SCREW SUCCESS. FIND HAPPINESS

SCREW SUCCESS. FIND HAPPINESS

SCRESChappiness

I was talking to a 20 something engineering student a week or so back. I had gone there for a comedy gig.

We will call that guy Jason. Jason seemed a little lost, in spite of studying in a reputed government college. We were done with the gig by then and were just chatting generally about life.

He asked me what I thought about success and what I thought were the implications of success. He told me he may not want to pursue success the way the world views success-fame and money. He may just be satisfied with doing something meaningful for himself. I found myself telling him that as long as success made him happy, that’s meaningful. He had every right to pursue the success that made him happy. He was free to define his own terminology for success-as long as it made him happy.

Later, I thought to myself, if the eventual objective in life is happiness, why pursue success anyway. No, don’t get me wrong. I am an ambitious guy. I want to make money and name. I want to change the world. But, there is something wrong with our collective definition of success. Why do our definitions have to be the same? Is success an input or is it an output of life? In my world, everything we do is an input. The only output is happiness felt in the deepest corners of our hearts. You have have goosebumps when you were happy someday? That’s life’s only output, to me.

Success, as viewed by the world, is materialistically driven. It means a house, a car, visible ostentation. Most people do what most people do and since most people chase success irrespective of their happiness, we have more people who are successful and lesser people who are happier.

What a waste.

Yes, it is a waste of be successful without happiness. Success is meaningless without happiness. Then, if happiness is the objective, why chase success anyway? Your happiness is your success. You are free to define what happiness means to you and you are free to pursue it. You have no reasons to chase success and conform to society’s standards of success.

Success is an ambiguous term because it is outward driven. Happiness is a clear feeling. It’s inward driven.

Let me ask you 2 questions right now…

1.      Are you successful?

2.      Are you happy?

Think about that for a while. If you make a lot of money and live a lavish life, you may answer YES to the first question. But, whose standards are those? Those are society’s standards. WHO CARES? You. Why?

Now, think about the second question. Only you can answer the second question. The answer doesn’t stay outside of you, but inside of you. You know it. Go in front of the mirror and ask the person you see, ‘are you happy?’

You will have the answer. I promise. Look into the eyes of the person who is looking at you. Those eyes don’t lie. You don’t have to answer this question in front of anyone else. It doesn’t matter. Happiness is felt, inside of you. It doesn’t need social justification. We are not answerable to ANYONE for our happiness.

Ladies and gentlemen, YOU DON’T NEED SUCCESS.

GO, FIND YOUR HAPPINESS. YES, THAT’S WHAT I TOLD JASON.

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Indians- Please slow down. Stop the rush

Indians- Please slow down. Stop the rush

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This is a re-post from my #linkedinpulse article.

I didn’t do much work today. I generally get a decent amount of work done in a day to be able to look at myself with respect at the day of the day. However, I have deliberately tried to slow down over the years.

It wasn’t always so. During my undergraduate life, I tried to be a chartered accountant, a journalist, an MBA and many other things. I was desperate to learn something which will get me a job-ANY JOB. I didn’t care why I needed that job, besides that jobs pay. But I wanted a job. That’s what I was told to do. My father once famously said, to me, that he would have been happy if I got 10000 bucks a month.

I rushed through my college life. I rushed through my 20’s. I finally got an MBA. I took the CAT exam 5 times. I hated it. But I was in a rush. So, I didn’t ask myself the why’s.

I rushed through most of my life. At some point, when I had a decent job, I realized that I wasn’t quite happy. Happiness somewhere got sacrificed in the rush. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing and I had just rushed through 3 decades of my life.

At some point, I decided not to rush anymore, when the speed is within my control. Sometimes, I still do it unconsciously, but again, I remind myself not to rush. I want to smell the flowers. I want to leave a legacy. I want to know why I am doing what I am doing. And I want to do work that matters, with people who matter.

Think about Rudyard Kipling for a minute. What is he famous for? He is famous for a poem called “If”. How many people left something after they died which the world values? Only a few. Even if we don’t care what Rudyard Kipling did for most of his life, but he left a poem which has inspired millions. That’s leaving a legacy.

We cannot leave a legacy if we don’t know where we are headed. Most of us, at least in India, don’t know what we are passionate about. We don’t know why we do what we do, besides mercenary reasons. It is a sad way to live life. A mercenary life is not a worthy life.

The society looks down on prostitutes because they sell their bodies for money. Many of us are selling our souls for money and we want to be respected for that.

