Tag Archives: amwriting

On Tattoos and Hijabs

Whenever I imagine calling all my close friends for a party and putting all my friends under the same roof, in the same room, my mind goes into overdrive. Plagued with an overactive imagination, my life plays out like an elaborate broadway show or a high budget Karan Johar movie, and this one scenario seems like the plausible climax beyond which I’m not really sure how the movie will go.

Some friends would be indifferent, some shy. Some overbearing, some withdrawn. Some would be the life of the party and some would prefer to go home to a book or a drink. Together all my friends would make for a very interesting, albeit emotionally charged party.

I’m not one to hang out in big, gregarious crowds. I prefer small, intimate groups. I’m picky about my friends and pickier still about my close friends. From becoming dancers to scientists, to supporting Trump, my friends have been there, done that. I don’t know how I know so many different kinds of people,  but I know why – because, without them, I would be stuck in my tiny version of reality.

Our reality is limited. We extend our reality only to what we think we know and can understand. It’s a catch 22 really. What we don’t understand we don’t know and what we don’t know, we don’t understand. So where do we begin to break out of our tiny realities?

I hear a lot of discussions regarding “learning moments” and every time I hear the phrase I cringe. The notion that we have to seek out learning moments is as absurd as that of women being a weaker sex.

Learning moments isn’t a physics classroom wherein you only learn physics. Learning moments happen when you open your eyes and mind to two notions –

  1. I don’t know everything
  2. I can always learn something new

Both of these realities have been shunned in our MBA driven society where one has to know everything. While many people may know a lot of things, many of them don’t comprehend or analyze or understand these things.

To truly learn, one simply needs to make more friends, to make different friends, to make yourself uncomfortable and vulnerable, to be wrong, to be correct, to feel safe, and to feel challenged. A learning moment can come from a YouTube video or an Albert Camus book. A learning moment can come in the kitchen or at an IPL game.

Often, a learning moment comes when you least expect it, from someone you least expect. Make friends who are different from you, physically and emotionally. Meet more than one person of a ‘type’ and you’ll see that there is no such thing as a ‘type’. Tattoos, hijabs, miniskirts. They don’t make the difference, you make the difference in your head. Meet at least three people of a ‘type’. Then four, then five. You may like only one, but you may not like the first one.

Don’t let an earring or a tattoo or a hijab stop you. Move beyond them.

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How to Believe In Yourself

Belief has had a bad reputation recently. Like Happiness, it’s the new kid on the block who is constantly bullied. Those who have it, are attacked for having it, those who don’t have it, attack it for being so difficult to attain. Belief, unlike confidence, is an abstract term. Belief is a spiritual term while confidence is a scientific term. We have a host of articles and websites devoted and dedicated to increasing one’s confidence. One of the most famous TED Talks was, in fact, on the role of confidence in a person’s life.

As confidence has slowly made its way to the best student in class, belief is still in detention. But it shouldn’t be. There are a lot of myths, if you may, surrounding belief. While confidence is known to be a learned skill, people believe that belief is an inherent trait. While confidence is a work in progress, belief is thought to be an instant process. While confidence is mouldable, people think belief is rigid.

That’s far from the truth. Believing in yourself is a process in which you begin to trust yourself more. Belief helps you fight off your doubts and stick to whatever you’ve chosen. It enables you to worry lesser and work harder without getting distracted by the world. Belief is a skill that shapes your thinking in a better direction, where better can be anything more positive than what you are feeling at a given moment in time.

Belief is a process of learning to accept your boundaries and then slowly pushing them further and further. While belief may have its roots in spirituality, it’s implications are seen in every sphere of life. Even research shows that out beliefs mold our thinking.

If you noticed (as I hope you did) that belief is essentially a thing that changes our thinking. It’s a process. It has its inception in spirituality, but it effects everyday life. And if you still haven’t made the connection (as I hadn’t till a while back) let me tell you – belief is nothing but confidence. 

