The daily crossword

Not sure about the virus, but my wife, Kavitha and I have been bitten by the crossword puzzle bug during the pandemic, and it’s got me thinking.

I realized there’s a lot of similarities between solving crosswords and life situations.

Sometimes you go around the puzzle and feel like giving up in 20 seconds- but then all you need is one small break and the words just fall into place. One trick I use is to move on if the word does not immediately strike me …. just move on…. once you solve the other ones, these problem words get solved themselves.

Looking for context is sometimes key – most puzzles have a theme for each puzzle, once you get that, your brain processes words differently. What’s your purpose? What’s your calling?

A quirky add-on these days is using expressions like “aha” or “huh”- whats life without these expressions of wonder to fill up the small 3 letter spaces in our life. Not everything in life should make sense and have meaning … sometimes our situation is just an expression. Learn to smile at your situation.

Getting good at crossword is about being agile and having a curious mind. Learn to have a genuine interest in things beyond your comfort zone or “speciality”. Look around. Experience. Learn.

Contrary to popular belief- Life is not a race you compete with other people. Though most puzzle apps have a clock to track your progress- don’t get too caught up with that. You’ll know it when you’re on a roll and looking at the clock only stresses you out.

Learn to ask for help. I’ve spent sleepless nights thinking of that one word to solve a puzzle. Sometimes in the New York times daily puzzle, many of the associations are with very local stuff- like baseball, or local politicians or geography. When I hit a roadblock and get frustrated- I just finally google it, and I learn something new in the bargain. Sometimes some situations in life are there for your learning- not solving. Don’t stress out- Accept it and learn from every situation.

So… there you have it, these are difficult times and everything looks so complex at first, and anxiety-inducing, don’t give up, try some of the learnings I’ve had and believe me, nothing sets you up in a positive frame of mind than a solving a puzzle. 👍🏽

Dive Deep.

I just heard that you have a higher chance of being attacked by a shark when you are swimming at the surface. Hmm. Remember the poster to “JAWS”, ?

Yes, we live in strange time- short fuses, everyone in masks, trying to be politically right and staying away from one other to ensure we don’t connect with a virus. It’s probably therefore a good time to take a deep breath, say a prayer and dive deeper …. into speaking out and not caring about how other people would react. Dive deeper – when you are unsure if that chocolate cake has too many colories baked in. Dive deeper.

Yet, many of us just think it’s safest when you can see the shoreline and are embracing the familiar.

When we are left with no option but to go “skinny-dipping” in the dark, would you want to be lit up against the afterglow of the harbour lights or slip smoothly into the darkness? For the very beliefs that we sought refuge in under normal conditions are probably the ones that could compromise us during a crisis.

Let go…. leave sight of the shoreline…. and face your deepest fears.

STAY SAFE. DIVE DEEP.

#unsermon

Why men keep losing arguments at home?

It’s not funny – every time I’ve picked a movie on Netflix during the lockdown, my wife says she’s watched it, and I keep scratching my head trying to think of a time when she could have watched all these movies when I wasn’t around. 🤨

I think the women in our lives, keep doing a lot of stuff when we’re not looking- just storing up info and knowledge on so many things to use for or against us at that opportune moment. Have you ever wondered what we would do without these amazing, organically-growing bodies of knowledge helping us along this complex life of ours since the time they got us kicked out of the garden of Eden, by providing us with Specific, scientifically-proven facts on everyday stuff?

I still remember washing thoroughly a non stick cooking pan sometime ago, and the automatic alert mode switches on in the ether around our home and I hear a voice from the next room – “… that’s Teflon coated, you’re not supposed to scrub it like that …”, I look up to the sky and thank god, for I didn’t know that nugget of invaluable information. Where is she getting all this knowledge from? I quietly drop the scrubber and caress the Teflon coating…. aah!

The other day we had the New washing machine installed, and I stood beside the service engineer while he explained the usage, I called my wife to check if she wanted to watch the demo and she said “it’s okay.“, which I have come to realize is actually a “hell NO”. Fast forward to yesterday, and I was setting up the machine for a spin and without even so much as a glance she goes- “ dont keep the water pressure at high… or the hose will leak“. Gawd, 30 minutes of zen like focus as the service engineer installed it while providing me with tips- All of it in vain? I think I’ve married “Wonder Woman” in disguise, seriously.

I could have just got back from shopping and would be bending half way trying to reach the vegetable tray in the refrigerator and she gives me exact details on how to store each vegetable type… dry. Pouched. Stalk out. Cut. Hmmm. Before I got married, I just went to the store and got “milk”, now after 20 years, I got to remember terms like pasteurized, skimmed, toned, fat %, check expiry date, packaging. Not sure how I even survived all those decades drinking just “milk”.

Labels. Labels.labels. Before I got married I just looked at the labels on items to check if I could afford it financially. Now? I just have gotten used to putting on my bifocals and reading the fine print like a student unprepared for his math test …. GST? ST? It’s going to expire in 2 week? Carbohydrates? Do I check “Manufacturing date” or “expiry date”? What the hell is “halal cut?”

I’ve been benefitted by other life saving info too over the years-like, what is the right tip to leave a waiter or the food delivery guy… Or I could be lying down with my head propped up with 3 pillows, and boom, there’s a medically proven fact on blood flow and strokes throw in my general direction … so I just remove 1 pillow and save my chances of survival by 33%. Alternatively I could bring a bowl of fruit salad with some nice flavoured yogurt toppings at 5pm and she goes- “what? You will wake up with a sore throat tomorrow morning.”.

On the flip side all the facts and tips I read seem to be just crap, and doesn’t seem to be helping me win any arguments whatsoever, however much I try and steer discussions into topics that make up my treasure trove of knowledge. I read somewhere that we need to close all the doors and windows at sunset so the mosquitoes don’t fly in and try and find a comfortable place to stay the night, and since that day I’ve been going around the house closing doors and windows at sunset, while looking at my wife trying to see if she’s going to ask me what I’m doing, so I have a fact to throw at her now – it’s been 6 years now and she’s never enquired on it.