We need to slow down. We need to take a break and think who we are. We need to understand what we are passionate about. I am no authority on the subject but I have had my own journey and struggles to understand who I am. Since I am writing this piece, I would love to propose a few questions that probably could help us in connecting us with our true selves:

  1. What is the key reason that drives me to do what I do?
  2. If nobody paid me anything, what would I be willing to do for free?
  3. If I had all the money, how would I spend my time?
  4. What do I love?
  5. Who do I love? Why do I love this person?
  6. Who do I admire? Why do I admire this person?
  7. What am I passionate about?
  8. If I could live an idealistic life, what might it look like?
  9. What is one thing about me that’s unique?
  10. Who am I at the core?

Well, I could go on. These are just some of the questions that could perhaps begin to unravel for us the mystery of who we are. As Indians, there is tremendous pressure on our lives to move from one milestone to another:

Birth->Education->Job->Marriage->Kids->Grand kids->Death

I am not saying there is anything wrong with the sequence. However, it is important that there is meaning at every step. After all, life without meaning is a worthless life. We can only create meaning when know who we are and why we do what we do.

So, may be, take it slow.

Take a year off.

Take a few months off.

Take a week off.

Take a day off.

Thank you for reading.

Reflections on age: How old are you ?

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ so goes the dictum.

quel-age-avez-vous

What is age?

I often think about this question. Well, I should, considering my caller tune is ’18 till I die by Bryan Adams’ and I am not 18. I am not 18 by the number of years I have lived. I would like to believe that by my attitude to life, I am 18. I am 34, at the time of writing this.

What does that mean by the way, 18 by attitude to life? I guess it means some of the few things below:

1. To never stop learning new things as long as physical ability doesn’t inhibit
2. To strive for happiness, day after day
3. To never say no to love
4. To never do things or not do them because you are a certain age
5. To dance, run, play just like someone who is excited about what life has to offer

When I was 18, I had no clue what I wanted from life and why I existed. We never really quite close to understanding why we exist. Some of us figure it sometime during the course of our lives and some of us never figure it.

I think it is an important question to think about? I believe that in the Aristotle saying ‘happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’ You may ask: whose happiness?

Well, like everything in life, happiness begins with us. We can’t share what we haven’t got. Happiness isn’t external. It is an internal phenomenon. Nobody can tell how happy you are. Only you can tell how happy or unhappy you feel inside. You brain or your heart, whatever it is, tells you, if you are happy or not. What if you don’t quite realize the source of your happiness early in life? Does that mean you are doomed to unhappiness for the rest of your life? After all, the pursuit of happiness is a trial and error process.

Let’s come back to age. I think most people compromise with their lives because they have reached a certain age without really figuring what makes them happy. They lead lives of conformity. They try to believe in the collective belief that happiness is getting a job, going to work, getting married and making kids. The curse we face is called collective opinion.

Age doesn’t matter unless you are hale and hearty. If you can maintain your health and keep yourself healthy-mentally and physically, there should be no limits to what you can do with yourself. Eventually, all of us will die, why not die young?

Why should your dreams, ambitions and happiness be caged inside the walls of how old you are? Just because you didn’t realize who you really are earlier, doesn’t mean you should die without having a go at who you really think you are.

Mark Twain said that ‘age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’

As for me, ’18 till I die.’

A Matter Of Trust

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Imagine that your girlfriend/wife goes out for the weekend on a weekend trip with friends. She doesn’t only have female friends. There are also male friends who are a part of the group.

Would you be worried that she might ‘flirt’ with either of the men? Would you call her over to ask where she is and what she is going? Or would you just feel relaxed for having the freedom weekend and enjoy the time with your friends?

I don’t really care what you will do since it’s your personal matter. However, what you will do depends on how much trust you have over your girlfriend/wife. If you trust her, you will not worried about her flirting with someone else since you ‘know’ that she loves you and you don’t have to spy over her.

If you don’t trust her, then you will be insecure about her and call her often to check on her whereabouts more often than you should and eventually end up irritating her.

The same applies to a husband going out for the weekend and the wife staying back. It’s a matter of trust.

In one to one relationships, trust is everything. If you trust your spouse, friends, colleagues, bosses, then the relationship is much easier and far more productive than a relationship which lacks trust.
Imagine a boss and employee relationship.

If the employee trusts his boss, work gets done much faster and there is clarity in mutual communication. People would choose to communicate matters of work orally if there is trust, in case of lack of trust, most discussions will have to be done over email. If a senior doesn’t trust his team member, then he will have to find more time to supervise.

Alternatively, he will find a way to improve trust over a period of time or make life difficult for the colleague until he decides to leave the job.

Trust is a fundamental issue. No relationship can exist without trust.

