Dreams should have no boundaries

June 29, 2019

A teacher once asked a boy to write on what he wanted to be when he grew up. The young boy had a troubled childhood. His father was a horse trainer, who trained horses moving from stable to stable. As a result, his schooling was interrupted too. The boy wrote – I would like to be owner of a horse ranch – and wrote details about it, including a drawing of his house in the ranch. The teacher returned his answer sheet marked with an ‘F’ on the front page. When asked for reasons, the teacher said the dream was unrealistic for a boy of his background and limited means. The teacher asked him to be realistic and rewrite the assignment. The boy thought for several days, consulted his father and then brought the same paper to his teacher, without making any changes. He told his teacher, ‘you keep your ‘F’ and I will keep my dream.”

The boy grew up to be known as Monty Roberts. He is a well-known horse trainer who owns a beautiful house in the middle of 200-acre horse ranch. Monty Roberts still has that school paper, which he has framed and keeps over the fireplace. He has mastered the technique of training horses in a non-violent manner and is the author of the famous book – The Man Who Listens to Horses.

I have shared this anecdote because I recently read – The Secret – a book by Rhonda Byrne. The book is about the law of attraction, and includes perspectives of several people around the world who have successfully applied the law of attraction into their lives.

Simply put, the law of attraction means you become what you think. If you think positive, you attract positive results. Universe helps you achieve what you hold in your thoughts. Buddha seems to be the first one to have introduced the law of attraction to the world. The book is full of examples showing that the law of attraction actually works.

However, I had a doubt. I was wondering how realistic should we be in our aspirations. And, I was looking for answers until I read the Monty Robert’s story.

Now, there is clarity. Let there be no bars on your dreams. Thinking big should not be constrained by your current situation. We must of course have a realistic plan to achieve our dreams, which should be pursued with full vigour; and a never give up attitude.

Dream big and think positive always. It helps us tap into the unlimited potential that we are blessed with.

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Train yourself to develop a never give up attitude

May 22, 2019

Derek Redmond, one of the Britain’s most famous athletes, was favourite to win the 400 metres sprint in the 1992 Olympic. He started very well but 250 meters into the race, he felt a severe pain in his leg. He fell to the ground with a torn hamstring. Not willing to give up, he started again amidst pain and tears for he knew that his dream had been shattered. He knew he was not going to win but he still wanted to finish the race. Breaking the security, his father jumped onto the track to help him. He told Derek not to run anymore but Derek insisted. With one hand on his father’s shoulder, he hobbled towards the finish line. Shortly before the finish line, his father let him go alone to finish the race. Over 65000 crowd rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation. This became one of the most inspirational scenes in the Olympic history. Due to injury, Derek could not continue his career as an athlete but ventured into Basketball.

We are often told about developing a never give up attitude. Examples such as Derek tell us that it is possible. We give up for two reasons: setbacks and failures, and/or some unforeseen circumstances like accidents, change of plans etc.

‘Never give up’ attitude can be developed only when we train ourselves to respond to failures that come along the way or to have a new goal if the previous goal becomes unfeasible. Derek said the moment he fell and realized that he was not going to win the race, he changed his goal. He just wanted to finish the race. And, he did that. Later, Derek started playing Basketball and did very well.

We don’t win always. As I wrote in one of my earlier posts – the day you don`t win – a true winner is someone who knows how to accept failures in a dignified manner, and moves on.


Make decision making a habit

April 27, 2019

If you are learning how to drive, you do as the instructor says – slow down, speed up, or stop. However, once you have learnt driving, you don’t need instructions anymore. Taking driving decisions gets ingrained in your mind, you take decisions without even realizing.

Can we make decision making a habit? We can perhaps draw some insights from the driving experience itself.

The goal should be clear:
A driver knows where to go. He gets into the vehicle and starts driving. Decision making needs to be seen in the context of goal, whether personal or organizational. “What do we want to achieve” is our goal; and “what should we do to achieve our goal” is the decision we need to make. When the connection is clear, we are more likely to decide and act.

