Do Your Duty, Leave The Rest To God

We all aim to succeed at every endeavour we take up. We plan, strategize, work hard, make all necessary corrections and wade past every hardship only with the intent to succeed. Yet, despite all our good intentions, good work and effort, there are many instances where we are faced with failure. The first advice or consolation we receive in those situations is ‘You did your best, the rest was up to God’.

Growing up, this statement was a sore point for me. I always thought that when we do our best, then we should get the best results. If I work to succeed, then I should succeed. In my naivety and limited life experience, this was my outlook towards everything. I never considered all the factors that are out of control, yet contribute to the success of a task. As my experience increased, I learnt that all the hard work, good intentions, and best efforts are worth nothing when something is not meant to be. Not just good intentions and hard work; Even the evilest plans, wicked intentions, cruel efforts can be thwarted when something is not meant to be. In the grander scheme of events, my success at a particular task may be trivial, or sometimes my failure may be necessary.

Needless to specify, later in life, I faced a tough time unlearning this perception. We can only be 100% prepared for the task, but we can never be 100% sure about the outcome. The whole meaning of life is to navigate the twists and turns, face unexpected challenges etc. The goalposts are shifting all the time, and we need to change accordingly. As long as we remember this fact of life and contribute wholeheartedly to every task, every outcome feels like a success. Before the pandemic, better pay, promotions, a bigger house, latest gadgets etc, may have been the parameters for success. I planned to shift jobs and look for a more challenging role. However, now job security, steady flow of income, good health, being alive and healthy have become parameters for success.

There is no guaranteed equation for success or failure in life. What may appear to be a failure today is only the framework for greater accomplishments. In fact, they are not failures, but simple lessons in our path to victory. They will prepare you with priceless lessons that will take you to greater heights. Even the solar system failed with numerous planets and moons before it successfully created life on earth. However, that does not make all the other planets less magnificent or important in the grander landscape of the universe.

Keep An Eye On the Backdoor

One lazy afternoon, a cat softly walked up to the backdoor of a house. The door was left ajar; he stood there for a few tense moments assessing the danger level. When no one noticed his presence, he quietly stepped into the house and quickly sneaked into the kitchen. Within the next few seconds, he climbed up the countertop to lap up all the milk in the container.

The lady of the house caught him red-handed and chased him. The startled cat jumped to the ground and instead of exiting through the backdoor, he ran into the dining room. The lady went yelling and, running after the cat, but he kept dodging her. To escape her, he ran under the dining table and rushed into the living room to hide under the couch.

All through this chaos, the lady’s daughter was fascinated and excited by the cat. She protected him by not revealing his hiding place. After some time, the little girl started petting the cat. The cat quickly recognised the friend and the foe. He avoided the lady who chased him to spend most of his time with the little girl who befriended him.

Gradually, he made the house his home and soon two other cats joined him. All attempts to get rid of the cats were futile. Even if the lady chased them away, they found their way back into the house. They knew the little girl was ready to accommodate them. The little girl even suggested that these cats could get rid of the rats in the house. But, nothing of that sort happened. The rats and the cats all lived in the same house.

Art By Sharda

All-day long, they purred at the girl and relaxed in her lap. They stole food from the kitchen and slept on piles of freshly washed clothes. If anyone tried to get them out of the house, they showed their temper. They did not spare anything in the kitchen; they clawed the couches, destroyed the plants, knocked things down, and generally speaking, created a mess.

I have nothing against cats but observing the events in the above story, I can draw parallels to other events in our lives. When the cat first entered the house, it was totally accidental. If both the mother and child chased away the cat with the same fervour, the cats would have avoided the house. Because the lady chased them away, yet the girl encouraged them; the cats made the house as their home.

Bad habits enter into our lives in the same way as the cats did in this story. The first time is usually an accident or a coincidence. It is how we react to this event that decides our fate. If we chase the habit out of our life, then chances are that the habit will exit. But, if we cover them up or defend them, it will become impossible to get rid of the bad habit.

Just as one good habit attracts other good habits, one bad habit also attracts many other undesirable habits. The bad habits could be as simple as being lazy/procrastinating or something as serious as drug/alcohol abuse. Be mindful of what is entering through that backdoor silently. It might, at first, look innocent and harmless but eventually, it will show its true colours. Like stray animals are always prowling around looking for a quick meal and a comfortable place to settle in, the same way at every stage in life we are prone to several dangers. It is important to recognise them early and nip them out of our life.