Like a student from the back benches, trying to cram up for an exam at the last moment, I too try and read up online on stuff I could flaunt, however I don’t seem to be getting an opportunity to unleash all this amazing stuff I’ve now got crammed up in my head for a counter argument all these years- The reason why black holes exist…. “new dance form found within an isolated tribal society deep in the amazon jungles”… “sleep cycles of the rich and famous?”. “How to build a panic room in the event of a zombie apocalypse”, etc.

I just realized what the problem is. It’s that google is now run by a fellow chennai-ite. Sundar pitchai. Yes, with google now AI- ML enabled, it’s become as suggestive as a saree sales guy posing at your wife with a saree on each shoulder at a “Rasi” outlet in West Mambalam. Seriously. You could be browsing work-related stuff, but google thinks it knows what you’re looking for, so takes you on a totally different tangent. I could be typing some work-related stuff like “ competency fra….” and before I could finish the sentence, I’m Bombarded with suggestions on some vague plant based diet plans, etc… and THATS the problem. We guys have this crazy factory-fitted curiosity app for crappy stuff built in, and we get sidetracked, and before you know it, we would have spent 2 hours reading up on terms like “legumes”, taken 2 surveys to check “which plant-based diet is best for you?”, and ordered a 5 kg pack of “pea protein isolate” on amazon…🤦‍♂️

I’ve got a plan though. I think I’ll hack my wife’s google account and start afresh, who knows, maybe I’ll win an argument in 20 years time -if I’m lucky and alive.

You should try it too.

Stay safe! Stay home!

“Stop-loss” and the art of investing in relationships

Life is short and we are all “day traders” looking for bargains on the market- Walking around. Offering our limited time here in exchange for a shot at earning a livelihood, making meaningful relationships and soaking up experiences.

Not surprising then that everyone is out to get the best “return-on-investment”, and the folk who come out winners are the ones who care about “fundamental analysis” of their relationships and don’t look at the market as a big casino where luck and karma play a part.

Okay at the outset, let me put down a disclaimer that I have minimal to no experience dabbling in the stock market, and cannot be termed a “thought leader” in the field by any stretch of imagination, however I’m proud of the strong personal and professional friendships I’ve built over the years and feel I’ve unconsciously used the same principles – and it’s helped.

So without further ado, let’s get familiar with a few trading terms that should get us all on the road to profit booking in our relationships.

Followers of “value investing” believe that a share price should equal the intrinsic value of the target company’s share. This approach can be used to evaluate our investment strategy in relationships too. Many of us (usually the young, who have a long life ahead of them) have a “trader” mindset going into relationships – “Go in. Make a quick “kill”, and exit” ….. others approach relationships with an “investor” mindset and have a longer horizon, spend a lot of time doing “fundamental analysis” to ensure they carry minimum risk and usually are ready to amortize their gains if required over a period of time.

The key to happiness is to have a portfolio of relationships with both a “growth” and “value” horizon balanced out based on your risk appetite.

“Stop-loss”: This refers to an ”Exit” strategy when things don’t seem to be going as planned. All of us have experienced people who follow you when things are going up, but have a low tolerance for tough times and vanish into thin air when they see a faint grey cloud coming around.

Having said that, it’s important to have an “Exit Strategy” for all our investments and not having one will put you in a situation where you jump into a relationship as a “trader”, crank up losses quickly, pump in more good money behind the bad money to bail out (aka:”fallacy of sunken costs”), get stuck, and decide to become an “investor” and hold on to the stock. Look around you- are you stuck with these types of relationship investments?

“Resistance-Support” levels: Look at the data stupid. Its important to evaluate the universal “high-low” bands that is at the core of any investment. What is an acceptable price to pay for getting into that relationship. Are you paying more than you bargained for? It’s okay if you do, just be sure your risk-to-reward ratio makes sense and you are are cautious when there a high probability that you’re going to lose BIG? Step back, take a good look at the data, but trust your instinct. Also be ready to walk away.

Portfolio: Looking at out relationships like stocks and evaluating them periodically is critical to ensure you are successful as a trader and/ or investor. Remember though that investing in relationships should only be part of your “happiness strategy” and make sure you focus equally on your Career, Health, Wealth. Spirituality.

Happy investing!

“Distance Socializing” and the Art of War.

It’s been over 4 months since the virus changed forever the world we live in. It’s got us isolated, it’s killed economies and people with scant disregard, millions have lost their jobs, and the pharma industry is left scrambling to find a vaccine in a hurry – which seems a minimum 12 months away.

So while we wait for that proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”, we will need to continue to learn to settle into this “new normal” and survive one of the most powerful of psychological risk factors for poor health – “social isolation”.

Looks like this virus is sitting cross legged on an easy chair outside and reading an unabridged version of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of war”, while successfully dividing this captive population into 2 piles …. the “haves” and the “have nots”- and I’m not talking economics here. The ones who have patience, a high “happiness quotient“ and a purpose to wait it out – and the ones who don’t. And the media in its pursuit of TRPs is slowly smoking out the weakest from amongst us by feeding us minute-by-minute updates on the fatalities and bad decisions, like a reality TV show gone viral.

Science has proven two truths on stress (a) A majority of us lose our ability to make rational decisions when stressed and (b) Our immune system is compromised when we are stressed.

Studies have also proven beyond doubt that If someone is driven purely by hollow consumption, and all of their happiness depends on their current personal circumstances, they could become stressed when they are not in control of their circumstance- like in a lockdown situation. So then, if we care about things beyond ourselves — community, politics(okay, probably not… 🤨) and art — then everyday stresses will perhaps be of less concern.

Last evening I just went ahead and did the obvious – comparing the top 10 list of countries with the highest “Happiness Quotient” with the top 10 countries with the highest COVID fatalities – nope, not a single common country between the 2 lists- not one.

