Stop gazing at the chair!

 

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Historically, the Lion Tamers in circuses died young because at some stage even Lions used to forget that they were tamed, and the instincts took over. In those days the tamers used to have a whip their hands, but the whip was mainly for show. Once the instincts took over, the show was also over! Clyde Beatty was the first Lion Tamer, born in the early part of the 20th century, who died at the age of 60 because of Cancer.

He did something right in his job. Along with the whip, he was the first person to use a chair during the show. He would use the chair, and it’s four legs to divert the attention and focus of the lions during the show. The lions probably were trying to concentrate on pouncing of the limbs- in this case, four legs of the chair; but their concentration was wavering! As Clyde would always move the chair, the Lions became indecisive as they could not focus on their wish to pounce on the limbs. Before the chair, it was the Tamer’s limbs!

Many a time, we are in the same position as that of the Lion. How often do we have something we want to achieve (i.e. lose weight, gain muscle, start a business, travel more) – only to end up confused by all of the options in front of you and never make progress?

 It is especially true in health, fitness, and medicine, where every person and company seem to believe they must make things more complicated. Every workout routine you find is the best one. Every diet expert says their plan is the optimal one. That frustrates us to no end because while all the experts are busy debating about which option is best, the people who want to improve their lives (you and me) are left frustrated by all of the conflicting information.

The result is that we feel like we can’t focus or that we’re focused on the wrong things, and so we take less action, make less progress, and stay the same when we could be improving.

I will tell you about how I did things. I started walking exercise about 25 years back. Initially, used to walk briskly 5 km every day. A couple of times, I had some issue with my ankles, I took the advice of an Orthopedic Surgeon. Things worked out quite well. Later I started to go to the gym too. During some gym exercise, I started having some issues with my knees. I again went my Orthopedic doctor. He advised me which exercises not to do! I asked him if I should stop walking for some time. He advised me to reduce my speed and the distance for a month. But he said never stop the exercise. Your body starts getting comfortable, not doing exercise, and you start losing focus on what you want to do.

Other than medical advice, he ensured that I did not lose focus on my main aim, to exercise. That is the key to any situation. Whatever we start doing, there is a chair being waved in front of us; this hypothetical chair is the various options we have. Different methods can be followed — multiple means of achieving your goal.

Most of the time, the ability to get started and commit to a task is the only thing you need to do to focus better. Most people don’t have trouble with focusing. They have trouble deciding. Those are the famous four legs of the chair. The legs are a metaphor for having different ways of achieving our goal.

Sometimes we need to do some task which must be completed. As per normal tendency, we may procrastinate but ultimately complete the job. Successful people follow this method. Additionally, they get a feeling which is described as a gut feeling. The gut feeling is nothing but rationally comparing various ways and taking a decision at the right time, instead of delaying the decision. The chosen path maybe 80 % efficient instead of a higher %. But since the action starts on whatever we want to do, the work gets completed.

A gut feeling can also be compared with something we usually see on expressways. When we reach a toll booth, there are multiple lines of the vehicles waiting to pay the toll. We use our gut feeling, which lines to follow. You win some, and you lose come. But some people win say 80 % of the times. We call them “lucky people”. We feel that these people are lucky; they always end up into lines which move faster. But these are the people who use the gut feeling; they must be using the same decision method in their work situations too!

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Whether you know it or not, you’re already in the ring. We all are. Most of the time, we sit quietly, gazing at the chair in front of us, silently debating about which leg is the most important.

Nowadays, I have changed my strategies for what to I do in the gym. When I joined a gym recently, on the first day itself, I told the instructors not to worry about what I do; I told them I would do what I want to do. Before joining the gym, I had discussed with Atul, my nephew, who is also my physician. He told me that now the purpose of going to the gym is different. He said, “Mama, at your age, the muscle atrophy starts. What you should do is your warmup, then treadmill which keep feet mobile (I have some dormant knee issues) and then do the weights. The weights may not reverse the atrophy, but weight training slows it down, and you will feel better. Select the weights that your body tells you are suitable for you. Never overdo it.” I follow his advice to the last T! I also do something practical. I take 5 kg weights in both hands and walk for about five minutes. It has helped when I go out and buy things. I can carry my bags easily. I can also remove my carry-on bag from the compartment on flights. I don’t need any help.