I used the analogy of a cat’s behaviour in this story to explain my point about bad habits. However, I don’t want anyone to think that cats are bad nor should anyone ill-treat cats or any other animal for that matter. Cruelty to animals is a bad habit in itself. All I’m saying is keep an eye on that back door; all things evil and undesirable sneak in from there. If you liked what you read, please let me know. Until next time, Stay Safe.

Originality

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”

  • Herman Melville

I have recently come across this quote from the American novelist, by the name Herman Melville that said, ” It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”. He is basically saying that it is better to be an original loser than to be a successful copycat.

I know it sounds severe when I put it that way. But, when you ponder upon it, it makes sense. Though being unsuccessful is bad, you can at least take credit for your original thought. This unique thought will further act as the foundation that you can build upon until you are successful.

The same cannot be said for imitations. When you pick up someone else’s idea, you are automatically limiting the scope, to what the original thinker foresaw. Please remember that imitation is different from using the inventions or ideas of others to create new products or utilities of a product.

In today’s world, plagiarism is a real concern in literature, music, arts and even scientific research. The creativity, innovation and intellect of a person are being taken away from him/her. It is almost like stealing the person’s individuality because our thoughts and ideas are what distinguish us in a group. To imitate one’s ideas and pass them off as our own is an insult to our intelligence. It is a way of accepting that I am not smart enough to think on my own. 

I remember, my aunt used to let us off easy, when we gave her original and innovative excuses. Not that she did not detect a lie, in fact, she would point out the flaw in the story and laugh it off as a joke. We were made to feel sufficiently embarrassed so that we did not repeat the mistake. 

The sad thing in the world is, success is given more emphasis than originality. Copycats are running the world and unless we start valuing diversity and uniqueness, the situation may not improve.

Perseverance

I found this quote the other day. I felt that it was telling me to rethink an earlier post I had made regarding quitting. Quitters Are Not Losers.

Reading this quote, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”, by Calvin Coolidge makes me rethink my strategy.

It is Time I Make My Own Decisions

How many of us can honestly say that all the decisions we make in our life are our own? Not me. I have been asked this question and I realized that most of the decisions that I make are not my own. I merely do what the situation demands or what I am obligated to do. Are you in a similar conundrum?

All the women would be thinking, such is the life of a woman. As children, our parents make decisions for us. As teenagers, our friends and boyfriends hold the strings. After marriage, our husband dictates our life and later our children do it. But, here is a shocker, men don’t fare much better either. It is either parent, peer pressure, society, a boss, familial pressure that dictates most of the decisions we make. Basically, everyone is being managed and manipulated into making decisions that we don’t agree with them.

A most common example to this point is the college course that one chooses. Most would think that the course would depend on our strengths or on our dream jobs. However, many of us end up taking up a course that is considered to be a popular choice or one that our parents wanted to take up. We end up with the responsibility of fulfilling their dream at the cost of ours.

The clothes we wear are often prescribed by friends and society. Whether we like them or not, we end up following some fashion trends, just so we can fit in. The office we work and our post is mostly determined by peer pressure. How many times have we heard the words, “Your cousin has already got promoted to a manager, how come you are still a…..?”, “We are planning to apply for XYZ interview, why aren’t you applying too?.

Recently, I met my cousin, who went over budget to buy an apartment in a particular locality. Even though the whole place is stuck in litigation due to environmental issues, they bought it. When I asked them why they did not check all this before booking their apartment, their answer astounded me. Apparently, many of their co-workers had purchased property there. They convinced my cousin to go ahead despite the court case. Their logic was when so many people have bought land there, the court will rule in favour of the majority. I found their justification warped, but my cousin could not escape the constant stress from her co-workers.

These are just a few simple examples that I have quoted here. Many of us make more risky and damaging decisions because of family obligations or societal demands. The latest trends of TikTok challenges, Facebook challenges are a case to this point. We have seen many teenagers and children buckle under the pressure of friends groups and take up drinking, drugs etc. So how does one avoid this? How can you become immune to this pressure?

