Perspective

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In one of my recent posts, I had written a couple of paragraphs about the difference between school and work and the implications of failing (or screwing up) in both, this didn’t make the cut when I edited the post, because the post was already well over 1000 words.

The reason those unwritten paragraphs still linger in my mind is because I recently heard someone I know say, he doesn’t want to do anything that involves “Hard work”, to be fair these were the words of a naive 18 year old. But it was enough to get me thinking – we as human beings are generally lazy. If there is an option of getting the same results with no hard work v. hard work, most people would immediately chose the former. However, life is rarely (if ever!) that simple.

It is a universal truth that Efforts and Results are correlated. If you want better results, make better efforts. Its simple (not to be confused with easy). Of course, there are external circumstances also that are always in play, but they are external, which are beyond our control (most often). So prudence suggests that we focus on what we can control – which is our effort.

All of this is common sense. no?

Well, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to reiterate it, because often times, we tend to be so caught up in our routine, or our own biases, that we fail to recognize common sense starting us right in the face.

Which brought me to my next question – What is “hard work” and what is “smart work”, other than being the jargons used and made popular by self-help gurus.

Isn’t it all subjective though, a task which would require an hour’s worth of effort for me, may be easily accomplished by someone else in a fraction of the time. or vice versa.

Further, isn’t it also a matter of perspective – Life.

If we constantly tell ourselves that something is difficult, it inevitably makes us miserable by being the most difficult task. If we tell ourselves that we have what it takes to accomplish said task, the completion of it won’t only be easy, it will also leave us feeling pretty great. The trick is in what we tell ourselves.

See how a small shift in perspective changes the process and the outcome.

I write these not because I have read them in self-help books, or heard it from other people, it is all by experience, I used to put a HUGE amount of pressure on myself, and feel like being a lawyer was very “difficult” and involved a lot of “hard work”. But then one day, there was a shift in my perspective. which has definitely resulted in my work being more enjoyable, and one that leaves me feeling productive and pretty pleased with myself.

This is not to say that I never face challenges anymore, or need a learning curve anymore, it only means that I have the trick to quiet the negative self-talk, and use that energy instead to teach myself something new.

Every choice we make either has the potential to enhance or deplete us. And majority of life’s tasks become easier by a simple shift in perspective.

Now how does one change their perspective – here’s how I do it: When confronted with a challenge, or something which scares me, or makes me question my ability, or makes me feel like it would require a lot of hard work or effort-

Step 1 – I stop. I stop doing everything I am doing, take a few deep breaths.

Not enough can be said about the importance and impact of breathing. It is after all the life force, the one common thread that ties us all.

Step 2 – Once my mind is well oxygenated and calm, I automatically feel better and more ready.

Step 3 – The third step which is the most ongoing step – Positive reinforcement and positive self-talk. Acknowledging your own strengths, so that you are confident enough to take on any challenge.

All this may seem very tedious, but after a few times, muscle memory takes over, and you won’t even feel like this is a big task to be done in preparation of facing a new challenge.

I have often had people tell me that I am “Lucky”, that I wouldn’t be able to understand somebody else’s struggle because I have an “easy life”, only going by the parts of my life they get to see (that I let people see), and my first though is, if only you knew. If only you knew the work that has gone into becoming me, the number of years of clueless helplessness and utter confusion that have been my reality, I wouldn’t be called lucky.

Its not luck, but sheer will and action which have made me build a life I love, one which feels as good as it looks.

Again, this is not to say that, this is it, or that this is the best its ever going to get. It is not, if anything I know that I am on my way up, still scaling heights, and far from my potential. And for once, this excites me, to know that the best is really yet to come. Instead of thinking of the future as a scary unknown. Again a simple shift in perspective.

Life, till our very last breath, is always changing, new challenges keep coming our way, new lessons have to be learnt, we have to keep adapting if we have any chance of thriving, and not merely surviving. This is applicable to every single one of us.

Don’t let it discourage you though, it is not all work, for the last couple of hours that I have spent writing this post, I have been seeing butterflies flitting about, through the window in front of me, even now every time I look up from my computer screen, I see them blissfully living out their lives and adding joy to those of us who are lucky enough to see them. Perspective!

Our successes depend on effort, but it is only a matter of perspective to make the most of it while we are on our way to the top, and the sky is the limit.

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Because I like being literal. 🙂

I will conclude this post with a few questions.

Is it possible to succeed, in any field –

  • Without any work or effort; or
  • With constant negative self-talk: or
  • By never seeing the world and this life as a potential of great opportunity and beauty?

Although these are my “Dear Void” questions, please feel free to let me know your thoughts on it.

