Here’s to Hope

Why is Christmas Celebrated?

When a well-read, adult poses such a question in a friends WhatsApp group, it’s clear that he’s not seeking a scholarly response.

Probably because every religion had to have a grand annual event, and that is what X-Mas is for Christians.

Was my reply, and soon after posting it, I hoped I hadn’t offended anyone’s sentiments by saying so. But isn’t that’s what it really is? One thing all religions agree on is that lifting the hopes of people is essential for their survival. And that’s why, we have these festivals – Eid, Diwali, Gurupurab and Christmas, so everyone stays hopeful.

Of course, people from all religions celebrate these festivals with a lot of fervor.

Another friend shared on another Whatsapp group that Carol of the Bells, a popular Christmas carol, is based on the Ukrainian song called “Shchedryk.

The English Language lyrics were written by Peter Wilhousky and released circa 1936, during the time of Great Depression (1929-1939). It has also been used as Theme Music, in the movie Home Alone (1990).

The song, like the festival itself, brings hope to its listeners, during dark and dreary winter seasons.

So, stay hopeful no matter how difficult your circumstances are. That’s the reason Christmas (and most other festivals for that matter) are celebrated.

Merry Christmas!

[5-Bullet Tuesday] When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

Hi All,

Here’s your weekly dose of “5-Bullet Tuesday”, list of things I’m enjoying or pondering.

What’s something new I tried–

I overhear mom’s hysterical expression from the living room. The audience poll has given an incorrect answer for the contestant, she tells me when I enquire.

She’s fully engaged watching Kaun Banega Crorepati.

We recently bought a fire stick bidding adieu to the old set top box. End of an era!

Everyone at home was dead against the idea. Our audiences too had given us a clear mandate against this choice.

Browsing on the fire stick and watching stuff on apps will be difficult.

Particularly mom may not be comfortable ever with this new way of surfing!

But we gave the idea a chance.

It’s just been few days and everyone at home is super happy with the decision. So much so that we feel stupid to have waited so long.

Play old Hindi songs on YouTube, mom gives a voice command to the remote and in no time Ramaiya Vastavaiya starts playing.

What Movie I watched —

Sukhi, is not too Sukhi. Played by Shilpa Shetty, Sukhi is a homemaker dutifully performing her role as a wife, mother and daughter in law.

But at what cost? She’s not the same Sukhi she was before her marriage. She is bullied by her husband, and even her daughter. The only person who somewhat understands her is her father in law.

Basically, her entire being is gradually being killed. Death by a thousand cuts. Without she even realizing it!

She is not even close to the bindas badass she always wanted to be. Infact, she’s being taken for granted. Thankfully, the decision to join a school reunion changes it all for her, and those around her too.

A great family movie everyone in family enjoyed together from beginning to end.

Music I’m listening to–

Beatles are still at it. All four of them! Yes, even though two of them are long dead – John Lenon (died 1970) and George Harrison (died 2001)

Listen to the song made from the old tapes of John Lennon himself. ML (machine learning) and AI (artificial intelligence) has made it possible, but yes tech alone wouldn’t do it. Its only with the efforts of the two who are still alive – Paul McCartney (aged 81) and Ringo Starr (aged 83). What’s in an age?

(38) The Beatles – Now And Then (Official Music Video) – YouTube

Word I’m pondering —

The word passion originates from the Latin root word, patior, which means to suffer. It very connects with the test of painful practice as being a true test for whether you are passionate about something or not.Passion is derived from a Latin word meaning to suffer | Latin words ...

(As covered in the last week’s story, painful practice is when one continues enduring ones work despite it being hard to the extent of being painful.)

What I learnt about people at workplace –

Carla Haris, in her book Expect to Win, says that there are two types of people at workplace – one, who are politically focused and second, those who are work focused.

The key is to understand your own type and then align yourself with a boss who is of same type as you. If your work focused, you won’t thrive if your boss is politically focused. She may still value you however chances are that she won’t reward you enough unless you are both of same type. Make your next move accordingly.


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[5-Bullet Tuesday] What’s Your Definition of Success?

Hi All,

Here’s your weekly dose of “5-Bullet Tuesday”, list of things I’m enjoying or pondering.

