Monthly Archives: Jun 2014

100 Years Later – Will It Still Matter?

I’m reading a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie. Many were published in the 1920’s. Suddenly, it struck me –

Her writing is still relevant ONE HUNDRED YEARS later.

Contrast this with most contemporary writing (e.g. blogs, news reports, even ebooks) with shelf life measured in minutes, hours, or (rarely!) days.

What can YOU do today – that will still matter 100 years down the road?

Think about it over the weekend. I will, too. 🙂

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Are You Rich? Or Poor?

I was wondering today about what makes one rich or poor.

There are people with a lot of money. They are rich. But are they really?!

If you have a lot of money, and spend it lavishly or generously on things that matter to you, then you’re really rich.

If you have a lot of money, but hoard it and deprive yourself of things your money can buy you, then you’re actually one of the “rich” poor!

And then, there are people who don’t have much (or any) money. They are poor. But some are different.

If you don’t have money, and therefore do not spend it on even things that are important or matter to you, then you’re really poor.

If you don’t have money, yet stretch out your debt and max credit cards to live the “rich lifestyle”, then you’re one of the “poor” rich!

So, what kind are YOU? 😉

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An Urge To Do SOMETHING

Butterfly Sipping Nectar

 

The chill of dawn was in the air. A gentle breeze ruffled the lush green grass. But it was already bright. Days begin earlier in the east.

I sat on the steps leading to our room at the Forest Inn resort. Butterflies flitted from one flower to another, busy in their search for nectar. The woods were alive with birdsong. The rising sun smiled shyly through hazy clouds, making a lovely sight framed by tall trees.

Lataguri Photos

As I lazily glanced around all this wonder of nature, my mind stirred restlessly.

“What should I DO next?”

Considering that this was an unscheduled stop, made necessary by a series of strikes and shut-downs brought about by political uncertainty in Darjeeling district, we had little knowledge about the local sightseeing spots or activities.

And in the middle of a forest, even cable TV reception was spotty and broke down often. No internet (gasp!). Therefore, little to guide us.

“Nothing” I told myself. “Do nothing!”

But it felt strangely uncomfortable. I (like you?) am so attuned to doing things. Something. ANYTHING.

It took almost a day to wind down from that perpetual urge to be in constant motion. To shift down those mental gears, slow down, and immerse myself in the natural delights all around.

Fighting the urge to do something is probably the hardest thing for any entrepreneur, over-achiever, ambitious person to do.

It’s also the most important one to learn – because when you master it, you begin to live… and enjoy life!

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The Journey Is The Destination

Sikkim scenery

I’ve traveled a lot. Both in India, and around the world. Not just on ‘business’, but also for leisure.

Most of the time, there’s a pattern we follow. Make a list of things to do, sights to see, places to visit. Check them off the list, one by one. At the end, the trip is judged upon how many items were achieved, and how good or bad each one was, as an experience.

Well, our recent trip to the mountains of Sikkim and Darjeeling was different.

From the lush green plains of Siliguri, we drove down muddy, cool streets lined by tall trees into the forested remoteness of Lataguri in the Dooars. And from there, we motored up winding, oft-crumbling and pot-holed hill roads to reach the lofty heights of the mighty Himalayan range.

If Pelling is a magnificent mountain resort commanding a view of the mighty Mt.Kanchenjunga, and Gangtok is the worthy capital of a state more popularly known around the world as the ‘Switzerland of Asia’, the route from one to the other is a delight to the senses… and a crown worthier than its wearer.

Sikkim scenery

Sensational and spectacular scenery greets you everywhere you turn in Sikkim. It’s the only place I’ve been to where you could aimlessly point your camera in any direction, click, and end up with a snapshot that could be a picture postcard or pin-up calendar.

Distances (as the crow flies) mean little in this tiny border state, tucked away in the north-eastern extreme of India, wedged between Bhutan and Nepal, China and Bangladesh. We had been pleasantly meandering around all morning, only to have our driver point, late in the afternoon, to a mountain across the valley to say, “That’s Pelling, where we left this morning!”

What’s even more amazing is that we hardly realized it had been so long, engrossed as we were in feasting our eyes on some of the most remarkable natural beauty we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying, and relaxing in temperate weather that’s impossible to mimic in the South during summer, even with modern air-conditioning technology!

And as we rounded the bend, setting out on the road to Gangtok, that my daughter seated in the back asked the question:

“Where are we going next?”

In that magic instant before I replied, the real answer flashed into my head with startling clarity.

“It simply doesn’t matter. Because everywhere, it’s so lovely! The journey is the destination.”

