Enjoy what you like and accept what you don’t

 

Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance

Gautam Buddha

I was taking a short distance flight for work. The check-in experience was far from perfect; the staff had been rude as I felt they shouldn’t have charged me for just two kilograms of excess baggage. By the time I was boarding the flight, I was already distraught, unhappy and had visible disappointment all over my face. To top it up, I was starving, as I had skipped breakfast. When the stewardess served hot and fresh lunch on-board, I wasn’t yet willing to accept. I hadn’t shed away the excess baggage of my earlier anguish. But with every bite I consumed, my mind calmed down. I was willing to smile again. By the time I completed my meal, I was transformed. I was filled with a sense of gratitude as I handed over my empty tray to the stewardess. I thanked her profusely for food she hadn’t even cooked, only served. This reminded me of my earlier interaction with the airline staff. I was suddenly more accepting of their actions who were only doing their job.

As humans, we are blessed with several skills and talents that help us navigate this journey called life. Our abilities reward us with success in the form of great personal relationships, professional recognition, a powerful position in the society and abundance of wealth. However, this success also leads us to a sense of entitlement. We start to believe that we deserve a lot more than we are getting. With every success comes additional entitlement. This becomes a cause for distress, heartburns, anger and a whole lot of other excesses that we didn’t really sign up for.

We want the best of everything but we don’t want to see the other side that isn’t as pleasant. This is often seen in human relationships with the most complex being marriage. When a couple decides to marry, they have seen the best of each other. They are often charmed by each other’s goodness, beauty, intelligence, kindness, humility and love. The reasons to marry suddenly seem to be in conflict with reasons to stay married. Every passing day becomes a burden that you want to get rid of. Goodness and beauty transforms into ugliness as words of care turn into loudness and abuse. Intelligence is seen as shrewdness. Kindness and humility gives way to one-upmanship. And what appeared like love suddenly seems to breed constant anger and hatred. What went wrong? Who is wrong? Why is it not working anymore?

The truth is we don’t want to see the other side. At first, we are ignorant and later on we want to ignore. The sense of entitlement takes over. “I didn’t deserve this. I didn’t sign up for this. I am not going to take this.” The reality is that the other side exists and is fully alive and kicking. Your not wanting to see it doesn’t mean it will not touch you. The reality is also that what is real can’t be changed. Every attempt to change or transform it into something better will make it worse for you. The only choice, you have, therefore, is to accept it. Acceptance isn’t a sign of weakness. It doesn’t make you smaller. Acceptance brings peace to you. It allows you to watch things you don’t really like with calm and poise as they pass by to make way for the things you like. It’s like being on a road or air journey. You may be really enjoying the experience till you are hit by a traffic jam or air turbulence. Will you abandon the journey midway and go back to your starting point? There is very little you can do about it. You can chose to hate it but it will only hurt you more. But if you can accept it in the knowing that there is nothing you can do about it except watch it pass by, you will be calm and at peace with yourself. The secret to enjoying the bliss of all things good in this life lies in your acceptance of all things not so good that come with it.