If children don’t trust their parents, they cannot confide in them over matters which are important in their lives. They will have to find a friend to confide in and share. Unfortunately, that’s what most Indian kids do.

In romantic relationships, if the 2 people involved do not trust each other’s sincerity towards the relationship, the relationship will break down one day. Love is felt and expressed differently by different people. It has to be felt by both the partners. If there is trust that the relationship is important to each other and both are doing their bits to make it work-it will work. If there is no trust, it will fall. When you have to explain yourself all the time since your partner won’t trust your sincerity, one day, the patience will run out.

Relationships are a lot of effort. They take time and time is life. Unless there is trust, they cannot function. Operate on the basis of 100% trust or no go.

Don’t have friends you cannot trust 100%.

Don’t have partners you cannot trust 100%.

Don’t work with people you cannot trust 100%.

I don’t have to tell you this. If you are an honest, hardworking and sincere person, you understand the importance of trust. We can’t operate without trust.

It is painful to have to prove our sincerity. It is painful to not be trusted. It is painful to have your trust broken.

Don’t deal with people who won’t trust you. Don’t deal with people you can’t trust.

I wish you find people who trust you 100%.

I wish you find people you can trust 100%.

Thanks for reading.

The dichotomy of the present and future

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I think yesterdays are easier to manage, for they are dead.

I mean, I understand that we should do future planning and all that shit but let’s try and figure how an everyday focus on what future entails can destroy what engagement with the present.

We waste our today’s because of yesterdays and future days. I think our only job in existence is to live one day at a time as happily as possible. We should do things which make us happy as work and try and make time for our loved ones-family and friends.

If there is a future that shows up, it will show up as a real day one day and it will be present. I know this is rather a complex thought but this is how I want to look at it. All future planning assumes that a future exists. Isn’t there a possibility that it doesn’t even exist?

We don’t know how much we have.

The future may turn out to be entirely different than our plans. If we spend our days happily on a day on day basis, we would like to extend the today into the future. If we spoil our present because what the future might entail, the entire point of wanting a future is wasted.

Imagine a man named John whose focus for the year 2015 is to get a promotion and his wife wants him to take a trip to Paris this year. He doesn’t want to go this year because if he goes, he might forego his chances of getting a promotion.

He works hard throughout the year and during the process, he doesn’t get an
opportunity to either spend quality time with his wife or take her to Paris. They have arguments on a daily basis since the wife wants the present to be beautiful and John is focused on the future.

At the end of the year, John gets a promotion and loses his wife. Not only he loses his wife, but he also loses the time they could have spent together with love only if he didn’t let his job overburden his life.
*
Anand loves his parents but he has a huge ambition to make a lot of money. They live in the city of Delhi. One day he gets a job offer from the US. His parents want him to stay but they don’t tell him. They don’t tell because Anand will feel that his feel his parents are obstructing his ambitions. No parents want their children to go far away from them.

“Mumma, I will come back in a couple of years only,” Anand tells his mother.

“Okay, son, fine, wish you stayed with in Delhi only. We are getting old and 2 years seems like a lifetime to me. Come back early.”Anand hugs his father who doesn’t say much, and leaves. A year passes by and Anand doesn’t come. His mother falls sick.

‘Beta, please come back,’ she calls out to him on phone.

Anand can’t leave US because he cannot get an equivalent job in India. He comes for a visit while his mother is in the hospital. She doesn’t want him to leave.

‘Mumma, just this year only and after this year, I will be back for good,’ Anand reassures his ailing mother before leaving again for the US. Anand does return after a year. He lost his job because of recession.

He comes home to a mother who is terminally ill and doesn’t wish to speak to him.

The years that passed by have been lost forever.
*
A boy meets a woman in a bar. They like each other.

The guy is studying. The woman is in her mid 30’s. It’s an odd couple. They wonder if they have a future because the boy’s family will never accept this relationship and the society will not accept it either.

They spend time with each other knowing that they don’t have a future and one day, they will have to part and go different ways. Years pass by and the boy finishes his education. The relationship was never disclosed to anyone at his family.

He parts with the woman he loved for many years because it was time to leave and marry someone he could spend the rest of his life with.
*
I have realized myself somewhere in one of these stories that the question of living in the present or the future is a complex question. There are no easy answers. In the last story, my heart says that he should stay with the lady he has loved. Having said, if I were the character, I am not sure, if I could do it myself.

We don’t recover what we lose today for what we might have tomorrow. . Let’s live in the present and for the present. The future will take care of itself.

This is not the most convincing piece I could write. I will try again.