Belief is a learned skill that needs to be honed and evaluated at every stage in life. Belief, like confidence, is a process that takes days, months, or even years to acquire. Belief isn’t just about thinking positively. It’s a lifestyle that includes learning to trust yourself more, of being open to change and failure. It’s a process in which you learn to pick up yourself after you fail, in which you keep going till you reach where you have to. Belief is internalizing confidence.  While confidence is a state of being, belief is when your thoughts are confident.  Confidence is a temporary phase. It’s your body language, your way of presenting who you are. Belief is a permanent part of you, it’s the way you think of yourself.

In order to believe in yourself more, you need to realize that it’s an ongoing process. While every day changes, so do your challenges and your thoughts. Belief also wavers. You need to remind yourself to believe and to validate your belief with previous successes. To believe more, you have to learn more about yourself at this very moment. To believe in an idea, for example, would mean-

  1. Doing your homework about the idea
  2. Asking and answering all the pertinent questions
  3. Making out an action plan for the idea
  4. And then, finally, running with it.

Believing in yourself is a similar process. To believe in yourself,

  1. See where you stand in life.
  2. Instead of doubting yourself, ask yourself how many doubts are valid and what you can do about those.
  3. Once you have an idea of what you need to do, make a plan and follow that action plan.
  4. Repeat.

Every day is a different day. Every day is a different challenge. And if you’re lucky, every day is a learning day. Believing in yourself isn’t easy. But as someone wise said – nothing worth having comes easy.

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How to Make Friends as an Adult

So, you’ve made it to that point in your life. Half the people you know are married, the other half are in their jammies. You’re stuck in the middle. And it’s clearly time to make new friends, but unlike childhood, where everyone was extremely receptive and excited about making new friends, adulthood, or ‘Adulting’ can be quiet different. People have their voices now and their vices. They have certain preferences and certain needs.

While making friends was easy as children, it becomes considerably harder as we grow older. Children, on one hand, are nonjudgmental, they are straightforward. They seek out new experiences, they are tolerant of other people and are more open to making mistakes. They ask questions all the time and move into new groups constantly.

Adults, on the other hand, are less tolerant of others, and more insecure of their being. We are more guarded of ourselves. We have had enough experience to be wary of some people and to instantly love others. The fear of judgment is a constant thought and novelty in situations is rare. We’ve been there, done that, seen it all. By adulthood, we’ve covered almost all emotional situations, have felt all kinds of feelings and the situations begin to repeat. We know who we get along with, who we don’t. We can rationalize our preferences and often we stick to them.

And now, in our time and age, mid-20s are a time of confusion. Before 21–22 usually, one is still following a set pattern. Twelve years of school and three or four years of college. After 30 usually, most people are either married or have steady partners, or their lives have settled down in known patterns again. Work and home, work and home. But that eight years in-between college and set patterns of life, are years of uncertainty, of mistakes, of making new patterns, growing, and learning.

So, for most of us, we are in that middle phase — often single, not ready to marry, in our first or second jobs, working hard every day, constantly tired, yet not willing to while away our life in bed – category, where every day is a new challenge. We face unprecedented social and virtual pressures. Between doing what we have to and being who we want to, we also have to help ourselves grow and prepare for tomorrow.

We know that we have plenty Facebook friends, so we can always plan something out. But realistically, that doesn’t happen. We get busy, they get busy. We get lazy, they get lazy. While it’s always good to catch up with old friends, it becomes extremely important to meet new people outside of your circle so you can grow a person. Even Facebook now-a-days puts people in a sort of “bubble’ where you only interact with people and events and information that you agree with and will respond to.

Hence, in order to be aware and well informed of everything that is out there, it is important to find the information yourself. That means you have to challenge yourself, be uncomfortable, and get out of your comfort zone. Mark Twain, anyone?