If you have somewhere you want to go, something you want to accomplish, someone you want to become… then make a decision. If you’re clear about where you want to go, the rest of the world will either help you get there or get out of the way. Both of those are useful.

You should think and decide, but there is a goal you need to achieve. Something that’s calling you, something that’s important to you, something that you’re destined to do. I don’t know what it is, but you do. Swipe the chair out of the way and choose it.

Human Discrimination!

What is the difference between nature and humans? What the difference between humans and other species? Outwardly we are all products of the solar ecosystem, so we all have almost the same processes of birth and death. In between these two events, we grow, we fall sick, most of the times we recover. When one’s time comes, we go back to nature. But I think! Oh, this is the main difference between humans and others. Humans think, but I am not sure how the other species think or if flora and fauna think at all like humans!

Human thinking and beliefs are what differentiates them from others. Humans got separated from others by the use of their thumb and brain. Till almost ten thousand years back, there was not much difference as there was no organised farming and hence there was no concept of ownership! There were no permanent settlements. Humans used to move around as nomads. There was no organised society, and therefore, there were hardly any rules.

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At this juncture, things started changing, and the idea of male dominance started. Humans began to share responsibilities. The concept of families started. The male body was made bigger and stronger by the laws of nature, compared to the female body. Hence, males started taking up so-called heavy-duty work and outside work. Females would manage the home front and raising the family. In all this thinking, it so happened that females were being treated as second class citizens. The situation has continued even today. The net result of this thought process is very much imbibed on the human mind.

From the beginning of the last century, females started taking more part in social activities and various professions. Last thirty years or so, they have become even more and more active. Males, it looks like forgot that females are contributing to the betterment of the society, actively. But apparently, they forgot to change the rules. Even when democratic rights of voting were concerned in many so-called developed nations, females got the rights very late, that too in many cases with restrictions. As against this, the new (and so-called third world countries) like India, Pakistan and Bangala Desh gave women the voting rights within a few years of their gaining independence. Why does this happen? Why are women considered inferior? Why are they not given the same rights in voting, property and many such areas?

There are many reasons and issues. When the female child is growing up, many barriers are put up in her way; don’t do this and don’t do that is the norm in the case of a female child. They are mentally, biologically and thought process wise different. But the males decided that the difference is because they were inferior. Any thought process not matching with that of males is inferior, has become the norm. Though it is changing in some societies, some countries, the speed of change is not good enough.

The parents of the female child, including the mother, will go out of the way to educate the male siblings, but in case of the female child, they probably still permit them to take only the minimum possible education. Oh! She is a girl. What will she do by learning so much? It is never compared with boys who are allowed to take maximum possible education. Do all the boys climb Mount Everest after education? Hardly, one’s achievement in life depends on individual performance, and a person will do well only by putting a lot of smart efforts! It does not depend on whether you are male or female!

In Pune, there is a professional program run to nurture the start-ups! It is appropriately called “Nurture”! A startup or start-up is a company initiated by individual founders or entrepreneurs to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Founders design startups to effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. Hence, the concepts of startups and entrepreneurship are similar. However, entrepreneurship refers all new businesses, including self-employment and businesses that never intend to grow big or become registered, while startups apply to new enterprises that want to grow beyond the solo founder, have employees, and plan to grow large. This is where “Nurture” is playing the role. It takes such companies under their tutelage. A team of very successful experts from various field nurture them and guide them. They become the family heads or mentors for the start-ups.

