Monthly Archives: Apr 2014

2 Questions to Live By

Last night, I watched “The Bucket List”, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It was a powerful movie, touching and funny, insightful and inspirational.

There were profoundly simple messages scattered through the movie, like one of my favorites when Carter (Freeman) asks Cole (Nicholson) if they had been cleared to race a Mustang around a track, and he replies:

“Does it matter if we aren’t?”

Or when they’re talking about how fast time flies.

Carter: “Forty-five years goes by pretty fast.”
Cole: “Like smoke through a keyhole.”

Or Cole explains his elegant philosophy of Life thus:

“We live. We die. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

The best scene, for me, is when the two are catching their breath atop a pyramid, and discuss the Egyptian belief about Death and Heaven.

Carter mentions how Egyptians believe there were two questions a soul is asked as it ascends to the gates of Heaven – and the answers determine whether or not it gets to pass through.

#1 – Have you found joy in your life?

#2 – Has your life brought joy to others?

Late into the night, and again ever since I woke up early this morning, these 2 questions have been echoing in my mind.

I’m sure they will continue to replay this way for a long time to come.

They are certainly 2 questions to live by.

How would YOU answer them today?

How would you WANT to – later?

(I found a YouTube video showing this part of the film – watch it, if you like)

Bucket List movie


Lessons From a Man With Influence… My Dad


My 2007 started out on a sad note. At 11:15 a.m. one January morning, my father breathed his last after a long struggle with kidney failure. He was 70.

This is a post I shared soon after that sad day.

In the days after his funeral, many people who knew him shared their thoughts and feelings… and taught me some very valuable lessons.

Lesson #1 – Begin with the end in mind

I first read it in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – an exercise where you imagine you are at your own funeral, hearing what people are saying about you… and think about what you want them to say.

Listening to my dad’s students, colleagues, friends from 50 years back, and family members talking about what he meant to them gave a personal insight into how this worked.

How would you think, work and act today if you were guided by the thought it would impact what folks will say when you are gone?

Lesson #2 – Make your choices

Dad struggled for years with complications of a health condition. Early on, he made a choice about the kind of treatment he would follow. It was not conventional, even ‘wrong’.

Being a doctor himself, it was impossible to convince him otherwise. A friend of his, a specialist, commented on how the complication might have been avoided if he had made a different choice.

How carefully would you analyze and research before making a choice, if you knew it would lead over time to a ‘complication’ that could affect your health or life or a major component of it?

Lesson #3 – Face the consequences

Since 2004, one after another, dad’s organ systems started failing.

Heart. Nerves. Kidneys. Eyes.

Each problem took away a part of his ‘freedom’.

Yet, not once did he complain or lament his failing health. He faced the consequences of his choices boldly, strongly, with no regrets. He accepted responsibility for his decisions.

Yet, I see people – business owners and entrepreneurs, investors and opportunity seekers – lose some money or see less than stellar results from a particular technique or ad or investment, and then complain loud and long about the ‘guru’ who led them astray.

Think. Did anyone force you to try that method, buy that ebook, join that course, attend that seminar? Or did YOU make that choice?

How will you view consequences of your choices in the future? Will you accept responsibility for them? Or will you keep fooling yourself by shifting blame?

Lesson #4 – You can’t be everything to everyone

At times, listening to his friends and colleagues speak of my father, I had the strange feeling they were talking about someone else.

A person I didn’t know. A different individual.

We, as family members, knew him from one perspective. They, as professional colleagues, saw him from a completely different – and equally fascinating – angle.

It’s just the same with you and me. You see a different side of me than my little patients with heart defects, or my family. I don’t deal with you the same way as I do with them.

How do you juggle the multiple ‘hats’ you wear in your life?

Lesson #5 – What really matters

I met and shared memories with more than 125 people over that week.

Some spoke of dad’s contributions to his specialty of cardiology. Others of his literary work and knowledge. About his helpfulness and encouragement. Many called him a ‘great’ man.

These are people who met him once or twice a month, on average.

And then, there were family members. Folks who lived with him. Met him daily, or spent most of the day with him. They spoke of different things.

Personal things. Intimate things. ‘Small’ things.

As we chatted, I felt they were more special. Because they are really the big things.

Yes, it would be nice to be known as a famous doctor, a revered teacher, a best-selling author and more.

But I think it would be nicer to be remembered as a special person by the really important people in my life. My spouse, children, parents, grandparents, and other family.

It’s what really matters. Yet how often do we risk these important relationships in search of an elusive ‘success’?

How will you change the way you do things if you know that, in the end, what really matters is how your ‘special’ people see you, feel about you, remember you?

I hope these ‘difficult’ questions lead you to seek answers – ones that define your work, and your leisure activities as you gain influence among your peers and your audience, your family and your friends.


Focus Means Tuning Out

Tuning out

Today, I was at the railway station early in the morning to drop my mom off.