And the best way to do that, is to make new friends. While there are many ways to make friends, and here are 5 simple ways to make friends as an adult-

Join a Meetup — Meetup, if you don’t know of it, is a social networking site for people who like to do stuff. Every kind of event is organized and planned by various people and all you have to do is sign up and sign in. Ever been interested in Archery? Join a meetup. From book clubs to bar hopping, Meetup has everything with no strings attached!

Go to Floor 3 — Unless you work on floor 3, then you go to floor 4. The idea is, if you’re working in a corporate building, you get stuck to our floors. You get so caught up being on our floor and the floor politics that unless you absolutely have to, you don’t budge. You get lost in how little your floor is and sometimes mistake that for the world. Your floor is not the world, it’s a tiny -tiny section of a tiny part of a big world. Go to the third floor. Meet new people, broaden your reach and your space in the world.

Take Numbers — Once you’ve met people, take people’s numbers and message them. Don’t add them on Facebook, don’t tweet at them. Message them, get used to the awkwardness of ‘Hey, wassup?’, ‘Hey, nothing much’ because in between those two messages a lot of good can be unveiled. Instead of ‘nothing much’ ask them their hobbies or if they’d like to go for lunch. Fix a time to meet up with them and then actually meet them.

Meet Your Neighbors- Say hi. Literally, that’s all it takes! You don’t even have to do more than that for the first few times. Then one day, when they return from your favorite store, that’s when you talk with them and strike a conversation with them! Okay, maybe they don’t go to your favorite store, but given enough time you are bound to find a conversation starter.

BePatient — Adult relationships take time, patience and effort. Unlike being children where politics and sex don’t matter, as we grow older, they do. Everything begins to matter, from political inclinations to a sense of humor. We become choosy (which is a good thing) and become more aware of who we want to be with and who we don’t want to be with. So, while no one is going to be a tailor made fit, there are going to be people who are close enough.

Making friends is a considerable investment. As Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker and self-help guru, says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It is obvious then, that finding the right kind of people becomes even more important.

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Overcoming The Need to be Perfect In Order to be Great

There’s always one piece of art, book, or music composition that we think of when we think of the greats. From Mozart to Godin, we know and think of exceptional people to have been perfect in their art. However, the notion that exceptional people have to be perfect right from the get-go is misleading at best, and harmful at worst.

People’s idea that, to be great, their work needs to be perfect before it can be published or put into action, turns out to be the exact opposite of what they need to be doing in order to be great! Greatness, like perfection, is in retrospect, or, in the future. The only certainty for today is the work you put in now. So while you might work and produce a lot of pieces of your specific art, not each and every one would be exceptional.

One of the greatest American novelists, Henry James wrote over 20 novels, several hundred short stories, many biographies, travel writing, and literary criticism. The painter, Pablo Picasso is believed to have made over 50,000 pieces of work during his lifetime, averaging at least one a day and composer, Sebastian Bach composed over 1000 pieces of music.  However, all these artists are known only for a few of their works.

Seth Godin, one of the most well-known bloggers of our times and bestselling author of 18 books, writes one blog post every day. During an interview with Marie Forleo, he emphasized on the idea of doing something well enough every day, so that we can only get better at it!

Quantity leads to Quality

When you do something every day or do it many times, you can only get better at it because you are essentially practicing it. Be it writing or executing ideas or brainstorming creative ideas, the more you do it, the more you train yourself to get better at it. Hence, in order to create exceptional, revolutionary pieces of work, we need to first get into the habit of creating a lot of pieces!

Each Piece Markets Itself

When you create a lot of pieces, one step that ought to be common is maintaining a certain level of professionalism. While you are bound to improve in style, the basics must be solid. Each piece must be created as though it is the piece that all your other pieces will be judged on. If you’re a blogger, every blog post ought to be well written, spell checked, and free from errors before posting it.