Branding is the opposite of meditation

In branding, we use the mind to mind the mind. In meditation, we use the mind to lose the mind. There is another way to look at this. They are sides of the same coin. They underline the duality of life. The mind is a hungry wolf that can gorge on anything that comes its way. It doesn’t know when or how to say no. In a way, it’s powerful as it can be inspired to create but it’s also quite helpless as it absorbs a lot of garbage and it can be inspired to destroy. Religions, multinational brands, influential personalities, best selling books and the people close to us; they all try to impress upon the mind a philosophy, a story, a promise, a dream and ironically even peace of mind. Does peace belong to the mind? Can the mind be ever peaceful? Should it be peace without mind or peace of mind or mind without peace? A peaceful mind is an oxymoron and a mind without peace overstates the same fact with additional words. The fact that there exists mind, there can’t be peace. It is this vulnerability of the human mind which brands exploit to build their equity. Some brands identify permeable gaps and use persistent communication to go and position themselves deeper into the mind. Some brands rely on creating experiences and outcomes to influence the mind into taking actions that benefit them. Yours truly is guilty of practicing this art as a profession with the same vigor and intensity that I have used to pen this article. Does this article sound anti branding? Or is the perception of meditation better than the perception of branding? Is one side of the coin shinier than the other? The answer may lie somewhere in the thought that the branding of meditation may be better than the branding of branding. So in a way, branding isn’t too bad, it actually helps in branding meditation. What? Did I say branding meditation? Does it mean anything? How do you create a bias for something that is supposed to kill all biases? Meditation is supposed to destroy biases and thoughts where as branding survives and thrives on triggering new thoughts and activating new biases. The role of meditation is to destroy all thoughts and then destroy the receiver and the sender of all thoughts, the mind itself. Meditation puts the mind to rest. Branding puts the mind on top, makes it the king, the great leader and creator of thoughts that are limited to and by the thoughts the mind has been exposed to. This vicious circle is insidious. Let’s look at some other polarities of life and see if we can find some respite to this dilemma. It is said that you feel good only in the presence of evil. You feel satiated only when you have been hungry. You can be happy only when you have experienced sadness. Is one condition a pre-requisite for the other and vice versa? Or, are both conditions perfect equals and mirror image of each other? In our context, is meditation possible only when branding exists? In other words, you can lose the mind only if you have it. Otherwise there is nothing really to lose. As per the second hypothesis, branding should be an equivalent of meditation, a mirror image of each other or a polar opposite. Is the mirror line the separation where branding stops and meditation begins? Or are we referring to the same thing with different words. When you look yourself in the mirror, whom do you find staring back at you? Are you happy with that image? You may be happy with yourself but not so happy with the image you see in the mirror. So what will you change? Will you change yourself to see a better image or will you replace the mirror with a one that shows a better image? In majority of the cases, the effort goes into replacing the mirror or changing the lens or transforming the point of view in order to change the image. A miniscule few make an effort to change the person who is staring at the mirror, trying to build consistency and coherence between the identity and the image irrespective of which mirror comes in between. And this is when branding becomes meditation and meditation becomes branding and the two are perfect opposites and yet they are perfect equals. They are equal and opposite just like the reaction from Newton’s third law of motion.

Why it is not so easy to build your personal brand?

Each one of us struggles to manage our multiple personality disorders. You can have as many as 6 unique personalities in action in a single day depending on whom you are with or interacting with or the situations you encounter as you live your day.

  1. Your personality when you are alone or let me say not alone but with yourself, when you are driving a car alone, reading a book, traveling in a plane or simply meditating.
  2. Your personality when you are with your family – your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children.
  3. Your personality when you are with your closest friends, the ones you trust blindly and can share anything with.
  4. Your personality when you are at work with your colleagues, the people with whom you have to work and take work out of.
  5. Your personality when you are with your clients or people who will pay you, when you usually end up showing your best side.
  6. Your personality when you are posting and interacting on social media or when you attend a networking event, the side that hides everything else behind you.

You can add a few more to this list. For example, your personality when a stranger bangs your car from behind or a waiter who serves you your favorite coffee with a smile. In building a brand, we often talk about developing a single unified personality and the importance of consistency. Imagine being consistent as a personal brand under all situations and conditions that you are a part of each day. Imagine being pulled in all directions and the struggle to stay true to a single personality and image. It’s not easy.

Think of personal brands that inspire you. Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Mahatama Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Amitabh Bachchan. Now imagine, how would they react to the different situations and encounters in a single day. Can they be consistent? Can they stay true? Can you be consistent? Is there any one quality you have which can stay true at all times under all conditions? Is there a way?

This article is not an attempt to find a solution to this dilemma but simply to recognize it and find answers that may help us be ourselves. To find that one thing that is so true and real under all conditions, whatsoever. To identify or discover that one behaviour or attitude that puts us at ease and becomes our true personality. That one thing that helps you become the personal brand that you want to be.
Thank you for reading.