Sikkim scenery

And as the car grinded up the steep slopes only to coast back down the next bumpy incline, around and around the mountain-sides in the long journey to our next stop, another line of thought entered my mind, competing for attention with the mist-shrouded peaks of distant Himalayan ranges and closer by, the roaring, frothy waters of the Rimbhi and Teesta rivers, the terraced farms growing rice and tea, the occasional evidence of frail humanity’s attempt to harness a small portion of the massive energy of nature.

It was this.

Isn’t our journey through life itself like this?

We set ourselves ‘destinations’ and ‘stops’. Make ourselves lists to ‘check off’, and goals to ‘reach’. But all too often, in the mindless quest to get there, we miss enjoying many lovely things along the way.

Like health. And relationships. People and places, events and experiences, interactions and intimacies.

Small things. And sometimes even big ones.

A child’s performance in a dance program. A sunset. A bird singing on the tree outside your window. Suffering humanity caught in a cataclysm halfway across the world. A stranger’s smile on the bus. A playful dog’s antics. All become grist to our ‘Stuff to Ignore’ mill, as we focus on ‘getting where we must’.

But must we?

Isn’t the journey really the destination?

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Litter In My Backyard

my backyard

This is the view of my backyard from the window of a bedroom.

It’s where I stand, think and reflect on Life.

Yesterday I noticed how untidy it looked. Leaves littered the ground. There were rocks and debris in small mounds. Trees needed pruning.

Yet I did nothing about it.

In a strange, apparently unconnected leap of thought, my mind flashed to the dinner party last night.

It was fun. We met many nice people. Had a good time.

Yet a nagging discomfort has persisted ever since – and was what I now tried to get to the root of.

In the course of the evening, I had realized something about myself.

I did not possess the kind of animal magnetism that instantly makes one the center of attention in a crowd.

I lack a forceful personality that gets people’s notice and makes them remember you later.

I don’t excel in social graces and people skills that allow some people to be the heart and soul of a party, mingling smoothly and comfortably with a diverse and motley crowd.

And watching a few people at the party who possessed all of these, seeing how useful those skills and gifts were in a ‘power networking’ situation, made me reflect about how critical they were for success.

At anything.

It left me yearning to become like that.

The longing was short-lived.

Because as I thought it over, one thing became clear. Not having these skills ‘naturally’ meant I could only acquire them by long, hard practice.

Just as I had overcome, over many years, my innate shyness and diffidence, my inferiority complex and terror of speaking in public, my preference for solitude and being ‘behind the scenes’.

Those changes were necessary.

Without them, I would have seriously limited any impact I could hope to make. As a doctor. As a fundraiser. As a social entrepreneur.

So I bit the bullet and made them.

It was uncomfortable, scary, even painful.

But slowly, I changed.

Someone meeting me today would hardly know about the demons that had to be vanquished before I could smile confidently at them and shake their hand, get up on stage and make a presentation for my heart kids, or go out on a public forum or blog and state my mind.

I know, if I set my mind to it, I could make any change. Including the ones necessary to have more ‘social grace’.

But are these new changes really ‘necessary’?

Does everyone have to be a social super-star?

Is it a critical ingredient to success?

The perceived lack of these social and party skills has no doubt resulted in some limitations in what I’ve been able to accomplish.

I’ve not (yet) taken up Frank McKinney‘s open invitation to speak at one of his events – because, frankly, I’m not confident about doing it. (I actually felt too nervous about attending such a high flyer meeting that I offered my invitation to a friend instead!)

I’ve not explored certain avenues of fundraising that involve plenty of face to face contact with a large crowd of essentially unfamiliar people.

I’ve held back from making business or professional connections at seminars, events and conferences.

All this is the litter in the backyard of my mind.

Because it’s not very neat, I can’t enter my ‘home’ in a contest for the most beautiful garden. I don’t enjoy gazing at it – because it’s actually quite ugly. And feel a bit embarrassed about inviting people to look around it too.

But otherwise, it’s ok. I can live with it.

I haven’t ever thought about winning a prize for the prettiest home. I don’t have that much time or occasion to stare at or sit around the backyard for too long anyway. I don’t much care about having a showpiece to boast about to visitors and friends.

I can get along fine even with the clutter.

Because cleaning up – and keeping it clean – is hard work.

In the background of the picture is my neighbor’s backyard. He spends hours every week cleaning, burning and sprucing it all up.

Last month, he moved to a new home. Today, his garden shows inevitable signs of neglect and abandon.

The ‘cleaning up’ is never finished up and done with.

It must be repeated over and over.

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