Life, wife and strife…

If you are married, you are lucky and if you aren’t you are not unlucky. Sabka time aayega( everybody’s time will come). I have been married for 37 years and have enjoyed every moment of married life so far.

If you have a wife, you will have strife and that is life. Life without strife with wife is like food without spices. The best of Indian food will be tasteless if you don’t add spices. Similarly, if you have don’t have conflicts with your spouse, then life is not fun.

Marriage is a social institution where two partners meet each other to lead life together. Sometimes we know each other even before marriage and at other times we discover each other only after marriage. Whether it is love marriage or arranged marriage, life is fun when we are open to each other and are willing to fight with each other only to sit down and resolve our differences through dialogue.

Conflict is an integral part of married life. However, one of the two partners has to accept that if we are magnanimous, then any dispute between us can be resolved through dialogue. This may be easier said than done. Listening and willing to let go of our egos can resolve any misunderstanding between us.

We need not agree to each other at all times to be happy. We need to learn to respect each other’s differences as much as we celebrate our similarities. Learning to respect differences is the art of successful partnership.

In life, you meet people who may not agree with you. But you love the way they disagree with you. Even in parliament when an opposition leader bitterly criticises the government of the day and if the treasury benches stand up to appreciate the way the criticism is delivered we realise that differences can be encouraged and respected.

Similarly, in life we may like something which our spouse may not and vice versa. So what. We can learn to live together appreciating each other’s differences. I love driving my car for long trips and my wife does not. Both of us have learnt to enjoy the journey together. Neither I crib about driving nor my wife cribs about being driven around.

There may be days we may not even talk to each other. Sometimes silence can be the best language to use to resolve differences. Most of us may not realise that listening is more difficult than speaking. Many of us prefer to speak rather than listen. The day we learn to listen, we may be able to resolve any dispute with anyone.

If anyone thinks marriage is a bed of roses, they may be mistaken. Is it a road full of thorns – no it isn’t. It is mix of both. There will be some days where you will be flying high together in the sky. There will be others when you will regret coming together. But the success lies in managing both in such way that you make other a winner. Marriage is a conjunction of mutual partnership with mutual respect.

Lets learn to live together always.

S Ramesh Shankar

21st February 2021

Be imperfectly perfect…

One of the leading brands of cotton dresses in india caution customers when they buy it that there would be imperfections in their product and that is the way it happens in hand woven items. Similarly I live in a green gated community. When I had once raised some imperfections in my house design, my architect reminded me that imperfection is the beauty of nature.

Nature teaches us to adapt and enjoy life as it is and not as the way we want it to be. If you drive down a forest and watch the trees on both sides, they look green and pretty. But no two trees look alike although they have may have been sown at the same time and may be by the same person.

Life is no different. It evolves for each of us the way we may least expect. There are two things in life, which makes living difficult. The first is our innate tendency to compare and the other is to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of others.

Today I thought it may be worth while to explore as to how to live life the imperfect way. If nature can evolve this way, be imperfect and still all of us enjoy it, why not we live similarly. How do we learn to live life imperfectly, perfect ?

Many of us tend to spend our entire life looking for perfection. Searching for imperfections and attempting to make them perfect becomes our mission in life. In this process, we forget to live and enjoy life every day.

One of my friends is a perfect man. He graduated from a prestigious engineering college and completed his post graduation from one of the best business schools in our country. He has had a good career and has an enviable family with a smart spouse and a daughter who is also studying a leading medical school.

Everyone around would think this person would be living a perfect live. However, what I have seen and heard is otherwise. He is still searching for perfection in his life. He wants everything to be perfect in life and thereby a slight imperfection makes him yell at everyone around him. Now, I realise that how difficult it is for us to live with imperfections. The day we accept life as a mixed bag, we may enjoy it more than we are doing today.

In this process, what they do not realise is that neither do they enjoy life, nor allow others around them to enjoy. Most people do not like to interact with them since they are obsessed and are not willing to accept anyone with even minor faults.. Ultimately, they lead lonely lives.

While there may be nothing wrong in aiming for perfection in everything we do every day, if we spend our whole life in search of that elusive perfection, we may realise some day that it never existed and that may be too late to enjoy life.

So, one learning and insight today for me is to live life imperfectly perfect. While we may aim to do our best in everything we do, we need to accept that neither we nor others around us are perfect in every way. The day we realise this basic theorem of life, life may be fun and different for us.