The urge to exit

The urge to exit starts at the start of the journey and stays with you till the very end! Then it doesn’t matter whether you are peaking in your career graph and making millions or struggling to make ends meet. The urge to exit could suddenly take precedence, make your past journey meaningless, future uncertain. It is potent. As potent as the urge to start something new. In fact the two are not distinct. The urge to exit is the cause and effect of the urge to start something new. It’s a thought that can trigger an irreversible action. It is driven by the desire to be in a new state as the old gets boring, starts rotting and becomes redundant. The curiosity of experiencing the unseen is powerful enough to let people shed away the old and the beloved. What is once accomplished becomes worthless. To a lot of people, quitting is a taboo. It is linked to running away from your duties and responsibilities. But to people who are actually doing it, it’s freedom, a state of trance, even though they don’t realize it’s short lived. Leaving one thing will simply lead you to starting another. You free yourself from one bond and you will attach yourself to another. The freedom will be gone in a flash. Life and death works in exactly the same way just that we give it way too much importance maybe because it lasts longer and is most visible to us. We are living and dying every single moment. You breath in, you live. You breath out, you die. In between the two breaths is a fraction of a microsecond when you are actually free. That state of freedom between life and death is the real freedom. But it doesn’t last long. The urge to exit is like that breath that wants to leave your body. It’s not abnormal and it shouldn’t be seen with suspicion. It is as important as the breath that enters your body. In a single life, you live many lives. Which means that you will also die as many times. It’s like the brackets in a computer program [ ]. You can keep opening new brackets but eventually you will have to keep closing each one of them else the program will not run. The rule is that the most recent one must close first and the first bracket that opened must close last. The problem occurs when you mix up the brackets and start closing the wrong bracket first and keep opening new ones without a track of the old ones. Life will certainly hang up just like the computer program will. And it will stay in this hung up stage till you close the right brackets. While you don’t have to be guilty about shutting a door in your life, be sure that you are only shutting what you opened and that you shut all the doors that you opened after opening the main door. Otherwise, the exit will not be whole and complete. And the new start will not be as exciting and uplifting as you thought it would be.

The jinx of Christopher Das

Das started to cry. He was pushing out air with a lot of force. His mouth was dry and eyes wet. The tears on his left cheek were racing at 1.32x the speed of tears on his right cheek. I was always curious how that could be possible. How can one eye cry louder than the other? He sounded and looked ugly. There was nothing pleasant about Das actually. He took bath 2 times a week at the river ghat. You had to feel lucky to meet him on a bathing day if at all you needed to meet this worthless idiot. Das sipped chai wiping his tears with a soiled napkin. He stared at a fan hanging 20 feet high above his staring eyes. He was looking for answers. The fan was his best bet. He had wanted to embrace and hang by it every single day of his life. He was a coward. Never attempted even once. A nun named him Christopher after she found him lying on the edge of a gutter on Christmas Eve, 46 years ago. Who, why, when and how did he acquire Das? When his name was Christopher, so much better sounding, why did people call him Das? Why was he left to live? Why wasn’t he killed and thrown in the gutter? It’s not that he really wanted answers. But it was a useful purpose to live an otherwise useless life. He was a lousy carpenter who worked with a theatre group. It was so easy to hate him. He got nothing right in his life, starting from his birth onwards. He spoke less as a result of which sometimes you could confuse him for a scientist deep in his research and thoughts. Thankfully he spoke less. The moment he opened his mouth, all you could see was rotting yellowish grey teeth. His words didn’t matter. He had never brushed! The nuns had kicked him out when he was 5. They were fed up with his awful antics. He would fart every single night when everyone was asleep in the dorm! The already stinky dorm would smell like death. I mean is that cultured? “Good riddance”, exclaimed the chief nun with a sigh when he didn’t come back that winter night. They struck his name from the evening roll. Christopher did not exist anymore. He hadn’t existed for his parents. In 46 years, he hadn’t existed for anybody. Except for this old coffee shop where he was gifted a free chai whenever he came by. He had no clue why he was allowed in. He felt at home here. The fan felt like his mother brushing her hands across his greying hair like a cool evening breeze. He wanted to embrace her but found her out of his reach. He was scared to get close to her. He associated her with death. She had left him to die many years ago. Yet he was alive every single day. He scratched his belly through his torn kurta with his long dirty nails soaked in sawdust when he heard a voice, “Das”. He loathed that voice. No not the voice, he loathed the sound of it. It hurt like hell. He would become furious and start shouting expletives at anyone who called him Das. He hated his identity. “Oye pagal” was better. But Das? He knew it was time to step away and clear the table for a paying customer. He walked out of his home and on to the noisy street around the college. He walked away. Like a monk with a powerful purpose and a meaningless life. He walked away. Without causing any trouble to anyone who missed getting hit by his randomness.