I have observed that self-aware people, confident people, focused people are immune to this pressure to a large extent. When you are aware of your inabilities, more than abilities, you can make an informed decision for yourself. You will not fall prey to emotional blackmail when you are confident in your decisions and abilities. One more way to avoid peer pressure is when you are focused on your goals. Your determination to achieve goals will keep you from being distracted and helps you stick to your course of action. A supporting and understanding family will also go a long way in avoiding these stresses and wrong decisions. At the end of the day, everyone will have to find a way out of this by themselves. There isn’t a straightforward solution that works for all, we need to find the right mix to treat each problem differently.

Beware Of The Impact Of Kindness

An act of kindness is universally respected as a good deed. Every religion teaches us to be kind and helpful. We praise generosity and we elevate compassionate people to a God-like status. Then, why did I warn you to be wary of the result of kindness?
Let me tell you a story to explain the statement.

There once was a village of wealthy and prosperous people. All the people of this village were blessed with good health, wealth and abundance. The villagers were grateful for their fortune, they shared it freely with those who were less fortunate. Once a sickly poor mendicant came to their village asking for charity. Everybody donated freely to help the poor man. Soon, with all their kindness, the beggar’s health improved. He was able to save enough money to stop begging. He took up a job in the village. Seeing his development, more beggars started to visit this village. The kind citizens continued to help everyone who came. But some of the villagers observed the sudden increase of beggars, they stopped being so generous. Soon, the rest of the families too started to make the same observation and stopped giving alms as freely as before.

The new beggars did not like this change. They started to demand charity, instead of requesting it. If anyone refused to help, they would get agitated at them. As the situation worsened, more and more families stopped helping. This made the beggars riotous.

Observing all these changes, the village elders and the chief called for a meeting. They wanted to settle this conflict, so they sat down to discuss the concerns. Through this discussion, the chief realized that the whole ruckus was a result of their own kindness.

The villagers were kind to everyone who asked for help, they never checked if the person deserved help or not. They blindly served everyone who asked. Their unquestioning attitude and kindness attracted all the freeloaders and lazy people around. The village became a haven for lazy and good for nothing people. Their begging was no longer a request for help, it became a demand for money. Later, it became the responsibility of the villagers to feed this bunch of beggars.

If you think that this is just another imaginary story, then think again. Transpose this story onto your life and analyse. Often, we try to be helpful to friends or family just because they are our friends or family. We go out of the way to help them, but our friends take the help for granted. God forbid, if we refuse to help them for any reason, they start to get agitated and emotionally blackmail us. They make statements like, ‘how can you be so cold-hearted?’ or ‘is our friendship not worth the trouble?’ They guilt-trip us into going beyond our limits to help them.

It is not just with our friends and family, we see this trend even with certain charitable and social organisations. They make us feel guilty for our well being and use this guilt to manipulate us into donating more than we can afford.

I will not persuade anyone against compassion. In fact, the world could use more kindness, but beware of whom you shower it upon. Not everyone who asks for help deserves it. Do not fall prey to false propaganda and manipulative lies. Stop and check the veracity of any problem before you start to help them.

Five Easy Things Anyone Can Do

We often use phrases like “that’s easy” or “that’s too hard for me”. Today I wanted to make a simple and funny list of things that I find easy or hard to do. However, I would like to point out that something is easy doesn’t mean that I do those things and hard to do doesn’t mean that I don’t try to engage in those activities. It’s just a fun list. 

  1. When you are late, make excuses. Blame the traffic: I confess I am guilty of this crime. There were times when I used traffic as an excuse for being late. The fact that it never worked is a different story.
  2. When you are angry, show your temper on inanimate things. Hmm! I would say that taking our anger out on objects is much less damaging than lashing out at people. Again, it’s a different story when I break my expensive phone or watch in anger.
  3. If the problem is your own, then it’s genuine but if someone else is going through it, then it can’t be all that bad. I have been a victim of this kind of treatment quite often. Although I have to say one thing, when we are in that situation, our mind doesn’t work. All the wisdom we impart to others does not make sense in our difficult times.
  4. When you complete a task successfully, turn around and tell everyone how organized, dedicated and determined you are. When things go wrong, it is always someone else at fault. This one is the funniest of all. I saw many people do this and I use it as a joke.
  5. When you have sufficient time to complete a task, postpone the job for later. When you don’t have enough time to do it, burn the midnight oil and toil until daybreak to complete it. Gosh! I am totally guilty of this one. There is a distinctive sense of accomplishment when we complete a task in the last minute

Now that you went through ‘the easy things’ list, you might want to look at my list of 5 hardest things to do. These are things that are hard for me. Some of you might not find it all that difficult.