As in the photo above this flower may not be symmetrical but its beauty lies in its asymmetry.

Let us learn to live life the way it evolves every day and learn to enjoy it that way.

S Ramesh Shankar

21st February 2021

Life is all about give & take…

Life is wonderful when it is built on the foundation of gratitude. Someone said the left hand should not know what the right hand is giving. This may be an old adage but true and valid even today. The more we give, the more we get in life.

Some may say that I am saying this because I have got all that I wanted in life. It may be true today but I was born in a low middle class family and lived life as a child in a very frugal way. We were inculcated this value in our early life years and it has got ingrained in our blood. I have experienced the joy of giving all through my life.

I would further extend to say that life is first about giving and then about taking from others. Most of us are keen to to take everything we want from others but are reluctant to give. In my view, giving comes first and then only we have a moral right to take from others.

It is interesting to realise that most people are not interested in your money alone. The earlier we realise it, the better it would be for our overall growth. People are looking for your time, they are looking for sharing their joy and sorrow with you. People want moral support. Even simply said, they want a patient ear – someone who will listen to them.

As a child we realise very early in life that there are not many around us who are good listeners. Even in listening, let us give our patient ear to someone before we expect others to listen to us patiently. We are generous in talking but impatient in listening. The more we listen, the better we understand people and the more we learn.

As an adolescent, we are impatient and stubborn and want the world to move our way or the highway. This is time to realise that we need go give back more to the people around us who have made us what we are today.

Even as an adult, our expression of gratitude is limited till the period we think we have arrived in life. Once we reach a stage in our career and life where we feel that we have arrived, we tend to forget the people who enabled us to reach there. It is at this time we need to give more than we take. We need to to express our gratitude in both monetary and non monetary terms.

The most successful people in life are humble. They are always grounded and give back more than what they have got in life. It is this humility and gratitude which set them apart in society and we admire them forever.

Arrogance and selfishness will never help us succeed in life. Nobody likes to interact with someone who thinks he or she is beyond human imagination. All of us are human and we may err at times and that is fine. It is fine as long as we realise our mistakes and are willing to learn from them.

As in the photo above, we have to grateful for all that we have rather than worry about all that we don’t have.

Life is all about giving first before asking for anything. As I said repeatedly giving does not mean it may cost us money. Giving time, respect or listening to people does not cost anything but is valued immensely.

Let us learn to give before we take.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th December 2020

Substance over style…

I was watching a cricket match recently when one of the commentators made a very pertinent comment. He said he liked one of the young and aspiring cricketers of India for his style. But, it is time that he shows “ Substance over style”. This set me thinking.

Many of us spend our life time trying to sharpen our styles. We forget the fact that Substance is more important than Style in everything in life. While style make get you temporary accolades in a particular match when you score well but if you do have substance and are not consistent then you may fade faster than you could imagine.

This point is equally true in every aspect of life. We tend to focus on the outer behaviour and forget the inner one. We tend to be outwardly well behaved without a human heart. What is the use of being the best dressed man in the office if we end up being the worst behaved manager at the workplace.

While dressing for the occasion may be important but dealing with people humanly is more important than our dress. We may never remember the best dressed persons we have met in our lives. But, we will always remember the people, who made us feel special on all occasions.

It is like being a great orator in a debate. While our diction and style of delivery can get us admirers, we will be remembered more for the content and quality of our debate than the style of delivery. This does not mean style is not significant. What is being emphasised is that substance should always prevail over style. If we have substance and deliver in style that could be the best option before us.

Even when we listen to speeches of great parliamentarians in India or abroad, we look for substance over style. While a great orator with an eloquent command over the language impresses us in the moment, it is the content of her delivery, which lingers in our thoughts forever.

I remember one of my college professors who had great substance and no style. He was grounded, simple and down to earth. He did not have a sense of dressing too. But all of us as students used to admire his content and even nicknamed him as a walking encyclopaedia in college. He was knowledgable , modest and had quest for learning and sharing with others. This proved that substance always prevailed over style.

Another important learning for me is that people with substance may not necessarily need to focus on style. Whatever style they adopt, their substance overflows and takes care of any deficiencies in style. However, it cannot be the other way around. If we do not have substance, style cannot compensate for it.

As in the photo above, while style is good, substance over style is also critical.

It is time to lay the foundations of substance before we mould our style in life. We need to focus on substance first and style next and not the other way around.

If substance is there, style will always follow.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

9th November 2020

2 +2 = ?