The idea of nurture, according to me, has come from nature. Nature has been nurturing both flora, and fauna in the same way. Luckily in the case of vegetation, the issue of male and female distinction is not there. In the case of fauna, there is a difference, but during nurture phase, the same treatment is given without discrimination. Both the sexes will get the same food, the same shelter and the same love. They get the same training. When we grow plants in the home environment, we give them love, then we give the right amount of water, when there is harsh Sun, we move the pots in the shed. When we have pet dogs or cats, we get them special foods; when required, we take them to Vets! Some people get winter clothing for their dogs!

The question that comes to my mind is why we do not take similar care in case of the girl child? Especially about education, making them independent, helping them to educate to become professionals. Why don’t we nurture the girl child the same way we nurture our plants and pets? Ok, this is changing to some extent now, but families that have financial constraints, take the discrimination route.

When humans are close to nature, why not follow nature’s rules? Humans have better and sharper brains, but why do we not follow good things from nature? I know many families where girls were treated with discrimination as against what was done for their male siblings.

A lady from such a family got a nurturing atmosphere in professional life. She has done far better than the male siblings in life. All that she got was the right atmosphere which overcame her setbacks, which she got in her early life. When I checked with her about the old discrimination during childhood, she was not sure if that was their family policy; she was the favourite child in the family but never given the education that she deserved. Will all ladies will be so lucky? Will they be able to overcome the initial setbacks?

I recently met one young lady in the gym. I hardly know her, but she looked confident, running her professional business from home. She casually mentioned that she has two children and said that she does not have a husband. I was so pleased with her story (of course the loss of husband was the sad part), but something must have been done right by her parents family. She appeared confident; she has stood on her own feet. She has taken control of her life.

By discriminating against the girl child, we are losing some good assets which could contribute to our society, the same as the males do. Even in professional life, the discrimination continues; we are all aware of the glass ceiling. Is this all due to MCP’s of this world? Yes, they are responsible for discrimination in later life even when ladies are on the same footing as men. But it is equally important that the lady should also be willing to work hard. So what is the solution? It should start from home; the girl child should be given the same facilities as the male child; this will provide them with confidence and will teach them to oppose the later discrimination. In the current situation, ladies tend to think that discrimination is the norm!

Go with nature. Give that little shower when needed, allow her the breeze, so she does not choke. Give her the shed against the harsh Sun when required! Let her grow into a Big Banyan Tree! Only non-discrimination can help!

Goals or Systems!

Goooooooal! This is the loudest roar that you hear on a football field. The target while playing the football match is to score at least one goal more than the opponent! Of course, more the merrier! We always want to have goals in life so that we feel that we have achieved things in life. Some of the aims that we have are, getting into better shape, building a successful business, relaxing more and worrying less, spending more time with friends and family—is to set specific, actionable goals. Actionable is the operative word.

We all want to set our goals and keep on doing things to achieve them. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. I remember having set many goals during different stages of life. They were

  • Making a certain profit in business, reaching a certain turnover in the fifth year of business.
  • As a sportsman, you may want play for your national team in the next four years.
  • You are going to the gym your goal will be to reduce weight by certain kgs, in a fixed duration.

For many years, this was how I approached my habits too. Each one was a goal to be reached. I set goals for the grades I wanted to get when in school, for the weights I wanted to lift in the gym, for the profits I wanted to earn in business. I succeeded at a few, but I failed at a lot of them. Eventually, I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed. I wanted to represent the state in table tennis but I failed badly at a much lower level. A friend achieved the same easily.  His goals and my goals were the same. But he succeeded and I did not. I was always wondering why I did not succeed? Then I realized that though our goals were the same, the systems he followed to continuously improve, were very good and consistent. He would practice improving his service, return of service and his defense.

Sachin Tendulkar is a classic case of continuous improvement. In the season 2003-2004, he showed his real mettle. At that time, he was getting out hitting shots on the off side. He scored 241 runs in the first test against Australia and did not hit a single shot on the off side! He followed a perfect system that removed kinks from his repertoire. Scoring double century was not his goal!

