Smile please…

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Our facial expressions speak more than our words.  There is research to state that we express ourselves 70% of the time through non verbal behaviour rather than verbal.  This means smiles can not only be contagious but can make a huge positive impact in our lives.  Then, it may be worth while to examine as to why we are so stingy in smiling.  Many of us find it difficult to smile unless a situation forces us to do so or we do it as an obligation to others.   Interestingly there is also medical research to confirm that smiles can exercise our facial muscles better than frowns.

It is time to examine the reasons for our smiling or otherwise. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth and feel quite comfortable smiling at ourselves at the mirror.  We have our cup of coffee with our family and friends and the smile may continue to blink.  As the day progresses, we meet people on the way to work or school and the smile disappears.  The frown may gradually replace the smile as we believe our day is worse than anyone else around us.

It is time to wake up in the morning and be grateful to God and ourselves.  We should believe that we are the luckiest in the world and blessed with family and friends, who are so caring and loving around us.  We should look forward to getting to work or school and meet our wonderful colleagues.  This may not only make us more confident and cheerful but will spread happiness all around us.  It may make us feel good and spread goodness with every smile on our face as we interact with others.

Why blame the world for a negative attitude if we can change the world with our smile.  Another interesting dimension of a smile on our face is that it is very contagious.  It is almost like yawning.  Have your ever tried it ?  If you look at people yawning around you, you end up yawning yourself even if you are not sleepy or feel like it.  Smile is similar.  Try it.  If you meet someone who smiles around all the time, the spread of cheer is infectious.

It may be interesting to examine as to why we smile less and frown more at ourselves or at others.  It may be because of the imbalance between need and greed in life.  We are accumulating wealth with the belief that wealth may lead us to prosperity and which in turn may make us happy.  This quest for wealth is endless and leads us from need to greed.  The moment greed overtakes need, we tend become angry with ourselves and more greedy.

On the other hand, we meet people on the street, who are never sad.  They may not be the wealthiest in the world but they are the happiest.  If we examine them better, we may realise that they fulfill their needs in life and never are greedy.  They give more than they get in life.  Their smile is generous and unconditional.  They do not smile at you because they need you but they smile at you because they want to make you happier every day.

On the other hand, many of us carry the burden of the world on us.  We believe that the world is cruel to us.  We believe that we do not have enough for a happy future.  We are in the never ending quest for wealth.  We yearn for a future, which is always eluding us and in the process forget the existence of the present.   We forget the past as soon as we reach a stage of self denial.  This makes us smile less and frown more.

It is time to wake up.  Let us smile at ourselves and at others.  Let us cheer ourselves .  Let us spread happiness around us like a flower spreading honey to the bees.  The world will be a happier place to live in.

Lets start today

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Life

Do we live life to its full ? Most of us are not willing to enjoy the moment. We are not investing in our own happiness. We are spending more time worrying about things beyond our control rather than rejoicing all that God has bestowed us with to enjoy life.

We live life comparing ourselves with others and dying out of jealousy. God has given equal capacity to all of us. Each of us craft our destiny by our own hard work. Why are we worried about others ? It is like a sprinter looking at all his co-participants behind him while running a race. The chances of his failing are higher than his success. The best sprinters in the world trust their capabilities and focus on their efforts. They are always confident of their success as they are determined in the efforts they put in every day. They are confident that the results have to follow their efforts.

Life is a journey. Every day is like the page of a book. We need to read every page of the book and move on to the next page. Most of us tend to turn back and not move forward. While, it may be useful to learn from the mistakes of the past, it is more important to focus on shaping our future. If we keep turning to the back pages, we may never move forward and read the whole book in our lifetime.

Life is full of possibilities. We have to make the best of everything in life. We have to dream big, work hard and aim for the impossible in life. If we put in our best, we can make the impossible, possible. After all, it is mankind who dreamt of walking on the moon and made it possible almost five decades back.

It may be inspirational to look at achievers in life. The successful people in life we are not born with silver spoons. Most of them were born in families with limited resources. But, they had a clear vision of what they want to achieve in life and they worked zealously to achieve it.

I have met people in life who have represented my country in Olympics and could not even afford the sports kit when they started learning their sport. Nothing is impossible for the human mind. It is our own limitations in the mind, which makes the possible look impossible. We draw our own curtains and encircle ourselves with self created limitations.

If we look at life as half full glass rather than half empty, the impossible looks possible to us. It is all about our attitude to life. We have to be clear in our mind. We need to set our goals, work hard and always believe in ourselves and our team. Our family, friends and colleagues will always support us if we believe in them and in ourselves.

