Monthly Archives: April 2010

Change is good

I spent most of last evening creating a new home for this blog.

I’ve wanted, for a while now, to have a special place for it that I could customize. Having had more than a constant month of blogging behind me, I figured I was ready to make the switch.

Some people have been joking about me having a mid-life crisis (what with a nose piercing and coloring my hair red in the last month), but I think these are just some things I’d always thought of doing and for some reason kept putting off.

Fear of change hiding timidly behind all those excuses.

Having a website was one of those “aspirations” and today I take the plunge.

By next week, I will have figured out a redirect, so any visitors to this blog can automatically be transferred to the new site without any clicking.

I’m initiating and embracing all these changes in my life.

Small as they are, they make me happy.

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you in my new online abode.

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Filed under Cool, writing

F r e e yourself

Free yourself

Of expectations

Money

Restrictions

Constraints.



Free yourself

Of limitations

Material bindings

Wants and needs.



Free yourself

Of ambition

A job

Stress

Demands.

Free yourself

Of competition

Hype

Frustrations

Pain.


Free yourself

Of order

Routine

Planning.


Free yourself

Of  obligations

Rituals

Guilt

Remorse.


Free your “self”

From your body.


Be a stream of consciousness

With ideas

That take flight

And soar.


Free yourself

Just for a day

And live

Life.

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Professionalism matters

I am surprised at how many people lack professional etiquette in the workforce. Too many unprofessional encounters have led me to believe it’s because people don’t quite understand what professionalism is. So, here goes:

1. Dress appropriately: There’s not much latitude when it comes to office attire in a regular cubicle environment. While niche offices (beauty salons, artist’s studio, etc.) might not have certain constraints, in most work-environments people are expected to dress professionally. So, no halter tops, no cleavage-showing, no micro mini skirts, no stockings with holes for women. No vests, no sweats, no clinging shirts, no bling for men. In short — you’re not there to party or express your personality. You’re there to work, so dress accordingly.

2. You are the organization: For an outsider you’re your organization’s ambassador. You’re the talking head. The representative. Keep that in mind when interacting with clients. What you say, do, or wear reflects on the organization you’re working for. If you don’t demonstrate pride in your work or respect for it, no one else will.

3. Accept critique: A lot of people take critique personally. Please don’t. If I were to cry every time  an editor told me I needed to write a second draft (Boo hoo! So, you’re saying the first draft wasn’t PERFECT!?!?!), I’d be drowning in a sea of my own tears. You’re there to learn, stretch your mind, expand upon your skills . Welcome critique with open arms. It’s only helping you grow — even if it isn’t helpful, it still teaches you patience! It doesn’t mean you suck; it’s just a way of telling you there is potential for something better. Embrace it.

4. Don’t socialize your day away: We spend more time at work than we do with our families any given weekday, so it’s natural to develop “friendships” in the workplace. But remember to keep social banter to a minimum. Your first priority is work and while everyone enjoys a bit of office gossip here and there, your water cooler conversations shouldn’t take over your day. Go for lunch or dinner with your office pals, grab a mug of beer or a cup of coffee outside office hours. Your office space wasn’t meant to be your personal living room. Also, remember that perception is reality — you may get all your deadlines met and be a top-notch worker, but if people know you for your rumor-milling or domestic-adventure stories more than your work ethic, there’s something wrong with that picture.

5. Beware of social media time sinks: Sure everyone’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Buzz and all those other time sinks, but if it isn’t part of your job profile, you really shouldn’t be using your work time to update your status or send tweets by the minute. I’ve had people make clients wait just so they could finish posting their latest photos to Facebook. Nothing tells a client that you’re not serious about your work as peering over your shoulder to see the Facebook logo staring back.

6. Don’t whine all the time: Nobody likes a whiner. Period. Everyone has loads of stuff to do. Everyone is spread thin. Everyone has zero budget. We get it. It’s ok to vent once in a while, but if you’re always complaining all you’re doing is bringing everyone’s morale down. It’s bad enough to begin with — no one needs it slapped in their faces all the time. Also, if you’re whining all the time, it won’t take long for people to mutter under their breaths: “If it’s so bad, why don’t you leave?”

7. Watch how you speak and how you write: Wassup?  See ya later dawg! Dude, hurry up! — not exactly office speak. You’re a white-collar worker in a professional work environment — act the part. Also, watch that slang in your professional communication. While emoticons and CUL8Rs may be alright when chatting with your buddies, office e-mail requires a certain amount of “seriousness.” Typing full words and coherent sentences makes a difference.