Winners and losers have the same goals: Winners and losers always have the same goals but it is how the winners achieve this is important. They follow the same training regime as losers. They have put a system in place. It is the adherence to the systems that make them winners. On the way, if the winners lose they don’t give up or they don’t change their goals. They modify their system, they improve their systems. Japanese method of Kaizen tells us the same thing.

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “improvement”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. This means that it applies to the whole team. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been applied to healthcare, psychotherapy, sport, life-coaching, government, and banking. By improving standardized programs and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste and improve continuously.

Achieving goals is only momentary: Suppose you enter a room full of clutter. You make a goal of eliminating the clutter. You work hard and do it. The room is spic and span. You are happy and thrilled. But to me, this is a temporary satisfaction. You do not convert this into habit (system?) of cleaning, making things spick and span, regularly; if your team,  does not get involved into Kaizen of daily trying to improve on the previous achievement, the end result will be clutter again, and momentary happiness, will remain, momentary. The room will be back to clutter.

Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counter intuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that achieve those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.

Goals restrict happiness:  Systems-first mentality provides the antidote. When you want to follow the processes rather than the end product, called goal, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. At every stage, when the system works properly, it is inching towards the final goal of success. The success of every stage is more important than the final goal. Sometimes the final result may be achieved even though the steps in between were not successful. But if each step is successful then the final goal is bound to be successful. In doing so, at the success of every stage in between, we reach happiness.

Goals are at odds with long-term progress: The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game, perfect the stages in between. True long-term thinking should be goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement, Kaizen! Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Germany and Japan lost the second world war and their economies were devastated. Germany was split into West and East Germany. But Japan and West Germany were in pursuit of systems, perfect systems, sustainable systems, continuously improving systems. Both countries have done exceedingly well, in a short duration! The result of this pursuit in Japan, was the evolution of the system of Poka Yoke.

Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing” or “inadvertent error prevention”. The operative word in this is “inadvertent”. In this system, if a component is missing, if a step is incorrectly followed, the process just cannot be started. With such perfect systems and processes, the end result, “the goal” is simply a formality.

Kodak had a goal to create the path-breaking product. They achieved their goal by inventing the first digital camera in the world. But probably because of their original dominance in the camera using films, they probably did not have systems to launch the product successfully. The end result, others raced ahead and Kodak had to shut down their business, they went into Bankruptsy. To me, Goals or Systems is not a question! We should be shouting Systeeeeeeem, instead of shouting Goooooooal!

Meandering!

 

Meandering means following a winding course. This adjective is used for rivers. I saw some beautiful pictures of meandering rivers, on the net and felt like sharing with you! The river water just takes its course following the path of least resistance. Today my thoughts are meandering like the river and jump from one thought to another, just meandering along. In my city Pune, we have two rivers called Mutha and Mula. Their confluence is within the city. Mutha river has a path which hardly meanders, in fact, the river hardly has any water around the year. I am generous in this description. In any year, there are only 3 to 4 days when it can be called a river otherwise it is a stream! This is during monsoons when the upstream dams get full!

Yesterday my day started with a phone call from my friend Shrikant who is holidaying in Spain and Portugal. A rumour had reached him that a dam upstream of the river Mutha had broken and water was flowing above one of the bridges. Thanks to social media! I told him that there was a breach in the canal which draws water from the dam. The breach had caused a bit of flooding in the shanties along the canal, causing damage to homes of many families. As the water kept on coming on an extremely busy major road, there was a traffic jam in large part of the city. In the social media, the breach in canal got converted into a dam breakage!

Another friend who is currently in the US, sent me a message that I have become old, after reading my blog “What really is Romance?” I sent him 🤣🤣 as a reply! Dilip and I were classmates and both are around 70. I was wondering how I suddenly became old with one blog? My definition of romance was being together, sharing everything with each other, face life’s tough situations with a smile, together. Just a touch of hand and caress is romance. These are practicalities of life and has nothing to with age Dilip! Personally, I feel that I am around 45, age-wise, when I am in the gym I feel as if I am 55! Never in my life yet I have felt my real age around 70. Five years back I underwent cancer treatment. My health was down for about six months but even during the treatment my zest for the life never went down.