A smile that lived

A man was traveling in an airplane. He had just completed his dinner when an announcement came. There is turbulence ahead. Please wear your seat belt. A few seconds later, the plane began to shake uncontrollably. People around him began to scream. The man knew too that he was going to die. He was calm and smiled back at the people who shouted their lungs out. Their life was coming to an end. The plane was fast losing altitude. The pilot sounded helpless but continued to steer ahead. One of the engines had caught fire. Life had become empty and meaningless in just a few seconds. Plans for his family reunion after months had just been shattered. There was no business plan or sales strategy that mattered anymore. He was expecting a large and long due contract next week. He wouldn’t see next week. The dinner was his last supper. Thankfully he had enjoyed it with a glass of wine. He felt complete like he had never before. Suddenly, he had nothing to lose and nothing to gain. He continued to smile as people around him prayed frantically to their Gods. In a matter of a few seconds there would be a loud thud and it would be over. He decided to live each second as if it was the only one left. The end was inevitable always just that it was predictably visible for the first time in his life. He smiled at his futility. He had achieved nothing for all that he had been doing for the last 48 years. His twins were doing well, one in a law college and another learning advanced physics. Just an hour before he had thanked his co-passenger for helping him put his bag in the overhead cabin. His neighbour was tall and strong. But right now he was still, his eyes open wide. They were still like him. He wouldn’t budge from that position. He was cold. The heart in that huge muscular body had given up. The man continued to smile. To his left was a girl fast asleep in her mother’s lap. The one year old had no idea or interest in what was happening around her. She had a calm smile similar to the one he had on his lips. Tears fell like rain from her mother’s helpless eyes. She didn’t howl like the others. She held her breath strongly lest her voice may disturb her peace. She didn’t have the courage to wake her daughter. She kissed her forehead and hoped she wouldn’t wake up to see the destruction. There was no hope for a miracle. It was obvious what lay ahead. He lost his smile for a few microseconds. He remembered his mother. In a flash, he had imagined her in despair on hearing the news. The smile returned. This time wider. His mother had lost him many years ago to his job and to a woman he claimed to love him more. He hadn’t visited his mother when she had her tumour removed last year. He had just been promoted then and was expected to stay on for the board meeting. His mother understood. He was not sure if his twins would be able to make it for the final ceremonies. His grin widened. Life was coming to a still. Strangely his heart beat was constant. Not faster. Not slower. He had never felt at peace like this before. There was a big jolt as the plane gained pace from the free fall and people fell off their seats and rolled over. He had fastened his seat belt on the first announcement itself as he watched them fall over each other from his seat. He couldn’t, however, catch hold of the pen his father had gifted him on his graduation. It was precious and expensive but now worthless. As far as his memory went, he had seen his father cry for the first and the only time when he graduated. That face came alive in front of his eyes. It didn’t change the smile on his face. It was a rigid smile that would stay that way. His wife had decided to separate soon after the twins opened their eyes. She didn’t want children but was unable to express it till they were born. He felt alive for one final time as recalled the ugly divorce that had left him bankrupt, emotionally too. The smile was firm. He counted his breaths as he remembered how he counted cars on the road as a child when his family went for the customary weekly dinner. He didn’t realise when he counted his last. Life stopped, the smile lived on. He had accomplished nothing. He had started with nothing.

When nothing matters.

The fascination of freedom is as old as the origin of the universe. All living things including the humans that are capable of reading this have co-existed and survived based on symbiotic relationships that are far from the concept of freedom. The duality of co-existence and dependence implies that the idea of freedom has sought high attention always. The history of freedom has been written about with such short sightedness, that a few Google searches on freedom take you to ‘the history of freedom struggle’ almost limiting the concept of freedom to a nation’s sovereignty or it’s ability to self govern itself. In other words, for a lot of people, freedom means the ability to do whatever they wish to do without the pressure of any external forces. The irony is that this definition of freedom itself is not free. It is locked in a point of view that assumes the absence of freedom as some kind of disability to make independent choices. What if those choices you made without any kind of influence enslave you further? Imagine exercising your freedom to get married to the love of your life only to realize that your freedom is curbed for the rest of your life. The next goal is to seek freedom from the idiosyncrasies of the same relationship you thought would set you free.