We need to make life exciting for us. Imagine taking a train without a destination in mind. While we may travel a distance but may be moving in the wrong direction. So, lets set our vision, work conscientiously towards achieving it by believing in ourselves and all people around us.  Life is colourful (as in the photo above) if we live it that way.

We can make the impossible, possible.

S Ramesh Shankar
November 2016

Reality bytes

Today I went with my wife for a tour to Dharavi in Mumbai. This is one of the largest slums in Asia. There are almost a million people living in an area of less than two square kilometres. A home is less than ten square feet and on an average houses five adults. It is indeed an eye opener. You need to visit the place to believe it. We went through an organization, which organises these tours and partly gives back its profit to support the people and children living in Dharavi.

The first part of the tour is the commercial area. In this part, thousands of men and women are working in different types of industries. The first sight of old car bumpers getting shredded and recycled as plastic beads to be moulded into chairs and other plastic durables. Then we pass through suitcase makers, the leather soles for shoes, leather bags, bakery and food items being made for consumption within themselves as well as for sale around town.

You realise how difficult are the working conditions. In dark room with minimum light people inhale dust and paint flakes as they shred material waste to generate the raw material for plastic remoulding durables. People from the remote parts of the country are working day and night leaving their families behind just to earn a livelihood. We realise how privileged we are even to be born in middle class families. Our parents take care of our education, provide us a place to stay and a decent standard of living.

Then you move to the residential area. We see people from different states of India and following different religions living peacefully together. It is here you realise that wealth may not help you buy happiness. You see children, adolescents and adults enjoying each other’s company and helping each other in their daily chores. You see happiness writ on their smiles and this makes you realise that it is not materiality which can bring you happiness in life.

You also see schools – run by government, NGOs and private organisations. While the government and other organisations are tying their best to improve the quality of their lives, the problem is mammoth. One good thing I noticed is that I did not see children working in the commercial areas although this cannot be totally ruled out.

Some of my reflections and learnings after today’s tour are –

A. We need to be grateful to God and our parents/elders for all the comforts we enjoy in life and never realise their value

B. We realise that happiness is not directly correlated to the wealth we possess. Rather happiness is a state of mind and attitude to life.

C. We also need to realise that we need to give back to society more than we get as are indeed much more privileged than millions of people around us.

As in the photo a( courtesy – Reality tours & travels)above, children sitting in a cart within the slum seem happier than many of us. We realise how privileged we are in life.

What do you think ? Is it time to reflect ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Taking for granted ?


Do we take people for granted ?  I assume we do.  It starts from the family and then extends to society and organisations too.  Let us start from the family. Do we take our parents for granted ?  Yes we do.  We almost assume that they are duty bound to take care of us and our needs for the rest of our lives.  We are not much bothered about them but if they do not support us when we need them we feel betrayed.  

The story is not very different with our spouses.  Whether we both are working spouses or not, it is a fact that we take each other for granted.  Let us assume that our spouse is not working in an organisation but a home maker.  We almost imagine that they do not have much work and no tensions at home.  If we  get what we want at home on time, we assume that it is their responsibility and hence take it for granted.

On the contrary, let us assume that both spouses are working.  Even in this situation, we do not balance home and office work.  We tend to take for granted that our wives will take care of our home as we are busy at work.  We do not even realise that our wives also have work pressures and balancing home and work is not easy.  Hence, taking your wife for granted is more true than not.

Now, let us move to the organisational sphere.  Do we take our team members, colleagues and bosses for granted ?  Yes, it is true that many of us are so self centred that we look at the world only from own prisms.  We are not much concerned as to how it impacts our team or even our peers.  We take them for granted.  Sometimes, we also take our bosses for granted and assume that they will cover up for us in any crisis.

Why is it that we take everyone in life for granted ?  I assume it is a psychological phenomenon.  Human beings tend to believe that the whole world exists to support them.  We assume our family members, colleagues at work and members of the community are duty bound to help us to be successful in life. When this belief becomes one sided, that is where we start taking people for granted.  

The moment we start believing that we have to give before we take help from others, this problem will perish.  We have to learn to respect everyone and not take anyone for granted in life.  There is nobody in life, who is obligated to you.  We are born alone and will die alone.  But, we need the support of everyone in life to be successful.  Help is always mutual and respect is earned rather than given.  Hence, taking people for granted could lead to more distress than happiness.

We should neither take people or things for granted.  It is like taking a turn while driving your car by looking only at one of your side view mirrors as shown in the photo above.  This is like the driver taking his skills for granted.