Our Supreme Court has taken five major decision a short span of last ten days. The interesting part is that 3 of them involved something related to sex. First one was about the gays. Now gays can openly move around in the society, maybe with their heads high. But I always used to wonder what is normal? A man and woman have liking for each other, have sex and make babies. As against that two men or women have liking for each other, have sex and obviously can’t make babies. What is abnormal in that? What was illegal in that? Why their heads had to be down? The gays are made such by nature. Do we mean to say that in “normal” people there are no freaks, there are no perverts, there is no rapist? In fact, rapists are the worst normal persons who go and rape kids, they go and rape even old women of the age of 70 plus.

Next one is about adultery. Finally, the Victorian era seems to be coming to an end – the judgment on Section 497 is progressive in many ways. In the context of changing social realities of our times, especially the transforming gender equations. Justice Chandrachud has cited the violation of Articles 14 and 21, saying that Section 49 perpetuates the subordinate status of women, denies them dignity and sexual autonomy, and is based on gender stereotypes. Previous law said that in the case of adultery if a man had consensual sex with a woman without permission from her husband, he could be arrested. The judgement has removed the criminality from the law. It is allowing women sexual autonomy! We are moving with times!

The latest one is about Sabarimala Devasthanam. They did not permit ladies between the age of 10 and 50 to pay their obeisance at the Devasthanam. They declared that women in this age group have their menstrual cycles active hence they are impure! Hence, they should not visit! Men who had taken this decision seem to forget that they came into this world because their mother had an active menstrual cycle and had sex with someone. They are the result of these two so-called impure acts! This is the tact used by men in patriarchal society to control things the way they wanted it. The court has said that in the democratic nation, rights of individuals are above the so-called traditions which have formed in a society and the thought process, which is totally irrelevant today. Some years back there was an incident. There was a case of theft at Sabarimala and 35-year DCP came to investigate. To the horror of the priests, the officer was a lady! Of course, she went inside and did her job!

Then there was the famous case of Babri Masjid. Supreme Court has given a decision that the case has nothing to do with religion and should be treated as a civil suit. According to the verdict, it is simply a land dispute case and will be decided based on the evidence available.

The last case is about the so-called intellectuals arrested by Pune police. A big noise was made by intellectuals about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. They claimed that it is a politically motivated case and should be summarily dismissed. Supreme Court has said that there is evidence to prove that these intellectuals were connected with a disbanded Maoist organization who have various plans, including bringing down the Indian Government by using force! What is it with these intellectuals? They do not say a word when Maoists kill people, last week two MLA’s in Telangana were murdered. Sometimes back 71 security forces were killed in an IED attack. Not a word of protest. These people have been praising terrorists as if they are freedom fighters fighting for India. Under the garb of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, these folks and their followers make statements which an enemy would generally make. When terrorists are killed, these guys write to the Human Rights Commission. But when security forces are brutally kidnapped and murdered, they are away on a holiday to cold climes! They are strong followers of communism at its worse, though all over the world communism has died.

Ignorance is bliss they say but is not treating your medical issues on time the right thing to do? Heard this one from a neurologist. The patient was diagnosed for MS, multiple sclerosis. This condition is tough on your body. The doctor further said that this has been going on for five years! Why do people delay going to doctors? The person accompanying the patient mentioned that he also suffered from diabetes, which currently was well controlled. Only thing is that the he needs dialysis twice a week, side effect of “controlled diabetes!” Amen!

On a lighter note, thank Mr Trump for starting a trade war with China. Mercedes Benz is now exporting their cars to the USA, from India instead of China! So long….

Ye Zindagi ke Mele!

This is an opening line of a song, from the movie Mela (1948). Mela means a Fair!

The meaning of the first couple of lines of the song is “This life is a Fair and there will be Fairs galore going on all the time! These Fairs will continue, alas, I will not be there!” The word “Fair” is the metaphor for “Life”!

