Cosco ball

A long-time close friend and I were playing tennis this morning when we opened up a new pack of 3 tennis balls. Now, a new tennis ball with its shine and smoothness is a thing of beauty. As we grinned at each other, I asked him if he remembered a time when we used to be so excited about a 25 rupee Cosco ball. He did.

We used to play cricket in the streets of Chennai city growing up. And, new tennis balls were a treasure. Every few weeks, one of us would get permission from our parents to buy a new Cosco ball. Each ball cost 25 rupees. And, we would play till these balls broke. By that stage, the ball would have lost its entire exterior “fur” and all that would remain would be a dark green core. So, every new ball was a treat.

We are still stingy with opening up new tennis balls when we play tennis today. However, we are at a stage in our life when affording a new tennis ball is a non issue. Somewhere along the way, thanks to a combination of a tremendous amount of luck, some hard work and intention, things have changed. It sounds like a small thing. But, I recognize it is a really big deal.

We’re at an interesting point in our history as human beings. I am of the belief that we have two big challenges that lie ahead. First, we need to figure out how we can live on this planet in a more sustainable manner. Second, we need to figure out what we will all do as machines take away more and more of our jobs. The second issue is staring all of us in our faces as discontent around this has fueled the rise of populism in many places around the world. These are important questions and the answers to them are unclear.

One the one hand, I hope it’ll become clearer to me as to how I can play a role in helping solve these big problems. It isn’t, as yet. On the other, I take these thoughts about the big problems we face in combination with my realization about those Cosco tennis balls as a good reminder to banish any kind of complaining in my life. I may face challenges on a day to day basis. But, these aren’t really problems.

So, this thanksgiving, I am very thankful for being able to afford those tennis balls. It is a real privilege to be able to take a day off without too many worries and to play. I recognize there is a lot of good work to be done to make things better for all of humanity. But, the first step is to recognize and appreciate this privilege. And, the second step is to accept that with great privilege comes great responsibility.

Onward.

Happy thanksgiving.

Dreams for granted

Look at your life right now. How much of your life is dreams you’ve taken for granted?

Maybe it is owning that nice car.

Or, perhaps, it is living with a partner you fell in love with.

It could also be that college education.

What about your job? Your kid? Your lovely home? Or, that neighborhood?

But, every time you realized a dream, you were probably off thinking about the next one. Got into college? Seems like we should think about getting that job. Got that job? Maybe it is time to start worrying about that career. It is a never ending cycle.

And, as we run like ferrets from one day to the next, it is easy to forget that most of what we take for granted today was the stuff of our dreams a few years ago. Now, there always is a reason to be dissatisfied. There is always someone around us with the fancier home and the bigger car. But, it is easy to forget that our biggest dreams as kids revolved around wanting to earn our own money and to make our own decisions. And, voilà! Look at how well that turned out.

There will always be that next dream. While pursuing these dreams makes our life what it is, just for today – let’s stop for a moment, look around, take a deep breath and give thanks to this life. Perhaps, as we look around, we’ll realize that we should stop spending as much time in the future that we’re dreaming about.

For, it is very likely that we are already living a life that is the stuff of our dreams.

Small moments

There are so many magical small moments in a day.

Waking up in the middle of the night and realizing you’ve still got a couple of hours of sleep left.

Snoozing that alarm once to get a precious few extra minutes of sleep.

Managing to squeeze that little bit of toothbrush from the tube.

Seeing more green traffic lights than red ones on the way to work.

Walking out of a good meeting.

Making a colleague smile.

Smelling great food.

Feeling alive as you enjoy sweating on a run outdoors.

Reading a passage from a book that strikes a cord.

Enjoying a breath of fresh air as you take a walk.

Telling someone you love that you love them.

Being there for someone who needs you.

We love the big moments. The award ceremony, the big promotion, the raise, the graduation, and the signing of the paperwork.

But, the big moments are so few and far between that life can feel like an endless pursuit, an endless treadmill. It is when we learn to appreciate the small moments that we learn to appreciate the pursuit, that we realize that the pursuit is all there is.

As we live and appreciate these small moments, we live our days. And, as we live our days, so we live our lives.

Let them know

When you change behavior for the better thanks to something you learnt from someone, let them know.

If someone did something that led you to change your behavior, that’s incredibly powerful. This isn’t just about making them feel good (it will do that for sure), it is about letting people know that did something that had impact. Even reasonably self aware people tend to be much more aware of their shortcomings than their strengths. And, knowing what you do well or what you do that impacts others is incredibly valuable data.