As a writer and speaker, I make it a point to write on my blog every day and to speak at an event every month. The reason is not to get ‘famous’ or ‘rich’ but because I love doing it and because everytime I do it, I get a little better.

Whatever your calling, be prolific.

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5 Ways to Be More Confident in Public Speaking

Public speaking is slowly becoming one of the most desirable soft skills on the market. Every profession requires it in some form. Be it the conference room for a presentation or the TEDx stage to spread an idea, public speaking is an important facet of life. Having been a national level debater, given more than a dozen motivational talks and two TEDx talks, I’ve realized that while different settings require different approaches, some aspects are common to all forms of public speaking.

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My TEDx Talk At University of Manipal

The first rule of public speaking is confidence. That confidence can be built up with a little bit of help. And here’s 5 tips on how to be more confident in public speaking –

  1. Wait before you speak  – Starting to speak as soon as you stand on the stage can seem as though you are fumbling or nervous. As soon as you get onto the stage, take a moment of silence before you begin your talk. While it may seem awkward to you, the audience will often perceive it as confidence.
  2. Close your mouth fully – Every time you take a pause, even if it is to breathe, close your mouth fully. If you leave it open, it seems as though you have forgotten something, or are trying to remember something.
  3. Speak Slowly – Whatever your usual speed, try to speak slower than that (unless you’re really slow already!). It’s hard to resist the temptation to speak fast, but on stage, when one is nervous, one often tends to speak faster than when one is not nervous. Hence, on stage speak slower than you usually would.
  4. Pause – People take time to understand and digest what you’re saying, so take pauses in between new ideas.
  5. Ignore the frowns – Many times people look serious or frown or shake their heads. Ignore them completely. You don’t know what’s going on in their minds. So, instead of thinking negatively, ignore them.

Public speaking isn’t a talent, it’s a skill that can be worked on. Practice your speech and rehearse the above steps for your next talk!

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My Guest Talk at Mody University

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The Kind of Music I Like

This is one question to which I’ve never had a satisfactory answer. I like music, no doubt. But when I’m asked to specify a ‘type’ it feels like someone asked me to pick between Nutella and Facebook memes. I just cannot!

I like music that makes me want to move to it. I like music where the lyrics and the music compliment the moods. Like sad songs should sound sad. If the music is happy but the lyrics are sad, I have issues with the music. I generally like anything I’ve heard often enough.

I dislike Metal, Hard Rock, Rap and anything with ‘hoe’ or ‘bitch’ in the lyrics.  I don’t particularly love Country, but I always find exceptions.

Unlike people who seek out new music, this is one aspect of my life where I really couldn’t care less. Even my walks are without music and my car rides are often with the same CD I’ve been hearing for the past 7 months.

I have no doubts that music can heavily influence people’s personalities and shape their outlook on life. I can’t cite any research right now, but if I find any, I’ll link it. So, I wonder what my taste in music says.

What kind of music do you like?

 

The Art Of Complimenting

At least once a day, I see and hear compliments that, though feel nice, seem superficial. They feel half-hearted and incomplete. In fact, there are only about a handful of times that I’ve received a compliment I liked and that genuinely resonated with me.

The more I looked around, the more I saw people feeling the same way. And then I realized that complimenting someone is an art form. To really compliment someone, is an art that takes time, effort and energy. Complimenting someone is a form of communication, and like most types of communication, compliments too, are a dialogue that can have a lasting impact on someone.

The beauty of compliments is that when done right, they bring out the best in people and remind them of all that is wonderful about them. Compliments remind people of their best selves and become a way for them to see what they are putting out in the world.

While many time people give compliments for the sake of it or to flatter someone, a genuine compliment is one that can really strengthen a bond, create a bridge and deepen connections.

For that reason, I urge you to stay away from fake compliments and to try and embrace genuine compliments.