While this may not be a very real representation of fact given the multiple disparate moving parts between the two lists, it’s probably enough for us to consider that staying happy and with a strong purpose during this crisis could be critical.

While we continue to practice physically social distancing, It’s as important for us to pursue happiness through “distance socializing”- Staying socially connected with friends, colleagues, and family, and finding happiness during this public health crisis while continuing to focus inward and finding our source of purpose, generosity, compassion and the components of happiness and specifically trust in one another and within institutions especially in a time of need like we are in just now.

So, lets learn to Smile from behind those masks, let’s learn to stay connected, let’s try making a difference to the less fortunate- Let’s strive to become better versions of ourselves. Let’s not forget that the world is healing too and when this is done, we’ll agree it was all well worth it and who knows – we might just leave a better world for our kids. 🙏

Stay home. Stay Safe!

Do you make a good cell mate?

We’ve all watched reruns of old English movies or Netflix series where our hero is this well mannered guy with impeccable prison habits- reading, painting, shaving, bathing, etc… and his cellmate was literally a grimy goon who finally gets influenced, becomes a best friend and accomplice in planning and executing an escape plan to perfection

Do you…. ?

We’re all officially in a “lockdown”- a prison term, typically referring to a situation within a prison (say a riot) that requires control measures to be imposed with force, and here we are – holed up with a couple of family members 24X7 for over 3 weeks now, and the obvious question pops in my mind…. Is there some “prison etiquette” that exists for cell mates that we could learn from during the lockdown to ensure we don’t make the experience more painful than it already is for our near and dear? 🤷‍♂️🤨

Well here are a few that come to my mind.

Make “social distancing” a way of life: okay I’m not just talking staring 6 feet away physically, I’m wanting us all to do the same me mentally. It’s easy to get under the skin of a loved one in these challenging times when everyone is in a very vulnerable mental framework. Irrespective of the size of our living spaces, a good way to socially distance is to just understand your “cell mates” rhythm and respect personal spaces ….

Hygiene and decorum. Chances are there’s more than one member working from home and taking zoom or skype calls through the day at different times …. trust me watching you cell mate walk to the refrigerator in his undies and peer into the lower shelves doesn’t actually make for a good background when you’re on a client call. If you’re stuck with a cell mate like that – try some creative background wall papers available on most apps.

Fun fact: Cell mates use a technique called “courtesy flushing” when they have to do their business when sharing a small cell. It’s a simple technique where you just flush the toilet continuously during the entire performance to camouflage the smell and the noises.

Turn the other way. Over the years there’s a lot of irritable habits we gather like moss on a rolling stone, and I’ve realized the best way to deal with that and generally any awkward, unpleasant situation in life is to just turn the other way and face the wall. It’s a time-tested technique used by cell mates and believe me it works like a charm, both personally and professionally.

Be a good listener. Most people when stuck in a confined space find solace in venting out their frustrations. Part of being a good cell mate is to be a good listener, chances are you’re stuck with a whole bunch of “I’m not guilty” type rantings by your cell mate – you don’t actually need to agree with all their arguments – just nod understandingly and feign empathy.

Focus on non verbal Communication. In prisons where the dining area is mostly a “no talking” zone- prisoners just tap on the table as etiquette before leaving. Chances are you’re already at the receiving end of a cold shoulder by now and your very shadow brings out some base emotions in your cell mate, either way use non verbal communication- helpful when you our cell mate is on a call, listening to music on a ear pods, etc- don’t just go stand like a moron in front, expecting them to drop whatever they’re doing and listen to frivolous observations.

Respect. Being respectful will get you a long way in prison… okay not literally! Like I mentioned earlier we’re all in a vulnerable space mentally and walking around doing chores while operating with a very short fuse- the last thing you want in this situation is for someone to feel disrespected – take out your well preserved, rarely used collection of “thank you’s” and “please” and make sure you use it generously in your conversations. Lockdowns are probably not the time for your sarcasm and wise cracks- hold them back. Believe me, I try to …. 😂

That’s it, hopefully the few tips above will help you come out of this lockdown a better person …. and alive.

Stay home. Stay safe!

The ride.

Quarantine learning #14

I’m riding back from the supermarket, decide to take off my helmet, put it on my tank and ride past my home for no particular reason. It turns out to be a 10 kilometre detour straddling the lake close by.

I ride along ….. smiling. nervously. Would I get my knees hurt? Would I be forced to do exercises I haven’t done since school? Would I need to carry a placard showcasing a sentence that hasn’t been spell-checked and created in “Times New Roman”(Bold)- gawd how I hate that font.

The delivery guy rides past- a cloud of mask, orange and broken dreams …. stick figures with kind faces walk past too.

The wind is cool and warm at once…. stray dogs peep out of a dumpster – a pair of human eyes too. “Levelling the curve” means different things to different people.

The smell of fresh sambar from a quarantined home as I ride past makes me nostalgic for chennai – the borders are closed I remember.

Kids on tricycles – make little dust circles on their verandahs like it were vacation. Old folk peep nervously through half closed windows, only to bang it shut when the sound of a distant cough catches their ear through the din of the TV playing inside.

A distant drum beat…. the flickering hope of Diyaas lit on balconies… a chant dispelling the virus …. a bunch of migrant construction workers sitting cross-legged on the steps of their “company-provided” container shed they now call home- staring into the vacant abyss.

I reluctantly take a turn and head back.

The setting sun makes polite conversation with the moon and an evening star, like factory workers changing shifts.

The water in the lake seems blue- but isn’t…. the trees seem green- but are they ?

The eagle is out, doing an extra lap too …. two crows chase a “kuil”, a forked tail tickles their overgrown eye lashes. Damn, these beauty parlours better be classified as “essential services “ and open fast. A sparrow darts past too (hello friend. it’s been a while! ) while a 1000 fireflies pepper my face as I ride past ….