On the trip, and while I walked up the ramp with her luggage, looking out to make sure that she wasn’t caught in the rush of crowds, keen on finding the right platform and getting her aboard on time, I barely noticed anything else around me.

The bustling humanity. The interesting faces. The trivia of daily life on a railway platform. All passed me by while I was intent on what I set out to do.

With mom safely in her seat, I strolled more leisurely back to where I had parked my car – and almost magically found so many fascinating things caught my eye.

An elderly lady, stooped to almost half her height by age, was plodding along with her walking stick, her middle-aged daughter supporting her along. She glanced up at me – and smiled!

A tiny toddler, barely 3 years old, was tagging along beside his mother, animatedly pointing to different things and talking nineteen to the dozen!

A careless driver ran his car over the tail of a sleeping dog, making it squeal in surprise and pain.

Porters rushed by, laden with baggage. Commuters hurried to catch their daily ride to work. Travellers, some tired after a long journey, others fresh and about to begin theirs, added to the vibrant humanity that makes a railway station during rush hour a microcosm of life in a city.

I noticed all of this happening around me – but only when I wasn’t focused on something else.

That’s what focus really means.


Of course, what is “irrelevant” will differ from person to person – and from time to time.

I did pause to gaze at a little infant swathed in warm blankets, a patch of brightly colored flowers that lit up a dreary concrete pavement, a tender scene of parents taking leave of their son, who was probably going away for work or study.

What do you pause for – even when you’re focused?


Why Grandpa Matters

Today, I replied to an email from my long-time subscriber, ‘Grandpa Truman’. It reminded me of my own grandpa, and how a conversation with him long ago touched my life deeply, and changed it.

It was 1999. My father had just had serious health problems – a major heart attack, followed shortly after by surgery for an aggressive cancer. My sister had moved to another town after getting married. And I had received an offer to train in pediatric heart surgery… in London.

In an Indian family structure, responsibility for parents lies with the eldest son. As an only son, mine was clear enough.

On the other hand, for almost 15 years in medical school and residency training, I had dreamed of spending time at a world-class center to hone my skills in neonatal and infant heart surgery.

Ambition vied with responsibility. Caught in the horns of a hard to resolve dilemma, I spent sleepless nights and restless days, caught in endless debate with myself about what to do.

Still confused and unsure about the decision to go abroad, uncertain and hesitant about whether or not it was the right thing to do, I went to visit grandpa.

Slowly I trudged up the three flights of stairs to his spare bedroom on the top floor. Knocked on the green wooden door, and entered.

He saw me and sat up slowly, showing no trace of irritation at being disturbed during his afternoon siesta.

At the time, he was 89 years old. A thin, shriveled, nut-brown man, with barely 4 of his teeth still remaining, and fewer hairs on his shiny bald head. Bags sagged under his eyes that were glazed with age, and deep furrows framed pinched lips. His back was permanently bent by age, his arms and legs withered, looking like match-sticks stuck on to his body.

He wore a dhoti (a length of white cloth wrapped around the waist) that he had secured, strangely enough, with a leather belt, and no shirt – just a sleeveless vest.

He greeted me with an affectionate grunt. And over the next half hour, we had a conversation that completely and radically changed my perspective, touched my life and has remained until today as a touchstone during troubled times.

I told him I was going to London for training. He congratulated me, and then asked me two piercing questions that, like a beacon, established a clarity I had been groping for all along.

“Will it help your career?” asked Grandpa.

“Yes. I will get to see and learn things I cannot do here.”

“Will you make money?” was his next question.

“Yes. It is a paid position, it will be profitable, too.”

“Then go. Train well. Then come back home and serve your people.”

I nodded, looking at the floor, but I guess the troubled expression on my face caught his eye.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

I told him what was worrying me – dad’s health, my responsibility, my desire to get the advanced training.

He looked straight at me and said these words:

“Go in faith. Remember, the same God who watches over you will watch over your parents.

They echoed in my mind for a long time afterwards. On the drive back home. On the flight to London. On the even longer flight back, when the bad news of mom needing major surgery made the minutes seem like hours.

Remember, the same God who watches over you will watch over them.

I wrote those words in my book, “THE EMOTION PRISM” and have shared them with many others who were facing difficult times.

Very recently, my good friend (and herself a grandma of an autistic girl) Mary Donachy told me those wise words from Grandpa gave her immense comfort and peace to face a challenge in her life.

Grandpa passed away a few years back, at the ripe old age of 97. Whenever I think of him, I recall that special conversation – and smile.

That’s what grandpas are for!

Grandpa and I, Dr.Mani


Gearing Down

You know how it is when you’ve been zooming along until you reach the foothills… and then shift gears down to first, grinding your way, with agonizing slowness, up the steep grade?

It feels as if you’re moving slowly, laboring hard, struggling.

Yet, in a while, you’ll be higher than you ever could be just speeding along the highways in the plains.

How do you feel about “gearing down” – to rise higher?

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