Turn-off distractions: A driver, no matter how much skilled he/she is, may make mistakes and get into an accident when distracted. It could be thinking about something else, talking over the phone or talking with someone in the car. Likewise, we get absorbed into so many things that we become oblivious of our goal and important things in life. Mobile phone has become the biggest distraction in our life now. In one of my earlier posts, I made a suggestion: create mobile switch off hours. We need to create free mental space for ourselves in order to think, prioritize and act.

Take decisions which are important: We don’t need to just take decisions, we need to take important decisions. Important decisions are the decisions that are linked to our goals, relationships and health. In most cases, we seem to neglect one over the other. Think which of these you have been neglecting. It may well turn out to be the most important one in your life.

Develop ‘Just do it now’ attitude: Don’t think much. Life is short. Imagine if you had limited time to live what would you do. Go ahead and do it as you actually have limited time. This attitude is a good way to make decision making a habit.


What can we learn from Sun?

February 27, 2019

Nature is beautiful. It continues to inspire us. While it reminds us of the amazing power of the creator, it also gives us several messages if we ponder over it.

There is a lot to learn from Sun. The beautiful rising Sun rejuvenates us, brings us hope and signals us to get ready for the day. We forget the darkness of the previous night and get on with a new zeal.

All get benefited from the sun’s light, equally and evenly, whether they are rich or poor; whether they live in big houses or huts. This way Sun teaches us not to discriminate. Can we not learn a lesson? Are we accessible to everyone around us with whatever we are in a position to share?

There are lessons even in the way Sun sets. I would like to reflect a bit on them.

We can be useful till the end
Just like the sun’s light starts diminishing after reaching its peak, our strength also goes down as we age. But Sun share its diminishing light till the last moment. Can we not plan our life in a way that we are useful till the end? Thanks to medical advances, life expectancy has gone up considerably. People generally have a good 20-25 years after their retirement from active work. They have skills, expertise, experiences and time to make a contribution. All they need to do is to look around themselves and find where they can be useful.

We can have a comforting effect on people
Sun retains its beauty till the end. This beauty is not just in the appearance but in its effects as well. People are often more reflective at the sun rise and sunset. They think, pray and thank the Almighty for his blessings in their lives. Can we not have such a calming and comforting effect on people around us? Does our presence and company help people find solutions or only adds up to their problems? These are some of the questions we all need to reflect upon.

We can inspire hope
Sun tells us no matter how dark the night was, there will be brightness tomorrow. This way Sun teaches us to be hopeful always! Difficult times come and go. We all need to develop and promote ‘this will pass too’ attitude.


Persevere patiently through struggles

January 29, 2019

A man was frustrated with failures in life. Despite all the hard work, he did not achieve much. Frustrated, he left everything and exiled himself in the woods. There he met a saint, shared his plight and asked for advice. The saint pointed towards two plants – a fern and a bamboo – he had planted some years ago.

“I planted the seeds of the two plants at the same time and took very good care of both. While the fern grew quickly there was no sign of growth in the bamboo for years. But, I did not give up and continued to water and nurture it. By the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged and within six months, the tree grew a hundred feet tall.” Now, the saint asked the man, “Did the bamboo tree lie dormant for four years only to grow exponentially in the fifth?”

As the man remained quiet thinking about the answer, the saint informed him that the little tree was growing underground, developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth.
The saint then asked, “Did you know that all the time you had been struggling, you were growing strong roots.” The man learned the value of perseverance and resolved to continue working on his goals.

In my first post of 2019, I chose to share this well-known story to draw three lessons:

– Like plants, human beings are different each having its unique strength. It is not right to make comparisons. A child may be slow in the beginning to shine in studies or sports. This does not mean he lacks potential. He is just different. Parents and teachers need to be patient and keep nurturing the child till he shows up his full potential.