Let us learn to respect people from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Complex – inferiority or superiority


We all have complexes in life.  Sometimes we call them inferiority complex and at other times superiority.  In my view, complex is only of one type and that is inferiority.  When we are not able to accept our inferiority, we project it as superiority complex.  This happens to us in all aspects of life.  It starts at home.  As a senior family member, we find it difficult to accept our mistakes. We find it more difficult to say sorry.  Most of the time, we use our status to exert our power.  We think we are superior to the other younger members of the family and hence can get away with it.  In my view, we are inferior and everyone including a child understands it although may not express it to us out of respect.

The best example of the expression of complexes is seen between spouses in a marriage.  Each of us think, we are superior and can argue till the end to justify our behaviour.  We many a time may realise that it is our mistake but our status and ego prevents us to accept defeat in an argument.  We may prefer to keep quiet and not talk to each other rather than accept inferiority or defeat in any situation.  All of us who are married may have gone through this situation many times in life.  I have gone through and have always found it difficult to reflect and accept reality.  It is definitely easier to write about it than display it in day to day behaviour.  

The work situation is no different.  As managers and leaders, we think our seat of power gives us a right of superiority.  We want to win every argument with our team and want to dominate in every discussion.  We think that if we listen more and give in to ideas, we may be perceived as less effective.  This sense of superiority in us is actually a weakness rather than a strength.  Hence my hypothesis that there is only one complex in life and that is inferiority.

The behaviour of individuals in society is similar.  We tend to behave as if we know everything in life if we are the oldest in a group.  We tend to believe that experience can make us a master of all situations.  While it is true that experience is a good teacher, it may not necessarrily answer all the questions in life.  It may be a good idea to listen to all shades of opinions in society. Everyone in life, old or young, senior or junior may have something to contribute.  It is up to us to learn from everyone in life.

The earlier we realise that all complexes in life are those of inferiority, the better it is for us.  Irrespective of family, work or civil society, there is nobody inferior or superior in life.  Everyone may have ideas and it is up to us to learn from all of them.  It may be useful for us to convert every weakness into an opporutinity to learn from others.  If we live in a dream of superiority, we live in a world of delusion.  

Just like in the photo above, being taller or shorter than the other person does not make you superior or inferior in life.

The earlier we accept the reality, the faster we grow up in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

Tomorrow never comes…


“Procrastination” is not a common word in English but we practise it almost every day.  There is a nice quote in Hindi which says “What we need to do tomorrow, do it today, what we plan to do today, do it now..”.  It is true that we tend to postpone issues on the slightest pretext. We do not need excuses as we invent them for anything and everything in life.

Our day begins and ends with excuses to procrastinate things.  We postpone the morning walk because it is raining.  We do not clean our room because we are late to work.  We skip breakfast because we postponed buying provisions for the kitchen.  As we leave for office, we reschedule the first meeting of the day since we are caught up in traffic and cannot reach on time. So, the day goes on by postponing one thing or the other and hoping that everything will get done tomorrow.

This habit of delaying or postponing things is not unique to a country.   Of course, it could be more prevalent in some countries than others.  But, I believe it is a human trait.  I am not sure if we are born with this trait or we inherit it.  I believe we develop it and let it blossom out of our own laziness. We always have reasons to justify it and if we don’t find one, we can always make someone else responsible for it.

I have been no different in life.  I always had reasons for postponing things. I was intuitive and innovate in inventing excuses.  One day I reminded myself that postponing exercises is not going to harm anyone else.  It will only impact my own health since I am a diabetic.  I used to skip my walk whenever I came late from work.

One day I realised that “Tomorrow never comes.. “.  If we think that we can make up in life by postponing things we are under an illusion.  Life goes on like a train without a destination.  It could give us opportunities to learn like the train stopping at various stations on the way.  But, it is up to us to reflect and learn from our mistakes.  Imagine a smoker thinking that he can give up smoking from tomorrow.  Most smokers believe that smoking is injurious to their health.  They resolve umpteen number of times to give it up.  Every time, they wait for that auspicious day or hour to start, which never arrives.

Life is no different.  It does give us reminders and opportunities to learn. But, if we decide to procrastinate and think that a better tomorrow will arrive for us to change, it may never come.  It is up to us to start today.  It is better to start now rather than wait till the end of the day.  It does not matter if it is a simple or a complex decision in life, the best time is now or never.

Like in the photo above, it is not good enough to buy a nice cycle and park it in front of your home.  The time to start cycling is now if you think cycling is the best exercise to keep you fit.

Why wait till tomorrow ?  Let us start now.

S Ramesh Shankar

Mirror


I wonder many times as to how my behaviour with others will impact me.  I have seen in my life and career that many people get away with rude behaviour.  Sometimes people in power and authority think that have a right to behave rudely.  This happens both at home, work environment and society. Let us try to explore why this happens and what is the impact. 