I realize the padding on the seat of my bike could be a tad more forgiving. My pants do a small “wiggle” and all’s fine. Life’s all about making those little adjustments.

If there’s one thing that I could take away for this period of quarantine – it’s to be more “aware” and conscious of the little, simple things around me that makes life what it is… things till now I’ve probably taken for granted… things we are too busy to notice ….

I hum an old tune – “ Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” …. the eagle sits majestically – pool side on the terrace of our apartment.

I am home!

Quarantine learnings #11

You finally become the stories you tell yourself.

It’s a lockdown and we’re trying to make sense of a situation we have no control over unfolding around us, and we have a lot of “alone time” to do it.

What do we do ?

We tell ourselves stories with us as key protagonist through the day and unconsciously through the night.

Better make them good ones.

letitBE

Quarantine lesson #10

It’s simple. The corona virus doesn’t actually kill us, it’s how our body reacts to it- that finally does. That’s the reason why the same virus has an effect no more than that of the common flu in some people, while turning fatal for the elderly with an under-active, weak immune system that suddenly goes to overdrive and damages healthy cells too. We all go through almost similar challenges in life (financial, relationships, etc), it’s finally how WE decide to “respond” to these situations (our immune system) that defines us finally. Don’t let your “over response” to situations do more damage to yourself, than the situation itself? Breathe. Stay balanced. Stay healthy. This too shall pass… #letitBE #covid19

Hair stories

I’m all for encouraging small business owners and I believe anyone charging me more than 100 bucks for my hair-“style” is ripping me off. So I go to the local “barber”, so my son, Nischinth can spend 1000 bucks at Freaking “Toni & Guy”. 😦 I give only one instruction- “Number 2 podu Paa”…I mean the number on the electric trimmer. Not what you think. 🙂 . Check out the “Gellette” Foam and the “Jordan” Color-ah. The funny thing is I went in at 8:55.a.m and the guy tries out his electric trimmer on one “girdha” (sideburns) and then goes “Saar 9:00.a.m current cut-uh”. Hello? and then rushes through like an MTC bus on my head. Its a small hole-in the wall shop and I don;t need to walk to the sink (check it out behind the fan) ; if I ever get the courage to have a “shampoo wash”. Anyways the last time my wife Kavitha visited the Tirupathi temple in southern india, I accompanied here as usual ( I’ve been in a couple of times – but can’t manage the claustrophobic queues… ) and as usual I sauntered around the back lanes trying to pass time… had 2 cups of tea… walk,walk.. still an hour to go- so I enter where-else- a “barber shop”. “Number 2 podu pah”. still 45 minutes to go… “Oru Head massage”… still 15 minutes… “Oru facial podu paa”… I’m not kidding he started with a foundation of talcum powder ( pervert!) , then some white wax type of thing… then some pink lotion with golden sparkles. Gawd. Kavitha could’nt stop laughing when she came back and saw me all bleach-faced and sparkling. LOL! “GO. Encourage your local business owner.”

A walk through the Sistine chapel.

One of the most searched questions on quora and google is probably, “what is your purpose?”

However the answer is not a simple one and has 2 sides to it based on how you look at it.

On the one side we have to just look at the evil perpetuated by ordinary folks who are given to believe that they are fulfilling a faith-based, “god given purpose”, when they go to war in pointy white hats, blow up airplanes, bring down places of worship, and take another life brazenly on the streets.

There’s got to be something wrong here …. so let’s try and deconstruct this myth – firstly we need to understand that this universe doesn’t owe you anything, yes – like nothing… zilch…. and if you think you’re part of gods great messianic plan to save or change the world- it’s best you fold that thought thrice into a nice small compact pill sized ball, slather it with a generous dose of moisturizer and do the right thing. (Ouch!) The universe doesn’t need saving…. it never has… it never will. Long past humans annihilating themselves, the universe will survive, heal itself and prosper.

So what’s the deal here??

Side 1

You’ll agree that one of the greatest works of art ever was Michelangelo’s work at the Sistine chapel in the Vatican City. 5000 square feet of divine magic painted on the ceiling (yes!) Inspired by stories in the bible on the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, the great flood, etc, and taking over 4 years to complete. The Sistine chapel is not just about the ceiling though. The walls are in 3 levels and covered in artwork by some of the greatest renaissance painters and creative minds that ever walked this planet. As if this wasn’t enough, the pavement of the Chapel is a combination of marble and a colored stone that marks the processional way from the main door that the Pope follows on Palm Sunday.

Hold that thought.

I believe the problem in today’s world is that a large majority of the population are ego-centric, nincompoops, looking desperately for that elusive holy grail of purposes by figuratively walking in the dark through the Sistine chapel with a candle in hand and being exposed to temporary revelations, which they mistakenly label as “their calling”, illuminated by the small circles of light or a breaking rain cloud in the distance. The ego in us makes us stop mid- stride, ecstatic, feeling “enlightened” (sorry for the pun!), or confused and fearful all at once, or sometimes even propels us to dance in a mad, psychedelic stupor with flashes of light and long shadows giving us the illusion of dancing an immersive, cosmic dance with gods, angels, and demons around us.

The truth is – it’s not true!

Let their be light…

Its is only when we give context to this illusionary truth, when the first rays of the morning sun slowly shines through the stain glass windows and reveals the magnificence that we go speechless as our whole being absorbs the divinity of this sacred place …. and we step back in embarrassment at the realization that what we had all along considered our purpose has nothing to do with us at all.

What if the singular purpose of life is the realization that there isn’t one, and It’s only your ego that makes you believe that you deserve one.

Side 2.

Now there are others who don’t have such egoistic delusions of being part of “gods grand plan”, believing simply that we’re all just here on “day passes” to the Sistine chapel, and every visitor passing through the chapel has a personal experience based on his talents and mental makeup- if you are a religious person, the experience through the chapel inspires a fountain of reverence and you come out with a satisfaction or reaffirmation of faith… if you are an artist – your purpose is fulfilled through unfathomable inspiration …. if you are an architect- it’s a different outcome and if you just want to spend you day experiencing the quietness in meditation – well it’s all up to you.

