Why do I blame the world ?

We all have a tendency to blame everyone else in the world for almost everything. If things work for us, we take the credit and when something does not work, we blame others. This is the reality of the world. Lets start with ourselves and our lives. If I come first in the class we say it is all due to my hard work. If we fail in the class, it is due to teachers not doing their job or parents forcing me to take a subject I do not like and so on.

If we move to the work place, life is no different. If I do well on the job it is because of my hard work. If I do not do well, it is because of lack of support from my boss or from other colleagues at work. This again proves that everything going well at work is because of me and everyone else around me is responsible for anything going wrong.

If we move to society at large the situation is not very different. If the roads are flooded during the monsoon, we blame the government, municipalities or contractors. However, if the I choke the drains with plastic waste I am not responsible. If the city is not clean, the state has to be blamed. If I litter garbage around my house, we may blame the municipality for not having effective garbage collection system.

All this leads me to reflect as to why do I blame the world for everything that goes wrong in my life ? Why do I take the credit for all that I do well in my life ? Is this human psychology or our limitation and selfishness ? I would consider it human limitation and our selfishness. We as human beings always want to take the credit for everything positive in life and blame the world for all the negatives.

I was wondering how the world would change if we looked within ourselves and decide to reverse this trend. Imagine my giving all the credit to my teachers and parents for all my success in life. What would happen if I credit my boss and colleagues for my success at the work place ? How will society be different if I lead the change I want to see in my environs ?

I think it is time for us to lead this change and make a positive impact in society. I would like to take responsibility for all my actions. If things go right in my life I could give credit to the people who have made it possible. If I do something wrong I will take the responsibility and ensure that I own it up. This will ensure that the people who deserve the credit for my success in life get the due.

All this will also ensure that there is an attitudinal change in society. Change always begins with the individual. Like we say an organisation is not buildings or structures, it is a summation of people working in it. Similarly, change has to begin with the individual. Why blame the world for my sins ? If I smoke, I am responsible for it. How can I blame my friends or relatives and claim that they have got me into this habit ?

A selfie above is a good illustration that change begins with me.

We always tend to externalise a problem or an issue ? We want to blame the world for all our wrongdoings . We want to blame society for anything which happens to us. We want to blame the government for all inaction and evils in the community. It is time to reflect and change. It is time to introspect and act. It is time to look within oneself rather than outside ourself.

Change begins with me.

Let me start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Minimalist versus Maximalist ?

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In my definition, the minimalist fulfills his needs in life while the maximalist tries to fulfill greed.  Most of us grow up from middle class families and it is but natural to be aspirational.  I think there is nothing wrong with that.  We need to work hard and look to a brighter future in our career and life.  We tend to start accumulating material wealth and look for ways and means to fulfill our dreams.

As students, we mostly cannot afford to live our dreams as we do not want to burden our parents.  But, as we get into a job, we look for every occasion to save and realize our dreams.  It may sometimes not happen when we want it to happen but as and when it happens, it is a moment of joy.  I still cannot forget as to how I used to aspire to buy a world class music system of a particular brand and it took me almost 5 years to realize it.  I used to visit the show room of this brand on every occasion I could and admire the system from the window till the day I could afford it.

As our responsibilities increase, we try to balance our income and expenditure.  We do try to save and thereby look for fulfilling our life long wishes.  As long as one works honestly and hard, there is absolutely nothing wrong to dream for anything.  It is but human to have needs and as Maslow taught us long years ago that human needs are hierarchial.  It starts with physiological needs, then safety, social, esteem and finally self actualisation.  Interestingly our behaviour today validates Maslow’s theory on motivation.

We first try to fulfill our needs of food, shelter and clothing.  We then want to secure our family and safety.  We then look for love and belonging by being social, then need recognition to enhance esteem and finally we want to attain nirvana or self actualisation.  This could also be linked to different age groups and career stages.  In our twenties and thirties we are focussed on fulfilling physiological and safety needs.  In our forties, we are looking for social,  esteem and recognition.  After we enter our fiftees, we tend to move towards attaining self actualisation.

When we reach the stage of nirvana, we all want to be minimalist.  We want to give back to society more than we have got from it.  But this may be easier said than done.  Let us take a simple phenomenon like shopping.  If we enter a mall, we end up buying clothes or other accessories of our interest even though we may not need them.  This is inspite of the fact that we have enough clothes and accessories we need but we cannot resist the temptation of shopping.  I call this phenomenon as minimalist in thought and maximalist in action.