At home, as I grow into an adult and become successful in my career, I tend to believe that I can boss around in the house.  I tend to take my family members for granted and sometimes even my parents.  This further makes me short tempered and unpredictable.  In some families, irrespective of both husband and wife working, there is a sense of superiority in either of us.  We are intolerant to the success of the other person and live in a make believe world. We do not realise how our behaviour as adults impacts the psychology of our own children.

If we move to the work place, the situation is not very different.  As we grow in the organisational hierarchy, we tend to believe we become demi God.  We treat our colleagues with disdain rather than human beings.  We tend to show not enough respect to people down the hierarchy.  It can result in simple courtesies not being extended to our colleagues.  It could be like not wishing back to our colleagues, when they wish us.  It could also mean not listening to junior colleagues or dictating our way through key decisions.

This tendency reflects in societal behaviours too.  People in positions of power whether in organisations, politics or other institutions tend to get egoistic.  They take everyone around them for granted.  Pride and ego dominates their behaviour.  They get away with this sort of antics as long as they are in power.  The moment they lose power, they become cowards and they do not realise how much they have hurt people till they get hurt themselves.

In all these situations, what is common is that power and behaviour seems to be directly correlated.  As power seeps into the human body, our behaviour tends to get from bad to worse.  So, it is up to us to realise this change and keep ourselves grounded and humble.  You may get respected as long as you wield power.  But, it is critical to remember that people respect your position rather than yourself.  In real life,  people respect those with character and humility.  Your words are more important than your deeds.    

All these situations signify that as parents, leaders or citizens our behaviour impacts our future generations.  Our words and actions determine our character.  Our character determine our actions.  Our actions trigger changes in society.  It is up to us to behave in a way we want our future generations to do.  Our behaviour reflects and impacts the behaviour of the younger generation.  It is like our images are reflected in the mirror every time we peep into it.

Let us behave the way we want others to do with us every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Competition or Co-optition ?


We live in a competitive world.  The competitive spirit starts from our childhood.  Our parents tend to compare us with other kids in the same school.  Many a time, we are told why our peformance in academics cannot be like our neighbour’s daughter or son.  We are asked why we cant compete in sports like our friend’s kid and so on.  Not a single day in school or college goes without our performance being compared with someone else.   Why this competition ?  We are not born in this world with our neighbour’s son or daughter nor will we die with our friend’s children.  Then, why do we do compete and make our life miserable every day.

If we move beyond children, even adults tend to compare themselves in everything.  If a neighbour buys a new TV, it creates enough ripples within our home.  If a friend buys a car or house, we want to outbeat them in size and value of house and car.  Our value is based on the size of our house and car and not on the size of our heart.  We want to possess more wealth than our siblings and our friends.  We do not compete in giving back more.  We are not willing to learn from the best habits of our neighbours.

Why this competitive spirits seeps in our life ?  I may not have an answer but have many questions to ask myself and my readers ?  Why do our parents want us to always compete with our siblings and our neighbours and friends ?  Why do we want to possess more wealth than our neighbours and friends even though we may not need all of them in our life time ?  Why are we willing to sometimes sacrifice our personal values to outbeat our colleagues at work ? 

Many a time we justify our animal spirit of competitiveness by claiming that there are limited resources in this world and we have to be ahead of others in grabbing them.  In my view, there are unlimited resources in the world for us to be successful.  It is the limitation in our thinking, which makes us competitive.  We limit our thinking and that reflects in our behaviour.

The workplace behaviour is more competitive.  We die at the workplace virtually competing with everyone around us.  Our spirit is not to learn and grow but to compete and die in our careers.  While, it may be a good idea to be the best in whatever you do, it should not be at the cost of other colleagues at work.  It may be a good idea to compete with oneself in whatever we do in life.  We could be the best by being the best in work and in our behaviour.  

There is enough in this world for all of us.  Co-optition may be a better word.  We can work along with our competitors for jointly creating a better world.  Similarly, we can work with our colleagues to do our job better and learn from one another.  We can also learn from our siblings and support each other to succeed.  We learn more by sharing with one another rather than keeping knowledge to ourselves.

If at all there is an urge to compete, let us compete in working to create a happier world.  Let us compete to live together as a bonded family.  Let us compete with other countries to foster peace in the world.  Let us compete to eliminate pollution in the world.  Let countries compete to eradicate poverty in the world.  Cooptition may replace competition from our dictionaries.

In the photo above, friends are singing together to create a chorus rather than competing with each other to  outbeat each other.