The Culture of Pretense

neutral-mask

I will start with a motherhood statement. We live in a culture of pretense- the culture of a false show off and I am not quite sure who we are trying to impress. Many of us are going around wearing many masks, a different mask for a different occasion.

Most people are living a life trying to impress others who are trying to impress them.

FRIENDSHIP

People get into friendships because they can’t be by themselves. They find themselves with people they don’t quite like but they are with them because loneliness is not acceptable to them, even if they find themselves lonely and lost whilst they are in company. I know that solitude is not a popular notion, especially in the part of the world I belong to. Nobody wants to be lonely. But it is bewildering how people can be friends with people they don’t like and respect. We can choose our friends. We can’t choose our parents. Why would you choose friends you don’t admire?

People who can’t be in their own company will must have someone for company. Why?! Someone has said to the effect that ‘if you get bored while you are with yourself, you are in bad company.’ I know, it wasn’t exactly this, but I don’t care to know what the original thought is.

What is the purpose of friendship?

The purpose of friendship is to be able to share life with people who understand us. That they understand us is the key prerequisite for a friendship. In addition, they are also willing to open up to us about their fears, happiness, joys and sorrows. If they are not willing to open up, you can’t develop a friendship.

Our levels of intimacy with people is directly proportional to the intimacy they are willing to offer us.

Friendship is understanding.

Everything else is pretense.
*
WORK

We all have a very important relationship with our work. If we find our work intellectually stimulating, engaging and challenging and money, we will find fulfillment in it.

Very few people in this world are fortunate enough to first, arrive at what they truly love and enjoy and secondly, being able to create a life on the basis of what they love and enjoy doing. It is a speculative figure but I don’t think even 5% of the people in this world are living a life doing what they truly love and believe in, what their congenital talents have been. It is alright to change tracks in life, I know many people will disagree with me. Steve jobs reflected on it too.

‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.’

The problem is that we are in a rush to settle, especially in India. For many of us, it takes a long while to figure what we truly love and by the time we do, we have settled. Very few of us are fortunate to find out in school or college years what we really love to do and by the time we find it, it’s too late.

I love to see people who follow their passion and do what they truly believe in. The only definition of success I know is being able to make a living doing what doesn’t feel like work.

It is happiness, too. And, if success # happiness, it is not success.

Success = happiness
Happiness = Success

Everything else is pretense.

*
LOVE

Now, I don’t mean parental love. I mean love between couples.

Why do we need love?

We need love because friendships have a line and its love which crosses that line. There are no limits anymore. If there are limits, it would rather be a friendship. Love knows no limits.

I live in a country where most couples do not love each other. Marriages are the foundation of relationships. People get married first and hope that they will fall in love later. They expect marriage to solve their problems of loneliness, sex, company, social conformity. I am not quite sure if most of them even look for companionship.

Companionship is the key reason why seek love. I am not talking about arranged marriages. They make no sense. If the reasons for getting into a relationship are anything but love that originated because of genuine affection, admiration for each other, the relationship is most likely to be a failure.

Companionship is the output of an intimate relationship. That one person is your key source of emotional and sexual satisfaction. I am deliberately not saying intellectual satisfaction because we don’t get into relationships owing to intelligence. I may be wrong, but this is my opinion.

That one person is your go to person when you have great news and when you have miserable news. That one person is the closest you are to. You will not be as close to your parents even, since you don’t have sex with your parents. Physical intimacy is a part of a relationship and it builds on or takes away from emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a complex affair since emotions are complex. You want to love. You want to feel loved. You would know, this is much easier said than done.

Either you feel loved or you don’t. Either you want to express love or you don’t. Relationships are complex and they deserve the press they deserve, so to say. Either you have a companion or you don’t.

If you are in a relationship but you have to always find friends to talk to, when you are high or you are low, there is something that’s gone wrong somewhere.

Love is companionship.

Everything else is pretense.
*

We have got one life. Let’s not pretend, please.

If you are miserable, accept it to yourself. If you are happy, admit it to yourself. What you say to yourself is much more important than what you say to others. Unless and until we are brutally honest with ourselves, we will continue to pretend. We have got to face life head on and look it in the eye, without the mask.

Everything else is pretense.

Buffy and Puffy

There were 2 dogs-Buffy and Puffy. They were friends. This is their story.

Buffy was the kind of dog who would eat any kind of food. That went with his general character. He would take life as it comes. He would make friends easily with other dogs and people and go with them. Many a times, Buffy was hurt by other dogs he thought were his friends. But he could not change himself. He needed whatever he needed at the earliest. He could not wait. He had little patience.