And that’s probably what we could define as our “personal purpose” – an individual choice we make on what we want to accomplish on this day pass at life – for “Kobe” it was to become the best basketball player in history. For Martin Luther king or a Gandhi or even a hitler- they had a personal purpose that defined the impact they made to change the world.

For many of us though our best option to finding and fulfilling our purpose would be in striving to be the best we can, to use the special talents we have and excel in a field of our choice or better still find a problem or cause that’s worth fixing in this world and go about fixing it with all our body, mind and soul.

How to Interview with “Mindfulness”

So this week some of the supervisors at work, went through a workshop on behavioural interviewing techniques, where a couple of us were requested to share a few learnings we’ve had over the years in interviewing candidates.

I thought I should probably try and put together what I tried to articulate during the session.

Humility is under-rated. New hiring managers and old ones too, sometimes get a “high” out of being in a position where you literally are able to change the direction of a Candidates career. Remember the saying, “with great power, comes great responsibility”? Well, I personally feel being conscious of your own interview experiences as a candidate as you started off your career is helpful to put your current role at hand in perspective. Being mindful that you’re treating your candidates with dignity and respect is always a good starting point. Small stuff like an apology if you’ve had a candidate waiting for a while is always in line. It’s sad that doctors and interviewers don’t feel the need to apologize when they’ve had people/ patients waiting for hours on end.

“Multi-tasking” is over-rated. Not sure if multi-tasking actually improves productivity – but I’m a “single- tasker” and when in an interview, a good practice to follow would be to give your undivided attention to your candidate- keep your phones on “silent mode” and preferably off. It may be just another interview for many of you as part of your role- but for a candidate, it’s a milestone, so, make sure your respect the time and effort he/ she has made to be at the interview by keeping distractions to a minimum- if you have a secretary, ask him/ her to not transfer calls and if you have a smart phone- do the smart thing and put it on voice mail / DND mode.

Interviewing with Mindfulness is all about getting yourself and your candidate into a mind-space of clarity and awareness.

Listen to understand- not to respond. It’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of an interviewers role is to listen. Ask the questions and listen. Try the 80/20 rule. You should be talking less than 20% of the time and listening the rest of the interview. Also practice “active listening”- don’t start framing your next question while the candidate is responding- maintain eye contact and listen to understand. Paraphrase to ensure your understanding of his/ her response is complete and true. I’ve seen a lot of interviewers sometimes use the interview to massage their own egos, and literally “high-5” themselves in their own minds with a smirk on their face, when they ask a good counter question that puts the candidate in an uneasy position. Grow up for gods sake.

Have a growth-mindset and be open to new possibilities. A candidate is like a stock, which a company invests in, if you have a candidate with great attitude and an appetite to learn- believe me, you have a winner, even if he/she probably does not have all of the requirements of the role. Hire for attitude- train for skill.

And finally…

Have conversations. Yes, put the candidate in a comfortable, non-threatening environment and chances are you will get a lot more insights into the person and make the right hiring decision.

Remember you are not taking a decision to get a robot to do the job, and a human comes with a lot of feelings, and emotional baggage which will have an influence on your team.

A resume lists “experiences”, so while it is important to verify that the information provided is right and a true representation of skill – your role as an interviewer is to also decode the person who is the product of all those experiences.

So there you have it, of all the strategies and tactics you may try and craft to drive “Candidate Experience” and “Quality of hire”, “Mindfulness” of all stakeholders in the hiring process is probably going to have the biggest influence in driving these metrics.

Happy Interviewing!

Life-hacks from a dog named max.

It’s been 3 years to the day since we lost Max, a special member of our family for 10 years. When the little guy first entered our lives as a gift for our son Nischinths 10th birthday, little did we know that he would transform our lives so much. While we taught him small things like sit, stay, fetch, etc…. he taught us virtues like patience, authenticity, contentment, enthusiasm, joyfullness, etc. MAX GAVE EVERYONE A CHANCE unlike many of us he didn’t differentiate between the milk man, maid or our friends circle. Everyone got his attention and was made to feel special. MAX GAVE EVERYTHING A TRY ONCE – If he liked it; yes he’d go with it, else he’ll just move on. MAX LIVED IN THE MOMENT – He enjoyed a ride in the autorickshaws. We mostly took him in one when we went for his checkups to the best vet I’ve know #theark. He knew there could be some stress at the end of the ride, which sometime ended with an injection or having a thermometer shoved up his ass- but that didn’t deter him from enjoying the ride to the vet. He was a guy who if you told him there was a pot if gold at the end of the rainbow, would have said “f#€# the pot of gold, I’m going to sit here and enjoy watching the rainbow.”. MAX MOVED ON HAPPILY from people who didn’t warm up to him. He gave people time, and space and had no hard feelings if they weren’t “dog people”. He also enthusiastically accepted people back when they felt comfortable and came back. Max may have left us, but we’re happy that he came into out lives and changed us forever. Travel well my friend. Travel far. RIP. … and Shine on you crazy diamond.

Dark. Matter.

Probably the best album from my favourite band- “Pink Floyd” is the one called (you guessed it right) – “The Dark side of the moon”. Hmmm, not just a catchy album name alluding to death, time, greed, and mental illness- maybe we all missed the point that was being made on “awareness of your personal now”.

Surprisingly everybody and their pet dog has a copy of “The power of positive thinking” by this guy called Norman Vincent Peale on their book shelf…. hmmm, I think the book is over-rated, irrelevant and probably the reason we have so many flaky, charlatans in society today.

I’ve infact seen a lot of fresh graduates at walk into day 0 at work, with a copy of the book and brandish it proudly on their desks through year 1. Guess what? Want to impress the boss? Bring a Pink Floyd album to work. I’m serious.