8. Don’t tie your emotions with your job: Some people take everything you tell them personally. Your job is not you. You are not your job. Stop getting your emotions in the mix. Don’t be detached, but don’t be so invested in your job that if roadblocks occur, you experience a nervous breakdown. Be civil even if you don’t get along with someone.

9. Respect other people’s time: Never leave people waiting. When you show up late you’re telling folks that you don’t really care. It’s insulting. It’s disrespectful. Just as you have a gazillion things to do, so do they. If you absolutely can’t make it on time, it’s professional courtesy to call ahead and let the other person know you’re running behind. When you say you’ll be there, mean it.

10. Don’t be cocky: Remember, everyone is dispensable. And you’re not above this rule. So, do your job well. But don’t forget that the machine will carry on just as well without you. You may be great at what you do, but you’re not the only one. Be proud of who you are and what you do, but don’t go rubbing it in people’s faces. With talent, comes humility.

This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list. Just the “top 10” compilation, if you will, from my personal experiences with those snooty, self-absorbed nincompoops….eh…no need to be uncivil — let’s just say “those unprofessional people.”

Have more tips? Do share.

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Winning isn’t everything

I’ve often wondered where our urge to win stems from. What prompts us to want to come first? Why is coming second or third not good enough?

As a kid, I was always taught that winning isn’t everything and yet when it came to class tests or sports meets, my parents would set the bar so high that, sometimes, it was almost impossible to reach.

As an abstract concept it worked well, but in reality, not so much.

When the report card came, instead of congratulating me on scoring 92 percent in the finals, my dad would ask, “Who came first?” followed by “How could she score 95 percent and you couldn’t?”

Dejected and teary-eyed I’d head to my room.

Later I would be taken out to dinner as a “treat” and mom and dad would look proudly at me, encouraging me to study harder, nudging me to go that extra mile.

I was a bright kid — they didn’t want to see my talent go waste. And they knew that out in the world, coming first was going to get me places. No one cared if you were one of the top three, let alone the top five, they reasoned.

Some children cheated — took little “chits” to class, had their art projects completed by their moms, indirectly bribed the teachers.

Because winning meant too much.

And since everyone was doing it, it was somehow justified.

So much for the mandatory moral science classes all of us attended.

I was too self-righteous. And my mom was too busy.

Most of all, I couldn’t lie to myself.

Because at the end of the day, all said and done, you might have good grades on paper, but in your heart you know you’re a failure. You may have it but you know you didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t want sleepless nights.

I knew my parents had a lot of expectations from me, but I had decided early on that my best is all I could give it. And if it wasn’t good enough to earn me the best spot then so be it.

Even today I see my friends urge their toddlers to out run each other, to come first, to be better … nay, to be the best.

Because what good is second-best?

And every time someone says, “it’s all about participation,” or “it’s all about having fun” — they’re perceived as talking to the losers’ club.

But isn’t that really the essence of competitions? The ability to show one’s mastery over a subject or a sport with the help of an opponent? About enjoying yourself?

It’s not about showing the world that you’re the best, it’s about being the best you can be. There’s a distinct difference between the two.

That’s not how the world works, though.

Winning and cheating go hand-in-hand. We learn that there are moral, social, economic repercussions for those who cheat; that those people pay somehow, some time, somewhere…but when we look around us we find them getting better grades, more money, more power.

The hunger to win feeds corruption. It brings out not only the best, but also the worst in us.

Think about it the next time you feel dejected about your (or your children’s) less-than-desirable performance report.

If you gave it your best shot, be content.

This is an abstraction that when applied in reality will serve you well.

Read David’s well-written post on the same subject, especially the study [PDF] he refers to about bronze medal winners in the Olympics who were “simply happy to have received any honors at all (instead of no medal for fourth place).”

In the end it’s all about perception — the one you have of your self outweighs what anyone else thinks of you.

Go get ’em, tiger!

 

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Day after day after day…

It’s 7:41 p.m. PST.
An entire day gone by in a whirlwind of activity.
Meetings, phone calls, e-mails, conversations around the office, IMs.
Non-stop exchange of information.
Reactions. Elation. Emotions.

The need for a pause button deepens.
No reprieve from the craziness.
As I splash some water on my face
I close my eyes and let my mind slip away.

The hummingbird reappears.
And the chuckle of my friends’ kids.

I scrub the accumulating dead skin.
Brushing off the tiredness.
The demands. The deadlines. The pressure.
Disappearing like the micro soy granules
Into the sinuses of the sink.

I look at myself.
A streak of red

Brightening the tired kohl eyes.
A quiver of a smile.

