Monthly Archives: Jun 2014

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.


Make Meaning

We are so inconsequential.

The universe formed in a Big Bang several billion years ago.

It will end a few hundred billion years later in a cold crunch.

Nature’s most wondrous phenomena and structures – icebergs, mountain ranges, rock formations – evolve over hundreds or thousands of years.

Humankind itself has only been around for 5 or 10 thousand years.

At best, we can look forward to lifespans of around 100.

We are so inconsequential.

Or are we, really?

We do things.

We dream of doing many more.

We are destined to achieve others.

And whatever we do leaves an impact.

It touches other lives.  It changes the world.  It makes a difference.

So, we matter.

Everybody does.

Yes, that includes you.

As long as you make meaning, you truly do matter.

In some way.

To some folks.

For some time.

So, go on.

Make Meaning!



Obsessed with Numbers

For years, as I engaged in ‘direct marketing’ online, selling my books and raising donations to sponsor costly treatment for under-privileged children, I obsessed about numbers.

  • How many people read my posts?
  • How many clicked on links?
  • How many ordered a copy?
  • How many made a donation?

The obsession extended into choosing what to say, and how to say it – so that more people would see it, share it, spread it.

The change happened so gradually that I didn’t even notice.

But suddenly, one day, I did.

I saw that this expensive obsession was leading to some actions which were not congruent, not enjoyable, not authentic.

My obsession with numbers was directing my actions – like the tail wagging the dog!

That’s when I recalled Seth Godin’s lesson. He stopped allowing comments on his blog. His reason? He didn’t want his writing to be influenced by what his (growing) audience thought or felt. It should be about what he thought and felt.

If people cared to engage with the posts, they could comment on them – on their own blogs!

Seth would often drop by and respond to such comments, when I blogged about them. So the system worked. And his own blog retained its unique tone, style and direction.

Thinking about that, I made changes to this blog.

I publish it for a reason. That reason has nothing to do with hundreds, thousands or millions of people reading it, or liking it, or sharing it.

So… why should I obsess about numbers?

I won’t, any longer.

No stats. No numbers on social buttons. No checking Facebook ‘likes’ or Twitter ‘retweets’.

Just writing.

And thinking about what I’m writing.

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