For too long we’ve been doling our advise like “stay positive”, “always look on the bright side of life” and other such corny stuff. But have you noticed that when you try and ignore something, you actually give it more control over you. Think about it. Try holding a tight fist for a while and not focus on the discomfort.

I think its almost impossible to focus on the white dot on the dark page, by not bringing into context the “blackness”- the negativity, if you will. True awareness of your personal “now” is impossible to attain by just going into a lotus position, holding a “Mona-Lisa, half-smile” while you close your eyes and not acknowledge the darkness within you- take my word- we all have it! Some like me – more than others. ☹️ I think we’ll all do well to go into an “inverted lotus position”, (don’t feel shy!) open the dark corners of our ….. closet, (…you pervert 🤷‍♂️) a bit everyday, and do some house keeping.

So there you have it – don’t hide your flaws, acknowledge your pain, embrace your dark side, wear it with pride like a tattoo, ‘cause it’s true- “Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind.”

Okay I got to go continue my search for that white dot within me that I (…. and many others I’m guessing too…) have been trying to find without success for many years now.🤨

What’s the “matter”? Do it!

Cats, “Karma” and sailboats

This week, I celebrated successfully spinning round the sun another time. Yes just sitting on a rock hurtling through space at 460 meters per second…. or roughly 1000 miles an hour for over 50 years now- enough time to unravel such stuff as Cat motivations and Karma.

Okay now that we’ve got that one out of the way, let’s look at debugging the purpose of life. Surprise! Surprise- life has as much meaning to it as a cat chasing after laser dots. We seem to catch it on some luck day- only to stare blankly at our palms, shake our heads and go – “nope, no meaning here!”

And so along with the realization that none of us are going to leave this rock alive, why get worked up, frustrated, depressed … at people … at the innumerable “what if’s” and “if only’s” from the past that cloud our thoughts in an endless loop.

Lets agree in the new decade that’s rolled in that “happiness” is just a consequence of accepting the choices we made and not feeling nostalgic for the life that never unfolded … and while we’re at it- let’s agree also that “karma” is just as real as a gentle wind that moves our sail boats. We could acknowledge it’s presence, but don’t need to accept the course of its machinations anymore- ‘Cause who goes on sail boats these days anyways? A word of caution though- karma will get you if you sit on your ass and don’t take ownership for your own destiny.

Mankind has proved time and again that we could, by the magic of our imagination and resourcefulness build ships that can drive our lives against these winds of karmas and help us gain full control of our own destiny …. and while we’re at it, may I suggest we stop mocking cats for their stubbornness!

“The Solomon Paradox”

My son just hauled a nice Taylor guitar 13k kilometres on a flight for me and I’ve made a vow to play everyday this year.

I’ve realized a simple hack to ensure you or your kids play more everyday, is to keep the instrument open in the living area of your homes, so you’re passing it a 100 times everyday and since it’s out of its case, tuned and easily accessible – you’ll instinctively pick it up and play a bit. I’ve also realized that if you have the instrument in a case under your bed – chances are you’ll not play it as often.

With the year still new and shining, I think it would be worthwhile to assess the toxic people and negative emotions we’ve allowed to slowly garner prime real estate in the space just around us – our “inner circle” as it were – Because the things we keep most accessible are the things that finally influences and defines who we truly become.

I’ve realized also that Facebook is a great tool to get social, but with artificial intelligence now inbuilt- it’s a “Trojan horse” that has the capability to creep into our little personal spaces and rearrange the furniture – bring into focus or take to the background ideas, thoughts, people and emotions seamlessly, which influences our emotions and values system dramatically. The trick to beat Facebook AI though is “karma”- yes, as we start posting positive stuff, Facebook machine learning gets tricked to sending us the good stuff …. and we continue to use whatsapp to wash the dirty linen. 👋😂

As for me I’m going to address the “Solomon paradox” within me- talk to myself in the third person and Try and use the advise I give others myself. 🤔🤨🙄

The “Koi” Pond of the mind.

I was spending some time this morning watching the Koi Pond at the home I’m staying in at Goa.

“Koi” – You see these beautiful ornamental fish often these days. Want to give your home a nice central focal point- think of having a Koi Pond. Very calming and you can spend hours on end admiring these colourful creature swim lazily through their ponds. Sometimes coming up to the surface and opening their large mouth in a perfect circle and taking in some air…. other times just following each other on endless loops in the water. Red. Silver. Black.

A little googling and I found out that these fish grow relative to the size of the water bodies (environment) they inhabit. Put them in a small tank and they grow to be 3-4 inches. However the same fish has the capacity to grow up to 3-4 feet long when in a lake.

Our minds are like a Koi Pond and our thoughts- like the “Koi”. Sometimes colourful, self-absorbing and growing relative to the attention you give them.

I’ve realized that spending sometime in meditation each morning to be aware of the thoughts running through our minds- never reacting, but letting them do their little circles in our mind for a while without trying to get interactive and poking our toes could be truly therapeutic and sets us up for a productive day.

Interestingly however I noticed however that there was a stork (or heron?) that seems to have also made the Koi Pond a point of interest- not necessarily out of a will to be a better bird, I’m sure. So while you’re controlling the size of the thoughts by awareness… you got to protect the good positive vibes from predators – negative people, social media, etc. that could destroy your peace of mind. There’s always a big white bird with long legs and a longer beak just blending in the environment – and misjudging its intentions could be fatal.

So then I now got to go stare at the pool. WHAT?

The forgotten art of having conversations.

It’s been painful watching the goings on in our country today. Strong opinions , stronger egos and an inflated sense of identity that’s threatening the very fabric of our society.

I think opinions are like wearing spectacles. You see the world through the lenses of your opinions, and like wearing glasses, you have to keep the lenses clean and evaluate their effectiveness periodically, not because they’re wrong- but because they become irrelevant as you transition through life and absorb new experiences and ideas.