Many of us think life is as simple as 2 +2 =4. In most cases, we realise through our experience in life that 2 + 2 is not equal to 4. Life is not a mathematical equation. If it was one, the scientists in the world may have conquered it and solved the puzzles of life for us.

Life is not black and white as many of us want it to be. In most situations it is grey like the monsoon clouds. In the monsoon, you can be sure that most of the days when there is a cloud cover over our heads, it is likely to rain. However, in life we never know when it will be sunshine, when it will be rain and when it is likely to be just cloudy all day.

Some of us spend our entire life trying to figure out how to make life more black and white for ourselves. In my view, it is just a waste of time. It may be better of for us to figure out our own ways of dealing with greyness of life and enjoy it that way.

We need to view life as a new discovery every day. It is like a mystery movie whose script is written and re-written in our lives every day. We have a choice to make. Either we enjoy the mystery as it unfolds in front of us or we wonder what happened after its over. Some of us are neither willing to anticipate life as it opens up every day for us nor willing to accept it as it flows.

The day we realise that life is not logical or mathematical, we may have reconciled to ourselves and be willing to deal with its uncertainties as it happens every day. It is the like the pandemic today. None of us including the experts know for sure what is happening and why is it happening ? Everyone is trying their best to figure it out as it unfolds and then guide us to the best way to deal with it.

If one keeps wondering why this pandemic could not have been anticipated or why it cannot be treated , then we are being cynical as nobody knows its origins. Similarly in life, some things happen for no reasons. If we spend our whole life trying to go to the root cause of why it happened, we possibly may be wasting our time. It may be better to adapt, adjust and move on.

Our ability to adapt to change as it evolves may be one of the best ways to face life. We do not know better ways unless it occurs to us. We should neither get hassled by what happens to us nor worry about why it happens. We should prepare ourselves to face it with a smile and deal with it as it comes.

It may be easier to write about life than to experience it as it comes to us. I am writing after experiencing more than half of my life. May be a bit easier than my younger generations. But I have learnt that the better if not the best way to deal with life is to experience it as it comes and deal with it as you think best at that point of time.

This newly married couple ( as in the photo above) may realise today that 2+2 may not be always equal to 4 in life.

There is neither a right way to deal with life nor a wrong way. Whatever we decide is the best option before us at that juncture of life. It is upto us to take a plunge and experience success or learn from our failures in life.

Life is not a mathematical equation but a mystery movie. Lets learn to enjoy it as it unfolds in front of us every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

6th August 2021

Got it, shot it

I sometimes wonder how certain incidents happen in your life. You see something and you are inspired to shoot a photo. This happens more often than not. That moment may never repeat itself in your life time again. One may call it as a life time opportunity.

I remember some days ago I saw a cat feeding and playing with 4 or 5 kittens in my backyard. It was a scene to be seen. It was an experience of a lifetime. The patience of the mother cat vis a vis the enthusiasm of the children. As in the photo above, I got it and I shot it.

Many a time life is like that. We can get many opportunities to learn and grow every day. We may procrastinate or let go and then we may regret or we may not. Either way, we miss a chance in life and this chance may never recur.

It is upto us to keep our eyes and ears open all the time. As we see the wonders of nature from morning to night and many a time are stunned by what we see. So, it is in life. We have to be alert all the time. We never know when something beckons you. When such an incident happens, we need to wrap the opportunity with both our hands and give it our best shot. One may never realise that a missed opportunity is something which may never come back.

The alternatives before us is to consider life full of opportunities every day or it being full of challenges. What we choose is upto us. Like a thing of beauty in front of us is for us to capture or let go. We do so either believing that it will come back again or considering oneself very busy to capture such precious moments in life.

Moments come and go in life like the water droplets on a rainy day in front of our eyes. We could either capture the beauty of the water bubbles or let them burst away in front of us. Every opportunity we miss is like the water bubble bursting in front of us. We need to wait for the next bubble in life.

While on a long drive, I have sometimes stopped my car just to have a glimpse of nature’s beauty since I was not sure if it will appear on my return journey. I am not even sure if I will return and if I do will I take the same route and the same scene will appear again.

We need to pause every time we see an opportunity in life and give it our best shot. If it clicks, it is great, if it does not, we can move on and look for the next chance to appear for us. If we let go of chances, the probability of missing a good moment of life increases. So let us go with the slogan – “ Got it, shot it”

Life is full of chances and we need to grab each one of them with both of our hands, head and heart.