I have been no different.  I have gone through all the stages of fulfilling my needs as I have stated above.  Today, I am moving towards the stage of self actualisation.  However, as I said earlier, I am still tempted to buy things which I like although I may not need them or already have them.  For example, I recently bought a new camera since I love photography and this is the latest in terms of technology.  This is inspite of my having three other cameras in my possession.  

As in the photo above, we all want to eat less and maintain our health( like a minimalist) but end up gobbling away(like a maximalist) and impact our health adversely.

The only way I have learnt to get over this temptation is to give as much as I take.  So, I decided to give away two of my old cameras to people who will need them after I bought a new camera.  Similarly, I try to donate old clothes as many as I buy new ones to people who need them more than me.  This is no way the best way to be a minimalize but may be a less guilty way.

Life is a journey and we need to learn to live every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Child in us


“Child is the father of man” or so goes the saying.  Most of us will recall that the best years of our lives were when we were kids.  We did what our heart wanted without worrying about what others thought about it.  As we grow up, we tend to live for others.  We act the way others want us to do.  We have lost the child in us and this is indeed very sad.

We find it difficult to laugh or cry every day when we feel like doing. Smile replaces laughter because we start believing that the world will laugh at us if we are too loud.  In situations where we feel like crying, we hide our emotions since we are conditioned to believe that adults do not cry.  If you cry, you are kid and have not grown up.  This leads to our conditioned behaviour.  It is almost like the air conditioned environment that we are used to in our offices and homes today and we have forgotten the heat of the summer, the gush of the rains or the chillness of the winter.

I sometimes wonder how beautiful life would be if we can continue to be our natural selves.  Imagine dancing in the rains and getting wet at the onset of monsoon.  It would be fun to sit on the sea shore and play with sea shells in the sand.  I remember enjoying raw cut mangoes on the beach with family and friends during vacations.  The joy of travelling by train with family on a long summer holiday appears a bygone era.

Who do we blame for losing the child in us ?  We can conveniently blame our education system.  We can blame our parents and elders for not allowing us to enjoy life as a kid and forcing us to behave like adults even before we grew into one.  But, I would blame myself more than anyone else.  Nothing stops me to sit and cry if I feel like doing so even today as an adult.  There is nothing which stops me at laughing at myself and jumping in joy.

We have become less adaptable to the environment around us.  We find it difficult to cope with situations of joy or sorrow and hence want to be behave like conditioned beings.  It is easier for us to hide our emotions than to express it.  We are guarded in our behaviour at home, work and in the community.  The day we learn to be our natural selves, we may be able to rejuvenate the child in us.

It is time to laugh and cry when we feel like.  It is time to express ourselves with everyone around us the way we feel like.  Let us rekindle the kid in us.  The best outcome of this change will be our ability to bounce back from the troughs in our life.  We will also be able to deal with crests with equanimity.  We can see children bounce back from sorrow even before we realise it.  We also see children sharing their joy with others and not riding on a sense of pride always.

It’s time to bring back the child in us as in the photo above.

The time to start is now and the day to start is today.  It does not matter how old or young you are.  Our physical age is just a number.  We need to live life as if a tomorrow does not exist.  We need to learn to enjoy life and share our joy with others.  There is no better way to do it than the way children do it.  It is time to learn and it is time to learn from the kids around us.

Let us regenerate the child in us from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

We win some and lose some…


We win some and lose some.  Life is a zero sum game.  Today we had three international games in which India played.  The first was when an Indian won the Indonesian open badminton final.  The second was a hockey match where India defeated its sub continental counterpart with style.  In the third match, India lost to the better team of the day in the champions trophy cricket final.  The whole nation forgot about the spectacular victories in badminton and hockey and was cursing the Indian cricket team for its loss.

The lesson I learnt today is our ability to accept loss in a game with grace.  We cannot win every game in our life and there are days we may win and other days we may lose.  We need to learn to accept victory with humility and loss with grace.  I do accept that we are a cricket loving nation and this sport has almost become a religion in India.  It brings together the whole nation and stirs emotions. But to swing to extremes of emotions on winning or losing a game may not be a good idea.