The other beautiful effect of this habit is selfish – you learn to both notice and appreciate things well done. It begins to feels easy and natural to take a moment to let the store manager know that a store clerk is doing a fantastic job. It also becomes habitual to not just say “he did a good job” but to say “I find her ability to listen carefully and then work toward finding a good solution extremely valuable.”

When this becomes habitual, an amazing other thing happens – you just spend more time grateful for the good things that happen to you. As the saying goes, it isn’t happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.

let them know, gratitudeThanks to the source for the image

When you are thankful

There is a lot written about gratitude and understandably so. The saying – “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy” – definitely rings true.

That said, I don’t think the test is just about being thankful. I think it also matters when you are thankful.

For example, when I am down with a bad stomach or an injured foot, I naturally think about a fully fit body and find myself giving thanks for the fact that I only have minor niggles to deal with. But, those are examples of forced gratitude – gratitude that is caused by an intervention of sorts. Similarly, it is relatively easy to be thankful for your life or for those of your loved ones when you hear about someone passing away. Again, that’s thanks to an intervention.

So, I think the type of gratitude that really counts is when you give thanks at times when you don’t have any reason to give thanks. When everything is going great, we rarely find the time to stop and give thanks for everything that’s going well. But, I’d argue that doing so is a sign that you’ve got the “being thankful” skill (and it is a skill) down.

And, good thing too. There are few more important skills for a life well lived.

thankful, gratitude

Appreciating gravity

There was a moment in my 15 minute meditation routine this morning when Andy reminded me to appreciate gravity. A part of the exercise involves being aware of the weight of the body on the chair and the weight of the legs on the floor. And, of course, that wouldn’t be possible without gravity.

I thought the idea of appreciating gravity was symbolic of many a good thing in life. Gravity, to me, is one of those things that does its job every single day and, yet, is conspicuous by its absence from our attention. We take it for granted.

There are so many things and people in our lives that are exactly like gravity. An example that comes straight to mind is the human body. Every part of this incredible system just does its job. We only realize and appreciate this when we fall sick. How about appreciating it every day while we’re healthy?

It is also incredibly pertinent when it comes to appreciating people. So many companies and teams take their people for granted – especially those silent warriors who plug away at what needs to be done with unerring consistency. Often, true performers function like gravity. While they’re around, we never realize the impact they’re making simply because we take it for granted. If they weren’t around, these things would happen, wouldn’t they?

Let today be gravity appreciation day then. As we move through the day, let’s think about the many forces, things, and people we take for granted.. and appreciate them. This isn’t so much about them. This is just about us building this habit – to observe what is really going on, to notice efforts that might otherwise go unnoticed and to appreciate the good things.

For, when we learn to be appreciative, we learn to be thankful. And, when we learn to be thankful, we learn to be happy.

The simple things

I am listening to “Wonderwall” by Oasis as I’m typing these words out. This was among the first songs I fell in love with and has so many great memories attached to it as it has stayed on every music playlist I’ve had since my early teens.

It is 8:07am on Wednesday – I am looking ahead at a packed day with a new project commencing, a project wrapping up, two assignment meetings and a couple of other notes. It is going to be back-to-back and I’m looking forward to that.

It is at such moments that I realize that it is in these moments that we actually live our lives. Too often, we think of the weekend / the next big break as our only respite. But, this moment is where we live have our day-to-day struggles and challenges. And, it is such moments that add up to a life where we’ve hopefully explored the length and breadth of the road we traveled.

Sure, it isn’t perfect and there are a few things that would be nice if fixed. But, I’m thankful for this moment. It is said that it isn’t happy people who are thankful but it is thankful people who are happy. I believe that. Remembering to give thanks takes work..

But, in the final analysis, I can think of very few other things that will matter as much as being grateful for all we’re blessed with and savoring the simple things that make up the bulk of our experience. Let’s live today.

Being a beginner

We gravitate to things we’re good at. Doing something we’re good at feels great – we’re in our element, we feel good about ourselves and we’re appreciated for what we do.

If success builds careers and failures build character, it makes sense that we gravitate to areas we can be great at in our careers. Notching successes matters. However, in our personal lives, I think it is critical we become beginners from time to time. We can do this by attempting a new difficult side project, learning a new skill or simply doing something we haven’t done.

I am experiencing this in a small project where I am, by far, the beginner. It has been a fun experience attempting to do the basics, feeling very grateful to the experts around me for having me around and encouraging me, and just experiencing the joy when I occasionally do a couple of things right. Being a beginner is a very humbling experience.

Someone I met said she would regularly ask people – “when was the last time you did something for the first time?”

That’s a question worth asking every once a while.