What I’m reading –

Expect to Win, by Carla Haris. This is a simple read that offers practical and believable advice around bringing one’s complete self to work. I do sometimes end up putting a veil around and avoiding sharing my passions such as for Toastmasters, public speaking and even writing! I am recovering from this and reading this book is a sure shot way to get where I need to be.

Expect to Win : 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace by ...

I am even more happy about reading this book because Carla is a successful investment banker whose speech I witnessed when she was invited at my workplace, Macquarie. She talked about how she navigated her life despite the biases and prejudices she faced as a Black American in her early years and especially when he joined the corporate world.

What Movie I watched —

When we’re watching a movie as a family, the test of its success can be determined based on how many in the family sat through till the end. If that is the parameter that looks reasonable to you, you can watch Shahrukh Khan’s Jawan which is now on Netflix.

The movie starts off on a bloody note leaving audiences wondering why and causing Sohana, my 10 years old daughter, to be teary eyed with hands folded hysterically pleading us to switch to some other movie. Suddenly, mom mentions that my nieces had liked the movie, so Sohana gives us and the movie another chance (phew!) and thankfully the movie too picks up pace and then keeps the audience and Sohana hooked thereafter unfolding the backstories by the time it reaches the end.

Jawaan: SRK's Blockbuster Return to the Silver Screen on September 7 ...

I watched it more for seeking answers to the questions opened in the beginning while the moral issues such as the plight of the farmers felt much less palpable. It appeared like these elements were added to satiate today’s audience which would have felt unimpressed with a simplistic revenge story. Maybe there was a better way to overcome that. Anyway, watch it for suspense, action, drama and Shahrukh Khan!

What book I’d gift to my teenage child–

If there was one book I will give to my teenage son as a gift, it’ll have to be “Art of Work” by Jeff Goins. This book addresses the question that many find difficulties answering:
What is my passion?
What am I called to do?

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins - A ReviewIt does that through novel ways such as observing what passes the test of painful practice. Painful practice means what is it that you continue doing despite it being hard to the extent of being painful?

If you have seen the web series Bandish Bandits (which my entire family loves and I have watched twice!), the protagonist, Radhe goes through extremes like being away from the homely comforts, staying muted (मौन ) and feeding himself by begging for food to continue his love for singing.

Quote I’m pondering —

Success is progressive realization of worthwhile goals. – Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale Quote: “Success is the progressive realization of a ...

This definition makes one successful as soon as one starts setting and moving toward a goal. Setting your goals itself puts you in a 5% category of people in the world.

What I learnt –

Tanav, my son, picks my 2013 vision diary and starts to flip through the pages. Your 2013 goal was to buy a BIG car?

I am driving him home along with mom and Sohana, my daughter. Good news is that I am more at ease with my personal diary being read and that too in front my mom and Sohana than I would have been at any earlier occasion.

..and resolving the property matter, and becoming a Sr Manager?

We discuss a bit around how I navigated through those goals and how I discerned the real goals from the goals as I understood at the time.

I am glad that all of those goals are a reality today. Some err actually most took much longer that the year but that’re all done! I can tell because I decide whether they’re done or not.

I learn that making a note of one’s dreams is the starting point to get more clarity which eventually gets one going to achieve those dreams.  That increases the probability of those goals becoming true multifold. As we see 2024 approaching us quickly, perhaps a good time to jot down the yearly goals? If your answer is yes, start now and in case you’re looking for some inspiration, you could use the same workbook I’m planning to go for – Dan Miller’s dream activation workbook.


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What Should I Do?

Have you ever found yourself feeling bored and uncertain about the direction of your life? When you are as clueless about the path to take as you are about the destination you wish to reach?

It is December of 2018, and the scene at home is chaotic. My ten-year-old son, Tanav, is repeatedly asking, “What should I do?” His mother, Deepti, attempted to suggest activities, but her words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Tanav’s response was always a resounding “No!” followed by the same set of questions:

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

This cycle escalated, with Deepti growing frustrated while Tanav is on a roll, well literally, on the floor.

This situation often spirals out of control, as these questions have become a regular occurrence in our household.

No matter what suggestions we offer, they were met with indifference. I often wondered why this was the case, but I never found a satisfactory answer. Nevertheless, I persisted in my search. They say, “What you seek is seeking you!” and I eventually stumbled upon an unexpected revelation.