Is it possible that the idea of freedom has been defined wrongly? There are no two views about the desire to be free someday – some do it discreetly, some are vocal about it. The reality however, is that if you pursue freedom to get freedom, you will not even come close to it. You will try to cut cords or will find a way to run away from your reality or seek solace. You will not be free. You will only get further entangled in your failure to set yourself free.

Freedom is not a physical space thing. You are not free not because someone imprisoned your body. You are not free because your mind is imprisoned. The interesting thing about mind is that nobody except yourself can imprison your mind. Another interesting thing is that nobody except yourself can set your mind free. But we don’t want to accept that because it’s a lot of hard work accepting and acting on it. The easier way out is to blame the people and the world around you. It feels light when you can blame others for the difficulties inflicted upon you. Passing on the baton is a temporary relief though. The baton returns back and then you want to quickly release it again. The baton itself becomes your keeper or prison guard. It keeps you intact. It’s like playing ping-pong. When you win a point by passing the ball past your opponent, it gives you immense satisfaction. The moment your opponent wins a point against you, you feel despair again. And the ping-pong goes on.

If you really wish to be free someday, you will have to do something else. In fact, you will not have to do something at all. You will have to pursue nothingness to truly free yourself. When you pursue nothingness, you will do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not just in action but also in thought. That’s when you will be truly free if that’s what you really wanted. In fact, the word ‘wanted’ enslaves you too. Wanting to get something or do something will imprison you. You realize freedom, you can’t want it. However, this needs a lot of practice. It’s not some science or art as some may call it. It’s simply a skill. Practice it more and you get closer to it. First, the views of others will imprison and affect you. Then their views will stop affecting you. You will be free from their impact. Then you will face the real challenge. You will be encountered by your own views and opinions about almost everything. They will guard you and direct you to say and do things that you will defend as if you actually think they are true. That truth itself is nothing but the slave of your imagination which sometimes you will attribute to real experiences.

You can’t want or desire freedom. You need freedom. When you need something badly, it is kind of a helpless situation as compared to a want or desire where you feel a false sense of empowerment. I need food. I want pizza. I desire to have a thin crust Italian pizza made in a wood fired oven. However, the way freedom has been defined starts with the statement “I want to be free”. This will only lead you to another prison. You get rid of one prison and enter another. You will never be free if you want it.

You become free when you want nothing. You become free when you become free from your belief that for every action there should be an equal and opposite reaction. Damn Newton for making us believe that so fiercely! He didn’t really mean it that way.  We have become the slaves of linking. We want to link every situation to something. It starts with trying to give a meaning to anything that happens in your own private prison that you so dearly love. Do you even want to be free? As per you, everything should mean something. There has to be a reason for anything that happens or has happened to you. In fact, scientists are desperately trying to give a meaning to our existence, to find a source to our existence. The ambitious ones are trying to define a purpose to their lives. How can my life become meaningful? I must have a higher purpose, a higher calling. This mere thought that there is a story to your madness enslaves you for life. So much so that, we can’t imagine somebody sitting idle or doing nothing. If we find such a person, we start to curse him, call him mad, despise him for his uselessness. Suddenly, this person starts to look busy. Busy doing something while in reality he is busy doing nothing. But he must look busy, else he will be punished for being free. How many times have you asked a colleague in your office – are you free? The poor guy will never admit it because to be free means some kind of a sin and he must be jailed for it again.

Yet, we live in the hypocrisy of our want or desire to be free. We will keep blaming other people and our environment for our lack of freedom. If you don’t believe me, test it for your self. If you get five minutes off after a busy day, try to remain still. No, you won’t. You will feel threatened. You will be uncomfortable. You will want to do something again. You will check your mobile phone to see who messaged. If nobody messaged, you will check the social status of your friends to see what they are doing in their life. If there is no internet, again you will feel a discomfort. You will start planning for the next day’s work. Or you will simply start looking for other people who are free and invite them to get busy with you. You will neither allow yourself to be free nor will you allow anybody else to be free.

