9 Sep 2013, 10:42am
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Visit to the village palai

As a part of Prakash Foundation’s efforts for rural development, I visited Palai on Diwali last year. It was my first visit to the rural India, and I didn’t know that such an awesome experience lay in store for me.

As soon as I reached there, I saw villagers thronging around our Bus. They had been waiting eagerly for our arrival since morning. A huge pandal was setup for the evening programme.  After giving a quick introduction, we arranged the projector, and started showing the movie SWADES. In the movie, an NRI returns to an Indian village and works for its up-liftment. We were trying to do something similar, and the similarity between the movie and our mission was quite striking. I had seen such scenes in films and television, but now it was happening for real. The feeling was simply surreal.

On the next day, we arranged for a cultural program, in which we encouraged the village youth & children to show their talent. They were encouraged to sing, dance, tell jokes, etc. In between, we discussed topics of common interest. It was heartening to see them open up after showing so much initial hesitation. After the event, we did a candle lightning ceremony. The scenes of every one holding candles in different formations will remain etched in my memory forever. We also showed the movie Lagaan to inspire the villagers to believe, and to stand up for themselves. The movie was received very well, and I smiled from ear-to-ear upon seeing villagers happy faces and hearing them laughing and enjoying at every moment. It was real education as well as fun.

In the night, I decided to stay with the villagers at their home, rather than going back to our guest house. This allowed me to have a closer look at the difficult situations that villagers live in.  In the morning, I went for a walk into the farms and the nearby canal. I got to know about the various crops that are being sown, and the challenges villagers are facing.

Next day, before leaving, we clicked photo-graphs with villagers in different scenes and wished them a very happy Diwali. Overall, it was an experience that I will never forget in my life.

20 Jan 2012, 7:44pm
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You have to assimilate great ideas to make them work

We have all read quotes like “Your attitude determines your altitude”, “Experience is the best teacher”, “Simple living and high thinking”, “Everything happens for a purpose and it will serve you”, etc. These are all excellent ideas and can work wonders for you if you truly assimilate them in your lives, e.g. assimilating the idea that “Everything happens on purpose and it will serve you” will make you ask the questions: “What is the purpose of this event”, “What can I learn from this event”, “How can I use this as an opportunity to become better”, rather than asking “Why this has happened to me?”, “Why do bad things always happen to me”. Depending on what questions you ask, your focus of life will be different, and consequently the results that you will get.

But how many of us know how to bridge the gap between knowing an excellent idea, and digesting and assimilating to make it work and come to life for us. Most of us just read these ideas with awe, with no knowledge of how to assimilate it. For us, these just remain platitudes.

I consider assimilating an idea as developing relationship with a person. In the first meeting, you are just introduced to the person, and it takes some time to develop a relationship so that you know the other person deeply: likes/dislikes, ambitions, future plans, family, strengths, weaknesses, etc, etc. The more you interact with him, the deeper your relationship becomes, and you reap the rewards through emotional support, referrals, extra business, etc.

Similarly, when you read a good thought/idea you are just introduced to it. I repeat — just introduced to it. It will only come to life when you develop a relationship with that idea. So, as you will do with a person, you have to do it with the thought. Define it for yourself, and then ask “leading questions (Why, How, what, who, when) about the thought to gather information about it. The more questions you ask and try to answer the better you understand the idea.

Time for an example:

Let me illustrate the process with the idea “Your attitude determines your altitude”.

What is your definition…(This could be different for everyone but the essence will
probably be the same)

Your level of success & achievement in life will be determined by the attitude you adopt
towards life. If you adopt a positive attitude most of the times in my life, your life will be a
big success irrespective of the challenges/difficulties I might have to face. Similarly, if you
adopt a negative attitude, then my life will be dull, boring and full of stress for the most part, irrespective of any amount of outward success (money, car, girl friends, etc), you seem to have.

Where have you seen the idea in action, and how was it being played out

In this case, I have seen a lot of people who seem to achieve huge success because of their
positive attitude.