This phenomenon is true for life too.  We may win on many occasions and lose in some.  We need to learn to be humble in victories and reflective in defeat.  This is easier said than done.  We tend to get proud on being victorious in life.  If we continue to top the class or represent the school in a sport, it may go into our head.  We may get into the best school or college based on absolute merit.  We may then end up in the dream company of our choice.  All this should be accompanied by our feet firmly on the ground.  We need to learn to realise that victory could any day be followed by defeat.

On the other hand, when we fail in an exam or do not get admitted to a college of our choice, we almost give up in life.  Neither victory nor defeat is permanent in life.  The earlier we realise this, the more successful we may be in life.  In the cycle of life, victories and defeats are also cyclical.  God bestows us with the best of everything in life based on our hard work and commitment.  We taste success and the moment there is an aota of doubt that we have become proud because of our success, he gives us a taste of failure.

As the successes in life make us feel good and move forward, the failures in life should make us reflect, learn and bounce back.  We neither should climb a tree and announce to the world that we have arrived on achieving our first success, nor we need to regret our first defeat in life.  In my learning in life, failure teaches you more than success. Hence, the need to accept success and failiure in life with equal equanimity.

In my experience, success and failure in life is like the day and night.  We can neither expect the day light to last forever nor expect the night to be omnipresent.  Night begins when day ends only to give way to the next day.  Sun sets today to rise again tomorrow.  Just like the plants and animals learn to live with day and night, we as humans need to accept victories and defeats in life with equal respect.

As in the photo above, we can learn from a kid how to accept defeat gracefully when he is not able to climb a tree.

Every victory will make us proud and should do so.  Every defeat will teach us lessons, which in turn will make us victorious in the future.

Is it time to learn to accept defeat with grace ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Everyone has a bad day…


I was watching a reality music show on television for kids.  In my view, the best participant did not do well that day.  I felt it was ok.  After all, everyone has a bad day and so did this young boy.  It was a good lesson to learn.  Even the best have a bad day.  The only difference between the best and the rest is that they learn and bounce back fast.  We as normal mortals take our time to spring back to normal.

If we look back, it is true in every walk of life.  The best in the class may not top the class every single time and may slip once in a while.  The best in a game of soccer may not score every single time they play the game.  The best batsman in cricket may not score a century every time she or he walks into a match.  So, it is in life.  We may not have the best of time, all the time.  This does not mean, we do not give our best and put our best foot forward all the time.

The best sportsman always put in their best effort.  They are not rattled even if they don’t win a game or score a goal in a match.  They are willing to realise their mistakes and learn from them.  On the other hand, many of us tend to give up even before the game is over.  It is like the spectators in a match.  If their favourite team does badly in the first half, many of them leave the ground even before the match is over.  On the other hand, the players do not give up till the last whistle is blown.

I have seen in real life that champions never give up.  Whether it is in academics, sports or even at work, the best never rest.  They may fail once in a while.  After all, they are also human like all of us.  But their resilience is worth emulating.  They spring back many a time even before the match is over.  That is why many a time it is said in sports that form may be temporary but class is permanent.

Let us try to understand this from the prism of work.  The best performers may fail in a project.  But they are keen to learn from their mistakes and then excel in their very next project.  Many of us tend to get depressed and down and out after we fail in an assignment.  It takes courage to accept defeat and learn from it.  It is better to learn gracefully from defeat than to jump in arrogance after a victory.

It is interesting to note that failures teach you better lessons than success.  It is up to us to look back and reflect on our failures with an intent to learn from it.  We want to bury the past and race towards the future.  The lessons of the past may help us lay the foundation for the future.  It is up to us to learn from it and assimilate them in our life. If we do not learn from our past mistakes, the future errors may be graver and harder to correct.

Life gives us enough chances to err and learn.  It is up to us to realise that it is fine to fail once a while and learn from it.  In today’s competitive world, many of us including our parents, family and friends find it difficult to encourage us to experiment and fail.  The best leaders give you the space to try out new things.  They are not worrried about failure as they realise that these are the stepping stones to success.

As in the photo above, the best sculptors possibly fail a few times before they produce a thing of beauty for all of us to admire.

Let us look back to move forward.

S Ramesh Shankar

Comparisons


All our joy and sorrow in life is due to comparisons. We tend to look at others to feel happy or sad. Why does this happen ? I do not know but it is most often a reality in our lives. We tend to compare ourselves with our siblings as a kid and then our classmates in school and college. Then may be our colleagues at work.