Another morning a few days later, I have a realization that my own situation is no better than Tanav’s.

After all, I’m halfway through their career, and sill unsure of where I am headed. Deep within I, too, am shouting the same questions internally:

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

Nor ears can hear nor tongue can tell, the tortures of that inward Hell

The worst part was that no one could hear my silent cries for guidance. I sought advice from friends, but each suggestion left me infuriated, echoing the same pattern as my son: “No!” “No!” “No!” The relentless cycle of questions continued unabated.

Every morning felt purposeless, and I struggled to find motivation to dress for work. The monotony of my days haunted me to the point where I couldn’t distinguish between yesterday and today.

During one such morning, as I sipped my tea, I overheard my mother humming a tune in the kitchen. She had a habit of singing long-lost phrases while working:

“Kiya karo kuch kiya karo udhaed kae bhi siya karo.”

which translates into

“Do something. Anything. Even if it means to unstitch a cloth only to stitch it again.”

Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to those words, but they left a lasting impact on me.

That evening, I made a decision. I decided to run for the Executive Committee elections at our Toastmasters club—an endeavor that lay beyond my comfort zone, but still an achievable goal. It provided me with a glimmer of hope and happiness.

I pondered over why I would be the right person for the job and how I could serve the members. I prepared a speech and took action. I had a purpose and diligently worked towards it.

After the election process concluded, I achieved my goal of becoming a part of the Executive Committee as the VP-Education. Returning home, I shared the news with my loved ones, and they cheered in celebration.

Later, my wife, Dinky, asked me a poignant question, “Are you happy?”

I replied, “Yes, I’m happy to be the VP-Education, but I was even happier when I made the decision to pursue it.”

Tony Robbin’s has said, It’s in moments of decision that destiny is shaped.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt unsure of what to do?

During such times, it is crucial to recognize that, no matter how well-intentioned the suggestions from others may be—whether it’s your boss, spouse, or friend—you will never find true happiness in that.

Even if the suggestion is well-intentioned

Even if the suggestion is right.

Even if it promises excitement.

“Why?” you may ask.

Simply because it wasn’t your decision. It was theirs!

Instead, just decide, commit, believe, and act. Do something. Anything. Eventually, you will discover your life’s purpose.

Since that moment, one thing has led to another and I have accomplished much more. I have served as the President, Sergeant at Arms, Area Director, and even Division Director at Toastmasters. At work, I have transitioned into a role that aligns with my passions.

When I set a goal, I treat it as my baby and pour my love into it.

As for real babies, they have achieved remarkable things too since then. They have won speech contests, participated in debates, excelled academically, and even published a book.

Children don’t do what you ask them to do; they do what you do.

However, the question still arises occasionally. Just as I finished writing this speech, my daughter Sohana asked me, “What should I do, Papa?” Setting aside my laptop, I replied, “Well, I have decided to be the test speaker at Estoile, the Speech evaluations contest of 6 clubs, maybe you can decide on something to do too!”

To my surprise, Sohana quickly got dressed, putting on her hat and goggles, ready to go to the library.

The Report Card

  • Smart
  • Confident
  • Intelligent
  • Go-getter

If I were to condense my entire life into a report card, that’s the feedback I always wanted but never got!
What I did get however was:

  • Helpful
  • Kind
  • Funny
  • Friendly
  • Someone even labeled me the Main Hoon Naa guy! at an office spot award, meaning He’ll be here, no!

The problem with that kind of feedback is that one, it will ever get you a promotion. And two, it’s a polite way to let you know your weaknesses.

So, I hated my feedback and longed to be that person who’d get the feedback I never got – Smart, Confident, Intelligent, Go getter!

The first step to change something is to understand the current state and so that started my voyage of self-exploration.

It is said that dreams convey a lot about one’s personality. So, I looked at my dreams first to understand my personality. I could be seen quickly jotting them down in my notebook right after getting up to avoid forgetting them in the course of the day.

I’m one such dream, I saw myself driving back all the way from Gurugram, the initial venue of the dream to my home in Delhi. I took the underpass, went through the traffic snarls, wiped my sweat, spent 2 long and tiring hours to get back home. It was disgusting. I didn’t have to go through the entire rigmarole in a dream. That was a shocking revelation about my personality- It was that I was a big bore.