Today is over.
Tomorrow is another day.

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Untitled

This one is from the archives. This poem holds a special meaning for me because of two reasons:

  • It was recognized by UNICEF as a literary piece spreading awareness about child abuse, specifically that of the girl child.
  • It introduced me to my life partner — this was the first piece of my writing he encountered and was touched enough to drop me a line. The rest, as they say, is history.

This poem is based on the right of a child to be protected from abuse and exploitation. I have not titled this poem because I want the readers to feel that just as a poem is incomplete without its title, childhood is incomplete without protection from the law.

Dark brown eyes that are red because of crying,
All hopes of escape and freedom are dying;

Clothes have been torn, hair is a tangled mess,
The face has lost all its childishness;
Hands and feet show marks of the whip,
Blood flows down from the cracked, parched lips;
Since the past three days no food has been eaten,
Her faith in God stands totally beaten.

Only seventy-two hours have passed since the time
There was laughter in life and bright sunshine
There were mother, father, and a lovely baby brother…
So what if they lived in a hut near the gutter?
There was dearth of money and they couldn’t eat well
But life was peaceful, and who had thought of such hell?

Loving neighbors, all sweepers by profession,
Who cared, but were financially in depression.
City life was expensive and father wanted the best for his son,
So he came up with an idea that would give him returns;
The very next day he came wearing a new coat,
In his hands he held hundred rupees’ ten crisp notes;
Life changed its course from that very moment
But there was no thunder, no lightning in the firmament!

The door creaked open and light illuminated the room
That hulk of a man, that lubber, spelled doom…
The message was to ask her if she was ready to come,
A customer was waiting — his fear made her numb;
But she was too tired to resent any longer,
Moreover, the louts were much, much stronger,
They washed her clean and gave her a dress
How she looked, is anybody’s guess.
She was led to a room where she would spend the rest of her life,
A girl of twelve followed by a lecherous man of thirty-five…

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Stretch your mental muscles

January 1 seems such a long time ago – remember that was the day you promised yourself you’d start working on a number of things? The annual resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more, drink less …

Most people I know are gung-ho the first month with the excitement and motivation fizzling a little by the end of February. Come March, the New Year smell starts fading and life starts coming in the way of keeping those resolutions. The really resolute ones power on.

A simple Google search shows the following five recurring resolutions topping the lists:

  • Lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Travel

While many people vow to get in shape physically, not many commit to exercising their mental muscles.

What does exercising your mental muscles even mean?

It means expanding your horizons, opening new doors, looking at different possibilities, stretching your mind…It will help you grow as a person. Give you a new outlook on life. And set you on a path to feeling a little more fulfilled. For isn’t that the ultimate goal of any resolution? A sense of accomplishment. Pride. Satisfaction.

There are three simple things you can do to ensure a robust, active, open mind:

  1. Read something new – If you’ve always been a fiction lover, pick up a non-fiction book today. Give it a try. And don’t just read … digest it. Think about it. Look up what you don’t understand. We process different writing styles differently – the premise of fiction is it’s not real; and when it isn’t real it doesn’t really matter that much, does it? It’s entertaining. Non-fiction tends to be more thought-provoking. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the grit and the drama of real life, lap up all the news you can, and read every journal, take the weekend off to indulge in some fantasies. Let your mind embark on a new voyage. Get out of your comfort zone – let those neurons snap new connections.

  2. Change sides – Believe in something staunchly? Ready to debate it to death? Try reversing roles – take the opposite side. I’ve found that the best way to really understand an issue is to be objective and put myself in the adversary’s shoes. Research the subject, gather the information, arm yourself with the various viewpoints, and then figure it out. You might still continue to believe what you originally did, maybe even more strongly, but it’s after you’ve analyzed all aspects of the issue. Go ahead try it – it’ll feel like you’re feasting on an intellectual buffet.

  3. Observe people – there are so many things you can learn about your own behavior simply by observing – not judging – other people. Eye movements, body language, frowns, smiles, laughter, posture. Notice how they converse, the inflections in their voice, the tone, the pitch. See if they’re really paying attention or feigning it. Put yourself under the microscope. Hold a mirror. See through the exterior. Maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself. It’ll give you some food for thought and perhaps even be a good source of entertainment the next time you’re sitting by yourself outside a coffee shop.

It doesn’t cost any (or much) money. It’s easy. And it’s fun.

Just as it’s important to keep your body fit, it’s equally important, if not more so, to keep your mind limber.

Don’t resolve to do it.

Just do it.

Got other tips to broaden your mind and give those muscles a workout?

Do share.

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