Mahatma Gandhi
Having a positive attitude helped him achieve freedom for India, despite facing so many
obstacles.

Stephen Hawking
In-spite of facing a life threatening disease and being crippled for life, he went on to
become a great physicist.

Dhirubhai Ambani
He went on to establish a huge business starting from having almost nothing, only because
of his positive attitude.

Now once you truly understand and feel comfortable with the idea, then and only then can you decide whether you want to bring it to life by acting in accordance with it. Sometimes, just understanding the idea is enough to make it usable and it doesn’t take too much effort to use it. In other cases, it can require a huge amount of mental shift to make it usable. I will be discussing this mental shift and how to cross those hurdles in the next edition.

I would be glad to hear your comments & feedback on this.

20 Jan 2012, 7:32pm
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Life is parallel

Over time, I have seen a lot of people focusing on just one thing like full time job search, or studies, etc, and feeling dissatisfied with life in general. They focus on one activity so exclusively that they don’t eat properly, dress properly, keep their rooms clean, spend time on hobbies, etc.

They seem to be making one activity the sole aim of life, in the process loosing hair, vitality, energy, etc. Even if they get that one thing after sometime, they are just a little happy about it. They don’t see that life is passing them by. They are in fear and rat race, following others footsteps, giving up their own ability to think.

Life is actually a parallel process, and you need to balance between these different areas. Unfortunately, our current societal structure seems to be against it.

Overloaded with study, students don’t have time to spend time on different other activities, that are important for managing the vitality.

How can we change the schooling and college structure?

16 Nov 2011, 7:24pm
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How to deal with the Fear of Criticism?

Are you afraid of criticism from your family or friends for saying or doing something that your heart is saying you to do, e.g. You want to pursue acting as a career but are fearful of critical behavior from your family, or You love someone very much but are intimidation by the fear of unfavorable response from your family.

I want to assure you that you are not alone in this fear. Most of us at some point or the other have faced this fear and stopped our inner voice. One of the biggest fears that stops us from pursuing our intuition and the voice of conscience is the fear of criticism. We feel scared of the reactions of our near ones, our family members, relatives, friends, etc. We feel ill-at-ease at the prospect of being criticized. How do we handle this fear, and pursue what we really want to do.

First thing to understand is that criticism is not always bad. In some cases, it might give you a better perspective of things so that you can make a better decision, e.g. if you want to pursue acting as a career, and if your parents say that you should not pick that up as a choice as a very few people succeed in acting and you should pick it up as a choice only if you are willing to put in that amount of effort.  This criticism is constructive as it gives you additional information and your parents’ perspective on it.

However, not all criticism is constructive. At times people around us have their own understanding of life, and agenda for our lives and they try to impose that on us, discarding our views. In that case, we need to be firm in our conviction and find a way to make them understand our view-point, e.g. if parents are adamant that you should become an engineer, whereas your heart is set on wildlife photography, then you can tell your parents that wildlife photography might give you less money than an engineer may make, but you will be satisfied, you will live your life fully by becoming a photographer.

Sometimes, it is not clear whether a criticism is constructive or not. In those cases, you can ask a question to clarify it, e.g. if your parents oppose your choice to become a wildlife photographer, than ask them why do they oppose it.

You will only be able to apply the above strategies of handling criticism effectively if you don’t take criticism to your heart.  Once we take criticism to our heart than it makes us feel hurt and we loose our calm and cant handle the situation effectively. Try not to take criticism to your heart – take a few deep breaths if your emotions start to rise, and then ask a clarifying question to see if the criticism is constructive or doesn’t have any base.

In any case, never let criticism stop you from following your passions and creating a life of your dreams. Utilize constructive criticism positively and ignore the rest. Upon some practice, you will surely be able to follow your heart, and not feel crippled by this morbid fear.

