation.
  11. They understand that emotions are devoid of logic and allow themselves and others that flexibility to express emotions that seem devoid of sense, which is vital.
  12. They accept a different perspective. Not everything they know or possess is optimum.
  13. They don’t judge people or situations quickly. Jumping to conclusions is like jumping off a plane without a parachute (or one that is defective and won’t open anyway).
  14. They are calm in the face of adversity and resilient in tough situations for themselves and others.
  15. They are approachable and provide a level of comfort when spoken to.
  16. And finally, while they realize that life and survival is serious business, they also know that a sense of humor gets them further than frowns and groans. They learn to laugh at themselves.

Sure I’d like to be successful, healthy, wealthy, important, and impactful when I grow up. We all perceive ourselves in the future as top executives and business magnates, with a grand house (or five), expensive material belongings, the ability to travel the world, and an ever-growing financial portfolio. But is this going to make us happy by itself? Let’s say we have all this but would it bother us if we didn’t get along with our spouse? Would it bother us if we didn’t understand our children and we saw it in their eyes? Would it bother us if our employees or colleagues cowered in our presence? Would it bother us if our business associates felt that we didn’t care? Would it bother us if our best friend stopped sharing their problems with us because he felt we couldn’t empathize with him? Would it bother us if our dog looked at us with sullen eyes because we couldn’t figure out that all he wanted was to go for a walk with us? I’m certain that at the end of all our achievements, we will yearn for good relationships the most.

I don’t want to be grouchy, or irritable, or lack empathy, or not understand another perspective, or blame the world for my problems, or lose heart and hope in the face of difficulties, or disrupt relationships because I was not brave enough to have those difficult conversations.

I have many of the characteristics from the list above and so do you. But how close are we to truly being at a level of emotional maturity and intelligence that actually has a consistently positive impact on our lives and those of others? I may not be able to fulfill every dream I envision. But obtaining a high level of emotional maturity is nonnegotiable.

Emotional maturity and intelligence are as good of a superpower as any. If perfected, it’s almost like telepathy, the ability to understand every mind and situation. Most people don’t seem to get this and if they do, they say they are too old to change and adapt. I’m approaching the age of 40 at neck-break speed, and I’m only just growing up.

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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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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).

Repetition2

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…

Repetition

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.

Home Field Advantage

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!!