Most people we know, have something good about them. Find it.Take your time and really search a person. See what makes them, them. Find their strengths. Try to see people for what all they put out in the world and all the good that they do. If you have to, take a little longer and search a little harder and when you’re ready follow these simple guidelines –

 

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The Fear Of Running Out Of Things To Say

Any blogger will tell you this, at some point in their lives, they’ve wondered what to write about. And that’s a reality.

Even in life, at times we don’t know what to say. With friends, we can reminisce about the past, about future plans, and about the present.  With strangers or acquaintances, we don’t know what to say. We stare at the ground awkwardly and hope someone will talk about something other than the weather, traffic or the upcoming movies.

This fear of running out of things to say, and the awkward silence that follows, is actually an amazing way to connect. Seriously.

When we run out of things to say, often two things can happen – we blank out or we dive in further. Going blank, helps our mind wander away, to day dream, and to simply stop thinking for a while.

If we dive in further into the conversation, we are introduced to a whole new side of a person. Often a sensitive vulnerable side, that we didn’t see when we first began the conversation. Of course, we may come across people we don’t particularly like, but that’s okay too.

Not knowing what to say, doesn’t need to be a negative thing. It doesn’t have to be a buzzkill. It’s just a pause. Not a full-stop, but a pause and every conversation, relationship, and situation in life needs a pause.

How To Learn From Your Mistakes

Life is full of errors. On a daily basis, we do something wrong. Left the milk to boil too long, sent in the wrong emoji, didn’t have your meds. But these are small things that don’t hurt anyone (much). Every once in awhile, we make mistakes that can hurt us or others. These mistakes then, begin to matter. We become conscious of the consequences.

Till here the process is pretty sorted.  Make mistake -> See bad consequence -> Don’t want to feel bad again.

Yet, more often than not, some mistakes we continue to make. Why? Why is it that when we decided to not be angry again, do we suddenly burst out with anger? Why is it that when the situation is tense, our resolutions fall through? It’s often because we don’t know how to learn from our mistakes. In the process listed above, we have a problem, we have a consequence. We don’t have a solution. And that makes sense. Solutions are hard work. They require mental and physical effort.

If there was a solution though the process would look a lot like

Make Mistake -> See bad consequence -> Solution -> Don’t feel bad again.

The solution, though not a one glove fits all, but a medium size that almost fits all.  Learning a from a mistake requires you to deconstruct it, see different triggers and components and then practice the solution. So the complete process looks a lot like this.

Make Mistake -> See bad consequence -> Introspect and break down mistake -> Practice Solution -> Don’t feel bad again

Learning from your mistakes is an active process of control and repetition. Control your natural urges, practice your preferred response.

The Need to be Good

Everywhere we look, there is someone doing something we love, but doing it better. Personally, there’ll always be that one friend, acquaintance or an inspiration who is better at a hobby you want to do. Someone who, knowingly or unknowingly, manages to upset you.  While jobs are inherently competitive, personal lives need not be. We often complicate our lives by competing in our professional and personal lives.

But here’s the thing – we don’t need to.

Fictional case in point –

If you love writing, and you write a blog. So does your friend. Your friend writes a wee bit better than you do. And you’re upset about it. While it’s okay to be upset about it, if it begins to consume your day or your emotions, then you might want to reconsider.

Why does this upset you so much? Is it because you have a point to prove? Is it because you want to be the only one who writes? Or is it because she/he is better at it than you are?

Whatever the reason, one thing we forget is that IT SIMPLY DOESN’T MATTER. Your friend could be better than you. Could have won a Pulitzer, could have a following of 1 million readers. Why should it matter? Unless getting a Pulitzer is your goal, or having a million followers is your goal, why should you compete?

Our lives are already so messed up with the amount of competition and pressures that we have, why should we ourselves add to those? The point is that one doesn’t have to be good at everything one likes to do. One can pick and choose. Some things ought to be done just for the fun of it. Nothing more. Make your lives simpler. Pick your battles and more importantly do things because they make you happy, not because you have to be the best at them.