– Growth and results are not always visible. Do not give up. Develop the attitude of seeing failures as foundations or building blocks of success.

– The bamboo tree is flexible. It bends with the wind and does not break. The lesson is simple: if we learn to be flexible, we will not break. We will bounce back from the most difficult times.

Wishing you all a successful 2019!


Empowering ideas

December 14, 2018

“Empower” was the theme of an independent TED event at the UN, Geneva on the 6 December 2018. Eleven powerful speakers spoke to some 700 people in a span of three hours, sharing their personal stories of struggle, resilience and success.

It was good to see copies of the “Charter of the United Nations” on all tables, a powerful reminder as to why the UN is the most appropriate venue for Ted talks on human rights and empowerment. A great way to begin. Congratulations organizers!

Ted talks are about ideas that are worth spreading. The ideas that stayed with me are the following:

Solutions to persistent problems very often lie outside: “We created a sanitary pad with a purpose and reached over 100,000 women in Tanzania. Now girls don’t have to skip schools when they have their periods, shared Jennifer Shigoli from Tanzania recounting the experience of her enterprise, which she described as “manufacturing for social good.” It addressed the core problem due to which girls were skipping schools; gave them a low-cost sanitary pad, led to the growth of a social enterprise; and created employment for rural women.

Raise your voice against oppression: There are human rights violations, discrimination, conflicts all around us. According to UN refugee agency, there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. We can’t be silent spectators. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, made an emotional appeal asking all to stand up and raise their voice against injustice, hatred, and oppression. “I am not a hero but I can’t be silent,” said Kate reminding that we all could do something. Agreeing fully to the idea, my little addition is that the voice against oppression and injustice should be equally loud no matter where it happens and who the perpetrator is. It saddens me to see unending sufferings in Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan and Syria, and makes me wonder if we are doing enough?

Education of refugees is as important as water, food and security: “My desire to become a diplomat shattered due to war in my country Syria, I lost everything I had,” said Maya Ghazal, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee. Children of refugees are struggling to get education, which should be seen as important as other humanitarian needs. Only 1% refugees go to university. “It is important to secure university seats for refugees,” stressed Maya who is aspiring to be a pilot now.

Young researchers Elise Luhr Dietrichson and Fatima Sator had a profound message for all who want to make the world a better place, “First people don’t take you seriously. But if you persist, things start happening.”


Seeing “value” in our work

November 30, 2018

I was recently asked to deliver a session on “Communication and attitudes at work” for interns working in my office. In order to assess their needs better, I sent them a short questionnaire before the session.
Answers to my first question — where do you see yourself five years from now — were as follows:
1. Not sure!
2. Not in a precarious work situation;
3. In a position that I appreciate and feel challenged to do more
4. See value in what I do.

The responses provided a good beginning for the session.
Not being sure of your goal cannot be an option. Every road will take you somewhere if you don’t know where to go. In fact, being in a precarious work situation is often a result of not having a clear goal in mind.

The third and fourth points are critical. People need to appreciate what they do, feel challenged to do more; and see value in what they do.

How can we see “value” in our work?

See the bigger goal: At times our work looks trivial, mundane, or meaningless. But actually it is never so. Step back and think. There is always a larger purpose. When we keep the larger picture in mind, we value our work, no matter how small it may appear.

Accept challenges: Challenges at work help us grow. They may be different: tight deadlines, unsupportive colleagues, a rude boss, multi-tasking, not achieving the desired results etc.
The success lies in handling them, not giving up. Remember the old saying – a calm sea never makes a good sailor!
And, when the going gets tough, take a break. Take a walk. Enjoy the nature. You will come back refreshed, rejuvenated, and raring to go again.

Do what you like: In one of my earlier posts — find relevance in your work — I had shared the story of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. Knight was failing as a salesman, not because he was not good at selling, he was not selling the product he was interested in. The moment he got to sell shoes, he excelled. So, we should look for the work that we like to do.
Pursuing a goal that we believe in gets the best out of us.