I used to live in a city, where people bought a car or a house bigger than what their neighbour had rather than what they needed. This was because the societal norms in that city was to live by comparison. Imagine you buying something in life not because you need it but because your neighbour has it.

How do comparisons affect us ? It makes us less tolerant and also tends to create a complex within us. We either think we are superior or inferior to others. This leads to negative behaviour, which in turn impacts our relationships with others.

What do we do ? How can we live without comparing ourselves with others ? Yes it is possible. We could compare ourselves with people having more troubles than we have. We can compare ourselves with people who are less fortunate than us and this will make us grateful to God. We can compare ourselves with people who are better than us in behaviour and relationships and learn from them.

However, in reality we do not do that. We tend to compare with those who have more than us. This leads to jealousy and in turn leads to undesirable behaviour and actions. Thus leading to both physical and psychological illnesses, which definitely can be avoided.

Another positive way to compare is to do it with oneself. How was I when started my career ? How am I today ? How was I when I was a child and how am I today ? All these comparisons will make us feel better and more grateful to life and God.

We can learn from the sportspersons from individual sports. They prefer to compete with themselves than with others. This is healthy and absolute. It energises them to do better and excel every single time without losing any energy. They remain positive in life and are always focussed on what they want to achieve.

As in the photo above, two artisans do not compare their pieces (boats) of  art, as they create it.  Each is a masterpiece in itself.   They always try  to do better than what they have created previously.  This is the lesson we need to learn in life.

Even the most successful people in all walks of life tend to excel by bettering what they have done before. They are not feeling bad of others around them, who have done better than them. They learn from the best but always set high standards for themselves in absolute rather than relative terms.

Let us learn to live life on our own turf from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Humility versus Arrogance

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Life is full of choices. One of the choice we need to make is between “Humility” & “Arrogance”. It is not that the choice is between black and white. It is most of the time grey. While most of us like to be humble and modest in our day to day behaviour, its the effectiveness of arrogant people around us, which tempts us to review our choice. We sometimes feel that humble people are ignored and walked over. On the other hand, the arrogant ones are noticed and people do listen to them.

Many of my colleagues at work at all stages of my career have always expressed this dilemma in their life. Is it a good idea to be humble and ignored sometimes or be arrogant and get noticed always. I do not have a ready made recipe. But can share my learnings from life and its consequences. One can get away with arrogance as long as you are seated in a position of power in family, work or society. The day you give up your position, you are neither respected nor remembered.

If someone was to ask you to recall your favourite teacher in school, you would always remember the one who was kind to you and grounded. We never remember people who were pompous and arrogant in their behaviour. Life is no different. While it is true that sometimes arrogant behaviour may appear more effective in getting things done in the short term, nobody will every cherish your company in the long term.

Let us examine this phenomenon from various angles. The first angle is that of history. We adore people who were humble and generous in their thought and actions. We do not like to study about the arrogant and pompous types. This is not because we know either of them from the past. It is more because we would like to have role models who are modest and not abrasive in their behaviour.

If we look back at our work life, we will always cherish to work with people who are simple, modest and willing to learn and share with others. We may sometimes feel that they are not assertive enough but their humility bowls us over. If you are humble does not mean that you cannot be assertive. It means that you know where your feet are and are always willing to learn from your own mistakes. Pride is like anger. It can only destroy you today and tomorrow. On the other other humility is like honey, it will always make you a sweet person to adore.

If we look at our family and friends, we always like to be in the company of those whom we respect. We respect those who are our role models. Our role models are people who are grounded and kind. People who are humble will always be good listeners and effective coaches. Their actions teach others. Even if they do not actively coach anyone, others learn even in their company every day.

On the other hand the arrogant people spread venom. They may appear very aggressive and effective in the short term. But they spoil all their relationships in the long term. Their day to day behaviour repels people around them. Everyone tries to avoid such leaders. If given a choice, team members would prefer to join other teams rather than suffer in the hands of an arrogant leader.

The best thing to learn from kids is that they do not have to make a choice. They are natural in their disposition as in the photo above.

It is true that sometimes it may appear that humble leaders may look less effective. However such leaders are always better in the long term. Their leadership is sustainable and focussed on the future. They would never cut corners or look at short term benefits. On the hand, they may sometimes be willing to sacrifice short term gains to create long term sustainability of their people and organisations.

What would you prefer ?

S Ramesh Shankar