 

25 Nov 2010, 8:20am
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How to handle the Fear of Failure

Most of us feel a little scared when we are trying something new, or doing something where our performance is likely to be evaluated, e.g. exams. This fear can stop us in a lot of situations, which are important to us.  It can also stop you from pursuing your passions, and venturing out to follow his heart’s calling. For some people the fear is so intense, that almost all of their life is crippled by this morbid fear.  Before we do anything about it , we have to first understand what is this fear, where does it arise from.

Fear of failure is a feeling of anxiety that anyone experiences when doing any activity he doesn’t feel fully confident about, or is worried about the consequences.  If the activity has a chance of something he dearly wants, being denied to him, or people mocking at him for failing, it results in anxiety and nervousness, e.g. public speaking. How did this anxiety feeling develop ?? It was not there when we were born.

Once there was a time in everybody’s life when we had no fear of failure. In our childhood, we fell down innumerable number of times before finally learning how to walk. The same thing was repeated when we first learned to drive a bicycle. At that time, the word failure didn’t exist in our vocabulary. If we failed in doing something, we simply tried again. As school started, something strange started to happen. When we made mistakes, other people laughed or mocked. When we didn’t do something right in studies we were being criticized by teachers and parents. When we dropped that glass of milk from the table, we were again being shouted upon. In general, whenever we did any mistake, we were made to feel bad.  The end result was that we started to do only what was required, and stopped trying to do new things. We learned to conform to the rules. As we grew up, this fear had a tremendous negative effect on our life. It stops us from growing, as we feel scared to try out any new thing. We remain stuck in dead-end jobs even if we don’t like them at all for the fear of failure. So, how do we deal with it?

The best way to deal with fear of failure is to realize that “there is no failure in real life”. It is nothing but a mismatch in expectations, and it our chance to try again with more information. This fact can be realized by the example of Edison, who is supposed to have tried about 10,000 times before finally finding the formula for creating the light bulb. He said he never failed. He only found one more way by which a bulb could not be made.

The only time we really fail, is when we don’t learn from them and keep trying to do it the same way. We only fail when we give up, or we don’t try. So, try your best and keep trying till you succeed. Use failures as an important lessons, and part of the journey of success.

25 Nov 2010, 8:10am
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How to live everyday as if it is the last day of your life?

We have heard several people say that in order to live life to the fullest, live everyday as if it is your last day in life. But what does it really mean when they say that. If it was the last day of their life, most of the people would just relax and take it easy, or do all kinds of enjoyable activities. Living everyday as if it was your last, doesn’t imply any of the above actions. It doesn’t mean that you can give up being responsible and live everyday recklessly.

The essence of the saying is that you live your life to the fullest. Each day is important, so make everyday count. Decide on the most important 4-5 things in your life and focus on them. A lot of people spend most of their time in one area of their lives, at the expense of other areas, and that results in difficulties down the road in those areas, e.g. a lot of people spend almost all of their time at work, and don’t spend any quality time with their family. It results in their feeling alienated from their family members, and lack of respect and understanding in the family. Some others spend almost no time on exercise and healthy nutrition and it results in frequent illnesses, and health difficulties plaguing them later on.

The saying also means willingness to follow your heart and conscience and make important changes in your life.  Our heart may be urging to meet someone, or go somewhere to do some important work. We procrastinate on these important matters and keep postponing them to a later date.  We think we have years left to our life. This framework of living everyday as if it is your last, makes you to think of the most important tasks in front of you and live accordingly.

Moreover, the phrase also says that you pursue your passions, and your dreams wholeheartedly because you don’t know whether you will be alive the next day. Keeping our mortality in front of us, helps us to do our best everyday. A lot of times, we keep delaying and don’t pursue our dreams and aspirations, or what our heart is urging us to do, thinking that we will do it later on.

In summary, living everyday as if it was your last means to live your life to the fullest, prioritizing on your most important 4-5 things in your life, having the courage to make changes in your life that you heart is urging you to make, and not postponing our dreams, by knowing that we will dead one day so there is nothing to loose.