S Ramesh Shankar

24th August 2020

 

Life is beyond brands

We all grow up in our childhood from different socio-economic backgrounds. Values are instilled in us by our parents, family and society around us. We grow up aspiring to do better in our lives than what our parents achieved through their grit and determination.

We realise that life is not a cake walk. As we finish our schooling and enter college, we experience the competitiveness of life. As we graduate out of college, we get clearer on what we want to do in life. Today, we have the opportunities to pursue what we want and aspire for. The world is an open playground for us.

We dream big and as we begin our career we realise that life is not an easy drive. We dream of acquiring all the best material things in the world, which we only dreamt of in our childhood. However, as we move on we realise that we cannot get everything we want in life the moment we dream of it.

Today everything in life is signified by a brand. We end up living and breathing brands. Aspiring from small brands to big brands is a natural evolution of human aspirations. However, in the process we sometimes may forget that we need to first build our own life brand before we acquire other brands.

We need to realise that brands we possess do not reflect our personality. Nobody in life remembers which suit you wore or which hand bag you carried for a meeting. What people remember is how you treated them and what is the lasting impressions you left in their mind as a good human being.

Human values are beyond brands. We need to realise that we have to first build our brand by living human values of gratitude, humility, respect and trust. This may be a difficult lesson to learn in life. It may be easier to acquire materialistic brands in life but more challenging to live human values.

At a young age, we all believe that the best brands we possess reflects our personality. We tend to believe that people admire us for the car we drive, the suits we wear or the watch we possess. This may be an illusory belief. It is natural and all of us have gone through this stage in life. However, the earlier we realise that human values are more valuable in building our brand in life than all the best materialistic brands we possess, it is better for us.

Life is a journey of continual learning. We all make mistakes and learn from them. This learning journey is no different. There may be nothing wrong to aspire for the best brands in life the day we have earned them through our own sweat and blood. But it is important to realise that the best brands we possess do not reflect our true personality as a person.

As in the photo above, this young girl is looking pretty in a simple white dress, which may not even be branded.  So is life.  You are not valued by the brands you wear or possess in life but the values you live and the way you treat people around you.

Let us learn to first build our own unique brand in life by living our values and then we may realise that all other brands in life fade away in the background.

Life is learning journey.

S Ramesh Shankar

23rd June 2021

Some things are best left unsaid…

Vidhur shastra says that we should never give advice to anyone, unless asked for ? I think its a brilliant piece of advise to follow in life. Today I heard my wife saying that some things in life are best left unsaid. This is equally a great insight.

We spend a lot of time talking than listening. We also believe in giving unsolicited advise to everyone around us. The need to speak is more than the ability to listen. This makes us more vulnerable in life. I have met people in life, who speak less and listen more.

The best people I have met are those who give you great insights just by not stating the obvious but making us realise it. It is like admiring a setting sun above. If you are enjoying a beautiful sunset and someone joins you, it may not be necessary to tell that person how beautiful the sun is as it is setting. Let that person realise and enjoy the beauty of nature by herself.

Similarly in life, the best advices are the ones not given but experienced. The expressions on a mother’s face makes a child realise their mistake . Is it necessary for the mother to scold the child by using harsh words ? It may not be necessary at all.

Similarly, a teacher can make a student more insightful by making their students realise their errors rather than scolding them. This experiential learning could be much more insightful than a dressing down in front of the class or the group.

The best bosses in the workplace do this very well. They do not try to verbalise your mistakes. They articulate your success well but make you experience your errors at work. They even tend to ignore genuine failures and look the other way as if they have not noticed what wrong we did.

The best friends in life support you by just being around. They may not necessarily be around you physically or talk to you often. But if they are around, you feel assured in life. Their physical absence or presence does not matter. Even if they don’t speak to you for months, you are not impacted. You experience them in life through their actions and not words.

Kinesics or the science of body language teaches us that more than 70% of human communication is done non verbally than verbally. We tend to focus on what is being said to us rather than what is not. May be it is time to learn the art of listening to the unsaid.

I have experienced better listening when I sit in front of the sea during a sunset all alone. The sound of the waves and the miracles of nature teach me more than the words of a thousand people on the beach. We not only listen to nature but sometimes listen to our own inner voice.

Let us learn life by listening to words unsaid more than those which are said. Our ability to listen to silence may make us wiser. We may be able to focus on what is not being said but meant rather than what is being said and not meant.