This song represents the realities of life because life goes on and on! Our life is just a drop of water in the flowing river. At the end of our life, the water drop merges into river water and ends up as water. You folks must be wondering from my “All is Well” blog which I published yesterday, how come I have gone into reverse gear! I am not talking of sadness but realities of life. This is about one of most positive experience in my life!

This thought came in my mind when I attended a function for a book release. The book was written by my friend Vishwas’s wife Vineeta. The name of the book is “Grieving to Healing”. Vishwas died suddenly this year in January, and here is Vineeta publishing a book of poems she wrote while grieving. The courage shown by her is unbelievable and I am sure this book will guide many who have lost their spouses!

What is life? What would happen to this world if you and me never existed? What would this world be without a Gandhi or a Nehru? Where would this world be if there had been no Einstein or Picasso? World would have been the same if there had been no Lata Mangeshkar and Mohmad Rafi or a Tendulkar. Contribution of these eminent personalities is enormous. But had they not been born; our world would have been almost the same at it is today! Our individual contributions have no relevance, considering the life span of the earth. All of us are born and are assigned finite number of breathes. The beauty is we do not know that number. This lack of knowledge is what drives the world. Before the human being reaches the golden period of his life, after 60, fallibility as a concept is alien. In the golden period the thoughts come in mind about end of journey. If the end comes as a natural progression, after old age and illness, brief or long, humans accept the death philosophically. But when this happens suddenly, as if skidding on a speed breaker, the grieving is profound.

The book release, especially the thought behind it, is one of the important paths that Vineeta has shown us to move forward in life. People handle grief differently. Humans tend to think that sudden death occurs in someone else’s life and not their own life. Death of a spouse can happen in any home, like Cancer, Heart Attack, Fatal Accident also can happen to anybody. So why not plan for such possibility, the way people plan careers, and finances in life. Mind you, this is not going to be a golden wand solution, but planning will help one to handle the grief a little better.

What other ways come to mind? Create a small group of friends, who meet regularly. Do your exercise regularly and shun fast food!  But while doing this, be honest to yourself. A neighbour who died recently had a very different story. His son lives abroad and had come on a holiday. The neighbour had told his son that his BP/sugar values were regularly checked. His dad was going to Gym daily and met his friends post gym. As he died suddenly, the son kept on wondering why the death was sudden. He found, that testing was done regularly but values were wide outside the safe range. He did his Gym routine in a very relaxed manner, without sweating. He and his friends met after Gym for smoking and eating fast food. This was exactly opposite of what he should have been doing.

Trying to cultivate hobbies is a very important way of keeping yourself busy and interested in life. Planning, means one should start trying hobbies as early as possible and not after the event has occurred. Friends, history has shown that women handle the death of spouse much better than men. This could be because, day to day chores in the house like cooking, cleaning and tracking of groceries are ongoing and keeps women busy. Men also should try their hands at cooking and other daily chores; try helping your wife in the kitchen! Don’t start with something very fancy but start with something which you normally eat. Both men and women should start some activity which ensures that there is something to look forward to the next day or week. Do not plan your things around your children and their families. Sometimes we tend to forget that they have also grown and have their own life, worries and anxieties. Support them, help them. Be their lighthouse but don’t make them your lighthouse!  And do not expect the children to look after you! Anxieties increase when expectations are not met.  

If you are a people’s person, life can be much easier. After the death of your spouse, your most reliable partner is gone. Being people’s person will help you handle this change in a better way. Don’t go into shell. Start going to market for your daily chores. Initially you may find it tough. But over a period, things ease out. Start going on holidays, to movies. Do things that you normally do.

Friends, passing of a spouse is the thing that will hit you the hardest. It is the most difficult event to handle. But it is doable. Try to start doing things, that your spouse would have expected you to do! As the saying goes, your spouse will be  watching you from up there, till you take that final journey to rejoin!