  1. Stick to a new year’s resolution for long enough that it can yield any good results. It is so hard to do this, of late I haven’t been making any new year resolution.
  2. Stay disciplined with diet and exercise. I have a serious problem with this. For this reason, my waistline expands and contracts from one extreme to the other like a rubber-band. 
  3. Not get stressed out when being under pressure to meet a deadline or when given a task which is obviously beyond one’s capacity or control. This is 100% me. No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep myself away from stress.
  4. Keeping away from sweet treats and desserts for a long time. Sweets are my weakness.
  5.  Completing all the housework before going to bed. Ah! This last one is an eternal struggle for me. Every day I try but, I have something or the other spilling over into the next day. 

Tell me what do you think of my list or easy and hard things. Tell me what’s easy and what is hard for you. I would love to hear from you all. Have a great day all of you!

Make Adversity Your Best Friend

Whenever people find themselves in a sticky situation, the first thing that they generally experience is stress and the next is, to wish to get back to the status quo. Above all other emotions is the “Why me?” feeling and our brain starts looking for an easy escape. Adversity knocks on the door more frequently than good luck. This is a fact of life. If we can make adversity our friend, then every trouble has a tale to tell and every misfortune has prosperity hidden in it. Though it is not easy to untangle the web of misfortune, it is still worth the effort. The only exception is the sorrow of the death of a dear one.

Trials work like a litmus test and reveal our true well-wishers. During difficulties, we turn to our friends and family for help, while most of them try their best to help and stand by us, a few of them disappear from our sight. I like to call these people the fair-weather friends. Had it not been for the trials, we would never get the opportunity to identify them.

In times of difficulties, if we look within ourselves rather than blaming it on a jinx, we can surely come up with a solution. We just need to reexamine our skillset, bolster our determination and work on our problems. At times like this, we find out where we are lacking and thus, get a chance to improve our self accordingly. Adversity teaches us resilience. During the economic slowdown of the late 1990s, I lost my job. Instead of lamenting on it, I used this as an opportunity to improve my skills and when the market was ready to offer jobs, I was better prepared.

I have noticed that laziness and procrastination lead to unnecessary distress as a job done on time means, no worries. We can make bill payments as an example, any delay in payments lead to fines. Similarly, a lack of proper understanding of the task also creates hardships. We should never shy away from asking for assistance. Sometimes miscommunication is the cause of all our ordeals. We can try and solve this issue by explaining our intentions and requirements in a task. We can take language classes too if that is the problem. Give it whatever it takes to solve the problem because, in our quest to solve them, we end up improving ourselves. Every adversity scoops out the unrequired qualities within us and builds our character.

If we reminisce back to school days, while working out math problems for a given topic, some questions were very simple. If we practice only the simple questions and then we cannot handle even slightly complex problems on the same topic. We will be fretting and frowning about the sudden complexity. In the same way, twisted circumstances in life help in sharpening us. There would be no problems in life if, we learn our lessons at the first encounter itself, else we are bound to repeat our mistakes.

If we take a look at the people around us, we will find that some of them can manage their life really well. It seems as if God pre-programmed them before sending them into this world. They make you wonder, “Why can’t I manage things like them?”. Either they have excellent managerial skills or they have a great sense of style or they perennially have a smiling face. It is not that they are born that way but, they take every adversity and turn it into an advantage.

I can tell you from experience that following this advice is tougher than preaching it. The hardest part is to set aside the ego, drop all excuses and accept the truth. Believe in yourself that you can make a difference and welcome every adversity as a friend that has come to improve you. Like a jigsaw puzzle, put all the pieces together to get the complete picture. Twist and turn the problem till you shape it into a solution and pull each thread out patiently until the mess is untangled. All the best In your effort, if you succeed, you will be the best form of yourself.