Let us learn to live along with each other and create a world of our choice for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

Excuses for everything


Almost every day begins and ends with excuses for most of us.  Let us start from the morning.  We refuse to get up from bed, when woken up by someone.  We blame the weather or the exhausting day at work on the previous day.  Then once we get up, we have an excuse not to go for the walk or the jog.  It’s raining – how can one go for a walk ?  Then we get late to work and when the boss enquires we have the common excuse of traffic congestion on the way.

Now that we are at work, do the excuses stop.  I do not think so.  When a customer calls us enquiring about a delayed delivery, we put the blame on manufacturing or some other department and explain in details how it is beyond our control.  When the customer asks as to why we did not call up and inform her, we have a box full of excuses.  We had the board meeting and two new product launches and how when we tried a few times, the customers’ phone was not reachable.

Let’s assume the day at work begins and ends with excuses.  Now, let’s move on to the gym.  As we reach the gym and our instructor enquires the reasons for our poor attendance, we have a long list of reasons.  We blame the weather, the boss, the spouse and of course the traffic is always a ready made excuse for almost everything in life.

What is interesting is that when we are late at work, we blame the traffic but when we have to go on a holiday, we are always on time to the airport never miss a flight.  We do not know how we invent excuses for things we do not enjoy but do not need excuses for things we do.

Now, let’s check at home.  We have a long list of excuses to return late from work.  Again the boss is handy and followed by heavy workload, customer visits, official dinner and so on.  We also have excuses to tell our spouse of how busy we were at work and as to why we could not call up home to inform.

We always have excuses to give our kids when they want us to take them out for a movie or to the park.  We promise to take them the following week and that week never arrives.  We have a host of excuses to postpone it multiple times till the children stop asking us or forget about their request.  

After we return home, we again have good excuses to tell our spouse as to why we could not pay electricity bills or water bills.  We have reasons to miss the doctor’s appointment.  We sometimes even forget our kids birthday party and have excuses to justify that.

It is like we may have an excuse for not wearing the seat belt in the back seat of a car as in the picture above ? We may say that nothing would happen in the back seat and nobody wears it anyway and hence why should I ?

Is life full of excuses ?  May be if we want it that way.  However, if we decide to take charge of ourselves, may be life would be different.  We have reasons to be happier.  We may not need excuses to justify our existence at home or work.  Life may be happier and cosier.

Let’s try it from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Life is like a “Marathon”


Our life is like a marathon.  We start to lay our foundation in our childhood, work hard during youth and then pick up steam as an adult to achieve our life goals.  All that we achieve in our life depends on the hard work we put in.  It is like to run a marathon, we start practising almost a year before the event.  It is not only our physical fitness but our emotional quotient, which makes us a winner.

One need not be the fastest sprinter to win but needs to be high on patience and perseverance.  After we have set your eyes in participating in a marathon, it is meticulous planning, sweating it out every day for more than a year and good dietary discipline, which makes us ready for the marathon.  Life is no different.  As a kid, we have many dreams in our lives.  We want to realize all of them and at the shortest possible time.  If one is able to set a clear goal and work towards achieving it, nothing is impossible in life.

I am aware of many people who plan to participate in a marathon.  While they set their goal clearly, they do not plan for it well.  Their daily practise does not happen regularly. Their eating habits are not in place.  So, when they participate in their first marathon and end up with cramps after just 5 kms of running, they get disappointed and many even give up their goal.  

Life is no different.  We need to set our life goals- personal, career or otherwise.  We need to plan in detail and be self disciplined.  The moment we lose focus and fail to raise our own standards, we get into pitfalls in life.  This disappoints us and we tend to give up on some of our goals even before we have put in adequate efforts to achieve them.

In a marathon, one could possibly start with a dream run of 6 or 10 kms, then move to run the half marathon, full marathon and may be even attempt the ultra marathon.  This will help them take one step at a time.  It prepares the body and mind.  They increase the intensity of their participation every year and success at each step reinforces their belief in themselves.

The same is true in life.  We could set small milestones, work hard and achieve them.  This gives us the confidence to take on tougher goals and work towards achieving them.  Each time we succeed in attaining our goals, it builds on our ability to aim higher.  This is the secret of success in life.  Many of us give up even before we try our best.

Life is a journey and we have to take one step at a time.  The icons of success in all walks of life have proved that if you set your vision, plan your action and execute with discipline, everything is possible in life.  This may help us believe in ourselves and set impossible goals. Our efforts get rewarded even before we realize it.  This enthuses us to achieve more in life.

Let us start our dream run today.

S Ramesh Shankar