I decided to give up on dreams and looked at my past life – the school life. To understand a new concept, I would read it, write it on paper, use the black board to write it, speak about it and be so gaga when I finally understood something that I would leave most of the rest of the syllabus in the process.  That analysis helped me discern that not only a bore but also utterly foolish.

Toastmasters is also mainly about self-discovery. I’ve been a Toastmaster for eight years and thoroughly enjoying the journey. I’ll complete my Level 5 of my first pathway soon, and I’ve been saying that for over 2 years now. In this time, lot of my friends, some of them are in this room have become twice DTMs. That retrospective opened me to another rude awakening – Not on was I a bore, foolish but I was also terribly slow.

So, here I was – bore, foolish, and slow. I was so miserable. And, to make matters worse, I couldn’t do a thing about it. After all, that is who I was.

I didn’t quite have any choice, so I kept going my voyage. It took its own sweet time, but I realized something funny was happening along the way.

When I was sharing my rather long drawn or boring account of events as stories, I was seeing the audience connecting with me. It was because of my rather eccentric or foolish ways that I made new lifelong friendships.  The same also helped end some relationships which were going nowhere. My so-called slowness meant that I was checking all the boxes resulting in successful projects at work.

It was a gradual process but, I realized that yes, I may be a bore, foolish and slow but another way to look at it was that I follow the natural steps, I celebrate the small wins, I build relationships, I be and let others be. And that was by no means a weakness. In fact, that is where lied my biggest strength.

My whole point of sharing this story is that we live in a world where we are often tempted to becoming someone who we’re not, while completely ignoring and even abusing the unique gifts God has endowed upon us.

If you’re a fish, be happy with swimming rather than feel stupid over your inability to climb a tree.

I’m Helpful. Kind. Funny. Friendly. Yes, The Main Hoon Naa guy. And I’m happy with my report card, what about you?

Stay tuned!

I

t’s Sunday. Ankan is looking for a place to hang out. He searches the MeetUp app. Our club meeting pops up. He decides to join us as a guest.

Ankan tells us that he is a medical professional and likes dabbling with poetic expressions.

He participates in Table Topics session where he takes us down his memory lane to the Mall road in Shimla where a monkey had once snatched his spectacles off his nose. It was hilarious. We exchanged a lot of smiles.

By the end of the meeting, we think we know a lot about Ankan. But it’s not until he recites his poem that we realize there is a lot more to Ankan than meets the eye. Here’s a para from his poem, “All I Want”:

Sometimes I just wanna talk... Sometimes I just want to pour out.
I have stacked up a lot, all I want is to say it out loud!

But there is no one to listen... There is no one to care.
And all I do is cry a little, when all I want is to smile a little!

We would have completely missed this side of Ankan if it was not for this poem. We are glad we were tuned in. Indeed, the art of conversation lies in listening – both to what’s spoken and what’s not.

Surely, there are a lot of other sides to Ankan. And to each one of us. All we must continue to do is… stay tuned!

[5-Bullet Tuesday] 3Cs to Bring Out the Leader in You!

Hi All,

Here’s your weekly dose of “5-Bullet Tuesday”, list of things I’m enjoying or pondering. This time it’s all YouTube videos which I recently learnt is called YT (just like I figured recently that WAG refers to WhatsApp Group!).

How a Movement is Made –

Ankur Yadav, DTM showed this video urging everyone aspiring to grow as a leader to Be Crazy, Be Courageous and Be Consistent. 

He followed this with his own example of the time he overcame his fear by being a little crazy, a lot courageous and by staying consistent. This let him devise a unique way to woo a seasoned Toastmaster to speak at his club meeting, which was at the time a seemingly impossible task.

When Leadership Training Goes Wrong—

Leadership is a behavior. Life offers us many opportunities to practice this behavior and make leadership a habit. If you’ve never been a leader, there’s no point to your life…

ABCs of ‘Canva’

New to Canva? Jittery about creating Toastmasters brand compliant posters?

I was. Big time.

Finally, here’s a 14-minute YT video that has just what you need to create posters that can be published! Check it out.