Age Is Not Just a Number

They say, ‘ Age is just a number’, ‘You are as old as you think you are’. If you want to feel young, then you have to be young at heart. This is how people view age and the process of ageing. At first, I thought who am I to dispute this. I am not that old yet to debate the matter. I accepted it on its face value.

Now I beg to differ. Not that I have suddenly aged, thankfully not yet. However, I have been in the company of old people due to certain inescapable events. They may not complain about their condition all the time, but just to watch them struggle to perform everyday tasks is tragic. Their mind is keen, but the body is not able to keep up like it used to. We see some people have a tough time holding a cup of coffee without spilling it. Sometimes they have difficulty climbing steps as they keep missing a step in between. It gets even more complicated when the body is fine, but your mind starts to rebel. Hallucinations and delusions are an example of such situations. I am not talking about any specific mental or physical condition that causes these problems. Many such difficulties arise once your age advances.

The sad part of all this is, some of these conditions can be delayed, or even avoided if necessary precautions are taken at a young age. Often we take our body and health for granted and ignore exercises and healthy food. We might enjoy life now, but it all comes due, once we cross our 60s. For those unlucky few, it comes due earlier.

I have picked a touchy topic to discuss, but I intend to highlight the significance of taking care of health and fitness. When our body does not comply, our mind cannot do anything. Ageing is inevitable, but the only thing to ensure minimum pain is healthy food and plenty of exercises. Keep moving and working to keep fit.

This is one advice that I insist on giving. The earlier you get on the road to fitness, the better. Even if you are a late starter, I say it’s better late than never. Bring out your exercise gear and let’s get cracking on health.

Problems That Need a Name

A problem that does not exist, needs no solutions, isn’t it so? Unless we recognize the existence of a problem, we will not start thinking about ways to repair it. For this reason, the first step towards problem-solving is to recognize and define the problem. A problem can be anything that endangers your welfare or anything detrimental to your future well-being.

For over a year, I have been suffering from persistent headaches, that sometimes last days at a stretch. Initially, I thought it was sinusitis. Later, the blame was pushed on to stress and bad weather. Whatever the cause, the only solution I could see was painkillers. I had work to do and could not stop to rest. Even when I had the time to rest, I would hesitate to think, “How often will people around me put up with my excuse?”

As time passed, I was able to identify some common features of my problem and finally, the doctor diagnosed my trouble as migraine. Rather than disturbing me, the diagnosis gave me a sense of relief. Since the problem has been identified and named, I no longer feel disconcerted. I can research about the condition and take necessary precautions. I can try different options such as changing my diet, meditation and exercise instead of going straight for the painkillers. This incident got me thinking about the importance of “Identifying the problem”.

We don’t often take the time to introspect about the whys, whats and hows. We find it easier to point fingers at others, the circumstances or our fate. Our deficiencies become our neighbour’s fault or the devious plan of some evil imaginary force. Either, we build up bad vibes for the so-called ‘enemy’ or pray to the heavens for divine intervention. We fail to recognize the fact that unless we work on the problem, it will continue to thrive. That brings us back to our main point; unless we acknowledge the problem we will not work on it.

To acknowledge the problem, analyze every situation and assess your role in the crisis. Think about all the various possibilities like, “What if I had taken a different approach?”, “What if I had prepared for the exam?” or “What if I had alerted the appropriate person?” Is there anything that you could have done that would result in a better outcome? During this process, it is important to be truthful to yourself. This line of thought will lead you in the right direction.

Once the problem is identified, our mind will automatically start looking for solutions. My personal experience has been that I was able to improve myself along many planes. It also helped me become a better person and improve the quality of my life compared to two decades ago.
Tell me about your experience or if you have anything more to add to this topic. I would love to hear from you. Have a nice day!

To Change Or Not To Change

I have a bit of an enigma, to change or not to change. Everyone says change is the only constant in life. If we want to adapt to any change in our life, then we have to change ourself, else, we might become obsolete. We have to try to improve our self. In fact, it is strongly believed that those who stick to the old ways often get left behind. Acclimating to change is the only way forward.

Just when I’m convinced with this argument, my mind says, but we have to be strong and stay true to our convictions. We should not keep changing colours and end up losing our individuality in the crowd. We should adhere to our way of life. Change means to quit on our opinions and taking a cowardly way out.

How do we choose which is correct?