Puffy liked to get what he exactly wanted. He would go on to describe for himself what he exactly wanted and then pursue it. Puffy would say no, to many things which he did not want. He would go alone than be with other dogs he did not like. He was quite a loner that happiness-balloonsway. He was impatient too, but he would wait forever for what he really wanted. He would not compromise. He wondered at times, if that patience or impatience.

Both Buffy and Puffy lived in the same locality with a few other dogs. Both of them were stray dogs. They would feed on bones and food stuff given to them by the residents of the locality. They had grown up in the same surroundings. The colony was a miniature set up with about 10 houses, all identical looking and the residents used to work in the government. It was countryside environment-peaceful and serene. The colony was called Saja.

One day, another dog, a female came to the colony. She looked lost.

“She is pretty,” said Buffy, to Puffy.

“Shut up, will you? Let’s ask her if she is lost and needs help,” replied Puffy.

Puffy approached the bitch and asked her, “Hey, what are you doing here, you seem lost. Where are you from?”

“I am from a town far from here. It’s called Lavasa. There is a river which flows by that town and I got washed by. I am a pet. I live with my masters and they take very care of me. I do not know how to go back. Will you help me?”

“Oh, my God! I am so sorry to hear your story. I do not know where Lavasa is and how far it is from here. I am not sure how I can help you. We have got a small community here. We are about 7 of us. Would you like to stay here for a while? My name is Puffy. What’s your name?”

“My name is Susha. Thank you. I am not sure if I can live with you. My master would be looking for me and getting anxious and worried. I must go back, in some time, if not immediately.”

“Okay, fine, Susha. We will figure out how we can send you back. But while we do that, we will have to request you, for your own safety to stay here for a while. I promise we will help you. Would you like something to eat?”

“Thank you, Puffy. Yes, I am hungry.”

Buffy was looking at the conversation from a distance. He did not know what was going on. He already felt he was in love with the bitch. When Puffy returned, Buffy asked him what happened and Puffy relayed the story of Susha to Buffy.

“Don’t let her go now. I will not let her go,” cried Buffy.

Puffy wasn’t yet sure how he felt about this situation. He found Susha pretty as well and he did not want to let her go. But, he felt that it was important for her to go back, since her master is looking for her.

“Shut up, Buffy. She doesn’t belong here. Her life is elsewhere. She has to go back. I have only requested her to stay here while we find a way for her to reach Lavasa,” replied Puffy.

“But, she came here by her own. We did not force her to come here.”

“Yes, and we cannot force her to stay here as well.”

The conversation ended on a sour note. Buffy did not want Susha to leave and Puffy wanted the same. But, Puffy also knew that she had to go back. The colony, Saja, did not have any single dog members. Besides Puffy and Buffy, there were 2 couple dogs only. The distribution of gender was left to the caresses of destiny.

Susha was scared. She was already lost for a long time and now she found Puffy and Buffy arguing, but she could not hear what they were squabbling about. She had to stay there for a while and trust Puffy, who said that he will figure a way out.

Days started passing by. Susha would ask Puffy everyday what he was thinking and Puffy would tell her that he has been asking other dogs in the neighborhood colony and he hasn’t yet figured the way to Lavasa.

In the meanwhile, the 3 of them became friends and they would spend time playing and frolicking around Saja. As much as Susha wanted to go back, she got used to the friendship of Buffy and Puffy. She found herself torn between a desire to go back to Lavasa and staying back in Saja.

A month has passed by. One night, when Buffy was away to play, Puffy and Susha were alone.

“You know Puffy, I don’t want to go back anymore,” said Susha.

“What! Are you serious?” asked Puffy.

“Yes, I am happy here. Although my masters were caring but I like to live within my own community. You and Buffy are so loving and helpful. You, specially, have been so helpful. Thank you, Puffy.”

“You are welcome, Susha. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you are not going anymore. I am so happy. I don’t know what to do.”

Susha smiled, coyly.

“I, I love you, Puffy,” she said.

“What? Say that again.”

“I love you.”

Puffy could not believe what was happening. It was the most unreal days of his life. He had grown fond of Susha in the last one month, but he did not think of love. But now when Susha professed her love for him, he felt he loved her too.

“I love you too,” Puffy replied. They hugged.

When Buffy returned, Puffy told him that Susha is not going and that she loves him.

Buffy could not understand what to feel. On one hand, he was so happy that Susha was not going-happiness he could not express. On the other hand, it was Puffy she loved and not him.

The three of them celebrated that night with bones and veggies, all at once. They danced together. After which, Buffy left Puffy and Susha together and went back to sleep, in tears.

The very next day, another bitch, lost, reached Saja.

****************** End of Story*********************