I’ve seen my share of stubborn older people in our family circles, who’s ego gets in the way and they do not accept that their eyesight is probably failing them as they’re getting older. Blindly following traditions made centuries ago in a different context to me is a consequence of having an “inflated ego” and “false identity”.

The humility to listen to opinions different to ours, being open to new experiences and ideas that go contrary to our own and being open to recalibrate our own opinions (if required) in a rapidly changing society to me is a life skill worth developing and rewarding within organizations and the political arena.

Have a great weekend and have those conversations. I think we just need to have more bars and reduce taxes on liquor- which in my opinion is the elixir to relaxing the guard to our opinions and having great conversations. 🤦‍♂️

And finally, remember that the medal for humility is not meant to be worn.

Cheers!

Breaking Wind

So then, when you decide to do the 12 hour drive from Trivandrum on the west coast of India to chennai on the southern coast Like I did yesterday – the most common route is to drive further south around the western ghats, touch the coastal town of nagerkoil at the southern tip of india, take a sharp U turn and go up the southern coast of india.

It’s difficult not to get totally immersed in the beauty of this little patch, however this point is probably what some may call the right place for a dangerous “perfect storm” – seas on 3 sides and a mountain range (western ghats) cutting through. But then you pass the town of “Muppandal”, in Tamilnadu, which was till recently just another impoverished, but beautiful, little southern coastal town, and you pass giant wind turbines now and realize someone had a brilliant brainwave and flipped the context – These are the perfect conditions to harness the seasonal monsoon winds blowing from the Arabian Sea and gushing through the mountain passes, and set up what is today the second largest onshore wind farm In the world. This stroke of genius has brought in jobs and turned the fortunes of all the people in “muppandal”.

In life we sometimes find ourselves in a “Muppandal-like” situation- when

everything seems to be going down and the winds seem perennial, so

much so that some even call it “being cornered between the devil and the deep blue sea”. But we have an option- either accept our “fate”, wallow in self-pity and go down the path of personal ruin…. or with a little rejigging of the context of our situation, we can build ourselves a wind turbine and harness the innate advantages of the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in- that nervous energy, that freedom to take risks because you have nothing else to lose, that anger, that realization that theres nowhere else to go- but up, and turn your life around.

Remember what they taught you about the “eye of the storm”… well let me tell

you- they got it wrong – it’s the “i” in the storm. Infact most storms start with the “i”- Address the ego (I) that probably started it all in the first place, and is now also stopping you from turning your situation around and living a better life and get to work.

Your choice!

Vegetable soup for the biker soul.

“So what’s your purpose?”

It was the end of a long offsite and the boss asked this of each of the leadership staff round the table a couple of months back.

Hmmm, It’s a tough one actually and most folk at the first instance mix up “passion” with “purpose”, however knowing the subtle difference between the two is key to making critical life and career decisions, and so I’ll try and deconstruct it here.

Let’s start with a confession- most of us parents at some point encouraged our kids to “follow your passion beta”, so they wouldn’t have to “work” a single day. Great advise right? Hmmm. Not actually…. Infact it’s probably a shitty career advise to give a pimply teenager- unless you’re setting your kids up for short- term happiness, and not for long-term success exactly.

Firstly, not everyone is an enlightened being who knows his/ her “true” passion- which unfortunately ebbs and flows for us mere mortals at different points in life, and so probably not a valid parameter to make a career decision on … also it doesn’t always guarantee a vocation or decent livelihood. I’ve seen a lot of brilliant musicians, artists who pursued a passion they loved doing and deeply enjoyed, only to end up leading a life of compromise, and heartache trying to make a decent living.

Okay let me explain with some biking analogies.

There are two key elements in creating energy in a bike or any motor vehicle for that matter – “ignition” and “combustion”. When the spark that ignites you comes from within you and motivates you to drop everything and pursue this dream selfishly- it’s “passion”. If however that spark comes from an external source, like a persona, or a life changing event, etc, it’s called “inspiration”

One thing we all can agree on- Life is dull without passions and it is an emotion that lights you up like a Christmas tree, gives you goosebumps, and makes you feel alive when you find it. It could be anything – music, sport, art, etc. Passion however is focussed inward on the individual, and like a spark – is temporary, directionless, selfish, full of emotion and if left unattended can actually be ‘effing dangerous.

If you are a biker – you’ll get the subtle difference – “Passion” is ignited at the spark plug, and “Purpose” happens at the carburetor.

Hold that thought for a moment …

So then, when your “little munchkin” says “I loooooove playing cricket” while stuffing his face with another slice of cheese pizza- it doesn’t actually qualify as “passion”.

Remember that the little spark that ignited at the spark plug on the engine side needs to be powerful enough to take that “leap of faith” across the firing ends and make contact with the air and fuel mixture, to really matter. If it doesn’t- it’s just “infatuation”., and the role of parents and teachers is to provide the kid enough space to explore his interests and gauge which one of those is powerful enough to do that “leap of faith”….

Don’t get me wrong- Passion is important and ignites big things in life…. but to make things happen continuously over a prolonged period, a “controlled combustion” is critical, and THATs where “Purpose” comes in.

(TA-DA) ….. The carburetor …The role of a carburetor on a vehicle is simple- control the air and the fuel mixture to ensure a “controlled combustion” and this is all done within the confines of what’s called a carburetor and in this context – Purpose.

When you ensure you have the right motivations, talent and skill and put in the effort required- with a little patience, the magic happens and the engine purrs to life.

Exactly how much fuel and air an engine needs varies from moment to moment, depending on how long it’s been running, how fast you’re going, and a variety of other factors.

So what is “Purpose” and how do we know what our purpose in life is?

A layman’s guide to understanding his/ her “purpose” in life is finding a convincing answer to the simple question – what would I rather be doing to change the world in a small way and bring meaning to my life, if I had no need to earn a living? Mere Mortals often chase after “passions”, super heroes however are motivated by a larger than life “purpose”.

So then, understanding the underlying “why” we want to do the things we want to do is probably a great starting point to analyze the inner motivations, unconscious needs and purpose we aim to fulfil in pursuit of happiness.