The journey towards freedom is the journey towards nothingness. The true freedom seeker will stop seeking it because it doesn’t exist. If I were to tell you that freedom doesn’t exist, only the the idea of freedom does, you will call me mad and may even troll me to eternity. If I were to tell you that only Nothing exists, you will sympathize with me and recommend me to a madhouse. But since you have read so far, let me thank you and request you read a little further.

You need to be free, but you can’t demand it. Stop seeking. Do Nothing. Hope for Nothing. Be Nothing. Act for Nothing. Live for Nothing. Think Nothing. Ok, don’t go mad. Can you do that just for 10 min? I am not asking you to do it for life yet. Try for 5 min. Alright do it for just 1 min. Or simply for a fraction of a moment and experience what true freedom really means. You will be free for that one moment or maybe longer if you practice the skill of becoming free. There is Nothing called Freedom. There is only the reality of being free. But you can practice it like a skill. Just like the skill of singing or cooking, or swimming or riding a bicycle. You never believe you can do it till you just start doing it one day. And then you keep getting better at it as if you always knew it. In fact you can’t be free. To be free is again to be something. The real meaning of to be free is to not be at all. Just don’t be. If you be, then you are bound again. There is only one statement that can hold true when you are free. You are free.

6 Simple Steps to Build Your Brand in 2017

Step 1

Recognize that one thing in your organization or you (if you are a personal brand) that is your real strength. It should be something that you can stand by under most if not all conditions. Something you are very comfortable doing, almost effortlessly. That one thing which if taken away, would take away your edge. It will be that one thing that you can continue repeating over and over again and yet people find it valuable. It should be something you are passionate and emotional about. Call it your product.

Step 2

Once you have recognized that special thing which you just identified as your product, build a brand around it. Give it a name, an identity. An identity that you know only you can own it. Make it memorable if possible but more importantly make it simple. So simple that people absorb and digest it with sheer ease. No, this is not the best time to be creative, this is the core. The core must be understood and remembered with ease not with punctuations and questions. Just keep it very simple.

Step 3

Once you have given an identity to your product, now is the time to work on its presentation. Just because you got the first two steps right doesn’t mean you will become a brand. Yes you have certainly made some achievement in getting the definition right which most people don’t, but only you know about it. When others look at it, they don’t have the same emotions as you do about your product. You need to package and present it in a way that your customers are able to visualize the same emotions and passion that you have about your product.

Step 4

Now, get ready to talk! Presentation is passive. You still need to bring attention to your brand before it starts to run its magic. Now is also the time to wear the creative hat that you had so far kept aside for the logical one. The secret to good communication is not to communicate everything in one go. Create curiosity. Build an interesting story. Don’t let the cat out yet even though it’s quite tempting to do so. Communicate just enough to build interest, excitement and attention to your brand.

Step 5

It’s now time to sell! The Hurrah moment! It’s time to monetize the equity you have been building till now. The buyer is interested. You can let him know the price. The secret to pricing lies in understanding the concept of customer profit. The buyer must value your branded product above the price you are charging him. Selling is also the time a real exchange happens for the first time. This is also the time misunderstandings can happen. Make sure you fulfill your sale completely and to the satisfaction of the buyer. No part jobs please. But hey, selling or fulfilling the sales transaction is not delivery. Your work has just begun.

Step 6
Now comes the most incredible part of branding. That one thing you discovered early on. Yes, step number 1. That part of you that you thought is your real thing. It’s finally time to deliver it. It’s time to deliver your brand. It might feel like the most boring part. Deliveries are never fun, especially when selling is complete and money is in the bank. How do you keep yourself excited? Instead of looking at it as the last step, if you consider it as the first step to your next branding-to-sales cycle, it may seem a little more interesting to you. Remember, that this is the only step that actually decides whether/if you become a brand or not. You can do away with all steps but not this one. Take it very seriously.