Quote I’m pondering —

Yes, leaders are born; all they need is just a reminder that they are the ones! -Ankur Yadav, DTM

Book I’m looking forward to reading–

This one is a highly recommended leadership book I’m looking forward to reading: Extreme Ownership – Recommended by Ankur Yadav, DTM and Deepak Menon, DTM. That makes is a must read.

                                           


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[5-Bullet Tuesday] Who is the most important person in your family?

Hi All,

Here’s your weekly dose of “5-Bullet Tuesday”, list of things I’m enjoying or pondering. Did you ever feel an unexplained, undiagnosed pain in the body? Well, it has happened to be several times now.  I have realized that my achy back has a pattern – a direct correlation with my stress levels. So, before you swallow a pain reliever or head to a doc, try lightening up by getting yourself in a good mood. So, why not we focus on a few things which can pull up your mood.

Article I loved reading –

Who is the most important person in your family?

I bet if you’re a parent your answer would be that it is your child or children. But does that mindset help bring up the child the way you’d always wanted – a caring, responsible and one who’d take the family values forward?

According to Dr John Rosemond, having your child as the most important person in the family is the first step toward raising a child who feels entitled.

Show I watched — 

Last week, Dinky emceed a Toastmaster’s event for an audience of over 400. #proud. Something like that surely takes a lot of courage but gives back a boost to one’s confidence. A confidence which brings in truckloads of energy to do things one never thought would be possible. One that raises your spirit.

One thing leads to another, and we also managed to watch our God (Sartaj’s) musical show despite several other urgencies.

And the show was more than just mesmerizing music, lights and an exhilarated audience. It was much more than just that. Much more. The entire experience taught us many big and small lessons some of which have been deciphered, some will be deciphered, and some will perhaps never be deciphered.

All I will say is: Thank you, Dr. Satinder Sartaj.

Negotiation tactic I learnt –

I dropped Dinky, my wife, to BLK hospital on the way back from Soha, our nine-year daughter’s parent teacher meeting. Soha and I were waiting in the car assuming it would take less than thirty minutes for getting doc’s advice for Dad’s growing health concerns. We were both keeping ourselves happily busy with eating the famous pasta we’d purchased from the school to singing to making vlogs. Then, Dinky called to say that there is quite a queue at the doc and it’ll take longer and that she things we should head home, and she’ll come back on her own. I kind of’ knew that in this situation it wouldn’t take longer than another 30 minutes and was insisting on waiting for her. Negotiation went in her favor when she said that Soha needs some rest and therefore I must understand. Now, the thing about negotiation is that when you don’t get exactly what you asked or wished for, you can ask for something else in return to make it a little better for you. I said, “OK, I’ll go now and drop Soha, but when you’re about to be done, give me a call and I’ll come to pick you. You have you agree to this if you don’t want us to wait now.”

Well, these negotiation tactics might work in boardrooms but not with your wife. She simply refused and declined my next call. Phew! 🙂

Anyway, within minutes of my reaching home, Dinky called back and said that she was done. Without much effort, she let me come to pick her up. Infact, she seemed keen on that now. My negotiation tactic worked after all. ♥️

Quote I’m pondering —

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but by your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment

– Marcus Aurelius

Was at the dentist’s cleaning for mom’s root canal. I was sitting nearby all through the procedure. Mom is extremely delicate in anything that can cause pain (she’s run away from orthodontist’s clinic when eyes dilation was suggested for basic eye checkups for example). As I was observing her, I realized that I have two choices to experience the suffering based on my (likely incorrect) estimation of her suffering or be detached from it while providing herself assurance that all shall be well. We’re almost programmed to seeing our loved ones go through pain but is really the time when they need you to remain calm and composed to be able to make rational decisions for them.

A new term I heard –

Exit interviews are passé, how about Stay interviews?  Have you ever sat down with your best employees in one-on-one discussion and asked:

  • What makes you stay?
  • What’s the one thing that would make you leave?

It is a simple, powerful discussion that can help identify problems before they become reasons for quitting. Studies show that companies that conduct Stay Interviews enjoy a higher % of engaged, motivated employees – and their turnover is much lower. If nothing else, it will surely bring up the mood of both the boss and the employee.


I’m basically suggesting that getting oneself in a positive frame of mind both at home and work is that magic mantra which will relieve you not only of the stress but also those unexplained aches and pains. Give that a shot and see for yourself.

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