Let us learn to listen to the unsaid in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

29th July 2021

My Ten Commandments

I completed my first innings of my career on 31st March 2019. Many people have asked me as to what advice I could give to youngsters based on my career experience. I have no advice to give but I have a lot of learnings to share with others.

I have tried to put my experiential learnings so far into my “Ten Commandments of life” and I am happy to share them with everyone. They are :

1. Life long learning: One has to learn to learn throughout our life. Our learning begins at birth and may be ends at our death. We have to keep our eyes, ears and all our senses open to learn from every experience of life and everyone around us.

2. Work smart as much as hard : A lot of people today imagine that there are many short cuts to life. In my view, there are none. One has to work hard as much as smart to be a winner in life. Nothing in life can be achieved without toil and efforts. A bit of luck may help but can never be recipe for success.

3. Strive to be the best in whatever you do : We tend to live life by comparisons. It may start in the family when we compete with out siblings, then friends and colleagues at work. It is better to strive to be the best in whatever we do and we are always likely to be a winner rather than a loser.

4. Be a role model for the next generations through your actions and not your words – My definition of inspiring leadership is leading by example always. Your next generation always follows what you do and not what you say. Hence, it may be wise to give advise through your actions and not your words.

5. Maintain the right work life balance : Some of us believe that it is worthwhile to burn oneself away at work. It is not worth it. If we reflect on life and living, one may realise that work and life are equally important. Hence, striking the right balance is not only in our hands but also ensures good health and happiness.

6. Accept failures and missed promotions gracefully : The first failure in life is like the first scratch on your new car. It is difficult to face it and hurts your heart directly. But our ability to reflect and accept failures helps us to be equanimous in life.

7. Be humble and grounded always : We remember people who have their feet on the ground and are always simple and down to earth. We may not respect and regard arrogant people in our lives .

8. You share more, you learn more : Some of us think that if we share our learning with others, our value diminishes. In my view, it is the other way around. The more we share, the more we learn and the more we are respected by others.

9. Own up the blame and learn to give credit to others always : Leaders who give credit to others and learn to accept the blame and consequences always are the ones’ to be respected. This is applicable irrespective of whether one is an individual contributor or a team leader.

10. Never give up at work and in life : The best will always bounce back. Have we ever seen a great sportsperson give up in a game before the final whistle is blown. Similarly in life, one has to keep trying till one succeeds. The journey to success is interspersed with failures. Sometimes failures teach you more valuable lessons than success.

All the best

S Ramesh Shankar

16th March 2019

Experience teaches you…

You realise it only when you experience it. How many times do we dread advice when we find it impractical in life. Almost every time someone gives you some advice, which you think is not realistic and have not experienced it.

I can recall this experience again and again since my childhood. I remember as a child many times my parents and other elders have given me advice which was unpalatable to me. It could be as simple as not to climb a tree as I could break my bones or as serious as not studying well will land me on the streets with no gainful employment.

Every time I felt their advise was either unsolicited or not empathetic. I felt they could not understand the joys of a kid. However, as you grow up you realise that much of their advise was valuable as you experience the effects of not following many of them in your life in real.

This trend was experienced in school and college as a student too. When a teacher advised you to do something or not do something, you desisted it. You felt they unnecessarily interfered in your personal life without really understanding you. But later in life you feel that you wish you had listened to them as you see the pitfalls of non-adherence.

Then you move to the work place and the scene is not very different. Your manager tends to impose his views on you and you feel as if he is breathing down your neck. He seems to be always telling you what to do in every step of your work life. You feel as if you are missing the freedom at work. Then as you grow and become a manager yourself you realise that you need to guide your juniors. When your juniors resist your close supervision you realise you have gone through the same.

Even in the family space we experience this phenomenon. As an adult we do not like advice from our parents. Then as a spouse we feel our partner interferes in our life and many a time tests our patience. We realise this only when we grow into a parent and our child feels the same way. Similarly, when our spouse behaves the same way we do and we do not like it we realise the fallacies of our ill behaviour.

In life, we realise that experience is the best teacher. We also realise it only when we ourselves experience it. It is easy to give advise to others but difficult to accept the same from others. We learn the difference between good and bad advise only when we go through it ourselves.

As in the photo above, we will listen to the advise of even Bhagwan Mahaveer only when we experience a challenge in life and not otherwise.

Experience is one of the best teachers in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th June 2020