Sure your kid is passionate about cricket and wants to drop out of school (atta-boy) and join a cricket academy after watching the latest edition of the cricket league. However before you sell off your home and pull “beta” out of school, try asking the important questions. Does this cheetos-eating, coke-drinking, CSK- tee-shirt-wearing, chubby guy REALLY have the skills and staying power to compete at the highest level – Or are his motivations only driven by the desire to sport “bling” and be entertained by fan girls ? I’d suggest you seriously consider a plan B if you’re blinking at this point ….

… and finally, life is all about balance – and following your passion within the context of your purpose is probably the right direction to take to ensure fulfilment of your true potential, becoming a success in any career you choose to pursue and living a fulfilled life.

Now …. don’t quote me in on any of the above, Its not like I’ve attained nirvana- I’m just another traveller on the open road

Ride hard. Ride safe!

Cause life is a road trip…

So I did a road trip on my bike with a few colleagues this weekend. The weather was not very comfortable, but the destination was absolutely beautiful and I learnt 7 life lessons during the ride I thought I should share…

(1) The first lesson I learned after we hardly rode 30 kilometres , was that there is difference between a “rider” and a “biker”- and I am definitely a “rider”, who does short trips to the supermarket, round the block, etc- a biker on the other hand is someone who lives for the long haul. I was the odd one out in the pack- slightly older, slightly obese, slightly crazy. While everyone was in full riding gear- I just had a wind breaker and a jeans, tee shirt and I was already half soaked as it started drizzling as I left home at 6am. Life is a long haul – it’s important we keep in shape, and invest in a good pair of riding gear if we hope to enjoy the ride.

(2) At 50 kilometres into the ride, I learnt the difference between “discomfort” and “pain”. Learning to differentiate between discomfort and pain is key, and once you understand your own thresholds, it’s important to learn to “get comfortable with your discomfort”. In riding as in life, you constantly move from one discomfort to another- uncomfortable situations, people that are difficult, etc. Discomfort is temporary and with some slight “adjustments”- you could just wait it out and ride on. Don’t quit!

(3) The only people that should really matter are the ones you are riding with at that moment … (and yes, the people on the road -make sure you don’t kill anyone on the road. 😳 ) Always ride with partners that have the backs of each other at all times. Learn to know your thresholds and the people you’re riding with, and make sure you respect their spaces too, and remember everyone is riding different bikes, and have different riding capabilities… factor that at all times.

(4) Like a good scotch – Biking is best enjoyed “solo”, and it’s important to get comfortable in your own skin and with spending long hours with yourself and the changing environment. On a bike there are no barriers like when you’re driving in the controlled atmosphere of a car. Smell the air. Breathe like sathguru. (Speaking of sathguru- me thinks this guy got enlightenment while riding solo on his bike…) and ride safe.

(5) Okay now, that “spaced out” look with a constant grin that you see on a bikers face even when they’re at the workplace ? – believe me it’s simple- they’re hatching a plan for their next road trip. Bikers spend a LOT of time planning their trip and for everything that can go wrong. Broken chains, flat tyres, changing weather and gear, snapped cables, etc. So the next time you pass a bikers cubicle at work and you see them on their Handphone smiling and whispering about “lubes”- believe me it’s not a girlfriend they’re on a call with – it’s fellow member of their tribe. Smile. Move on. (recruiting tip- if you’re a manager and looking to hire- all things being equal- hire a biker! )

(6) Weight, control, balance: You don’t feel the weight of the bike as much if it is distributed right and you’re in motion. As in life make “making progress “ your prime focus… “always keep moving”. A little discomfort…. keep moving. Changing weather? Take a value judgement between safety and reaching your next planned halt- if you cannot decide, it’s safer to just ride on. We all carry different payloads as we journey through life- some more than others, no wonder the pundits keep harping on “work-life” balance. But skill and control especially as you negotiate “tricky turns” is all about “knowing your bike intimately” and how it reacts to specific situations. There’s no alternative to “Mastery of your craft.”

(7) Shift gears to suit the path: In my last ride yesterday, one rider in the pack came up to me, and as a “newbie”, advised me to “go to 1 at the hairpin bends”- my first though was “hell yes, my bladder is full”, but then I realized he was advising me on gear change. 🤦‍♂️. Your ride is always going to be longer than you expected… harder too sometimes, and the quality of the ride path is going to be constantly changing- smooth asphalt, moon surface, dirt roads, etc- so unless you’re a superhero with balls of steel- change gears, slow down, and let loose when it’s all clear.

That’s it.

Ride safe!

Small bang theory

So, I have this morning ritual that I’ve been practicing religiously for a while now – step on the weighing scale, shake my head in disappointment, step off it and get on with the day on a negative note.

However, once in a while I go for a walk, miss a meal, have one less chapati at the dinner table or not have a non vegetarian side dish, and I look at the weighing scale with anticipation. It’s amazing but even if it’s a 100 gram loss- i step off the weighing scale and literally see angels in micro minis, strumming small harps and blowing kisses at me in appreciation- and it sets me up with a positive frame of mind.

Reminds me of an old Italian joke of a poor man going to the statue of a saint every day for a month and saying the same prayer ”dear saint, please please please – let me win the lottery”. Finally one day the saint comes back to life, knocks the man on his head in irritation and says…” for heavens sake son – please buy the ticket”.

Success is mostly an organic thing and happens when you’re willing to make the small sacrifices consistently. That chapati you missed….. that single push-up you did…. that walk to the store….. that small recurring deposit you opened at the bank, may not be much, but it sets you up in the right frame of mind to make the next small sacrifice … and the next… and soon you’re seeing the magic happen.

So now, I’m probably never going to have a six pack again- but I think I’ll start with getting off this couch and picking up that kitkat wrapper on the bedroom floor that I’ve been putting off since last night. 😇

#quickies #smallbangtheory