See you soon.

xo

Another Aha Moment

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One of my biggest Aha moments in the recent past was the realization that when I like something (or someone), I tend to have on rose-tinted glasses which disallows me from spotting red flags. I disregard any warning signs even if they are staring me right in the eyes, I dismiss well-meaning advice, simply because I project my own emotions on it. As a person who believes in good old fashioned hard-work I feel like, if something is worth having, it is worth the effort as well. I relentlessly plod along till I feel depleted in my soul. A lot of wasted time, efforts and disappointment later, its real worth dawns on me and I find myself wondering, what was I thinking? How was I not able to see the situation for what it really was?

There’s a reason why hindsight is 20/20! You have more information looking back, than when you did looking forward.

But the second part of my Aha moment was the fact that Time is finite. Our lives are limited to a number of years on this planet, having these experiences, the human lifespan is not 500 years where we get to keep circling around the same patterns, and playing the same games and realize too late that we have been wasting time living the same patterns.

They say the lessons keep repeating themselves until you learn what it was supposed to teach you. And to me, this feels like my lesson. It feels like the Universe is holding a mirror to my face, like I am meant to realize that I am getting the same patterns because I am yet to learn the lesson these experiences are trying to teach me.

I suppose, when you know better, you do better, and hopefully I get to do that without losing any more precious years.

Until next time.

xo

How to – pick a career

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Picture Source – Google Images

One of the best ways to figure out what you want in life is to start by knowing what you don’t want. This is perhaps the most generic piece of advice that is applicable to any aspect of life.

I remember, about 12 years back, being utterly clueless and confused for many many months before joining Law School. You see, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a lawyer, in fact I always figured I would do something in fashion. I didn’t imagine Law as an option in my remotest thoughts. Yet, here I am, over a decade later, a practicing Corporate Lawyer. I am happy to be one, and at the end of a work day I feel like I have contributed to the world in a small way, and that is a great feeling.

This brings me to Education. I don’t remember being given any sort of relevant advice or inputs through the formal education process regarding career choices.

During my most clueless phase, my organizing skills helped me realize that law could be a very realistic option for me.

This was by no means a small exercise – it took me many days to really know for sure. Here’s what I did:

I started by listing out my interests, activities I liked; my skills – strengths and weaknesses; and finally jobs that I felt like I could see myself doing.

Who did I want to be? What were the possibilities?

I started toying with many ideas – did I want to work in a 9-5 kind of job, did I want to be an entrepreneur and set up my own business. What were my skills to do either of these things?

And every single thing was meticulously written down in a Book and constantly updated and modified as and when new information presented itself.

Once I had a vague idea of who I wanted to be or how I envisioned my life to be after 5 years, I figured, lets be realistic about the next step. What would I choose for my Undergraduate Study. In the Indian context, I knew there were 3 fields of study which were most recognized and respected:

  • Engineering;
  • Medicine; and
  • Law.

Of course there are many many other areas of study, but these are what are known as “Professional degrees”.

Next came the process of elimination – I figured out that Engineering was out of the question because I was horrible at Math; Medicine was not an option because I am a germophobe, the only option left was Law.

For the first time through this exercise, I felt like I was on the right track. I could be a Lawyer. The planning process got more interesting after this – I had to now find out what the best law schools were in my city, prepare for the CLAT (which is the Indian equivalent of LSATs), start reading about the subjects I will be studying at Law School, etc.

I always enjoyed Legal fiction and legal drama on television, so of course I had a very funny and unrealistic idea of what Lawyers do (for the most part).

Then came Law School – stepping into my first class on the first day and then the 5 years that followed, filled with exams, attending classes etc. By the end of 5 years, I only knew 2 things for sure –

  • that Litigation was NOT for me; and
  • that I enjoyed Contract Law.

Even after 5 years of study, I was (for the most part) clueless.

Here’s the dirty little secret, there will always be moments of utter confusion and feeling like you are in over your head, because in life we are constantly leveling up and the rules by which we are meant to play is never given upfront, so my life hack for you is this –

Start with a Plan
On a BIG piece of paper (or a book), start by articulating your confusion, in words that you understand. It need not be fancy or neat or anything, it can even be key-words which you can relate to in your mind at a later time. Using your own words figure out the source of your confusion and turn that into a question. Once you have a question, try to divide it into a few different categories which require solutions.

Research
Once you have a broad idea of what it is you need, you can gather information and add details to your plan. Split your findings by categories where possible. Try to be as detailed as possible.

Brainstorm
Talk to your teachers, parents, friends, siblings, and even extended relatives. You will find that the inputs they give you is far beyond your own. If nothing else, it will help you get different perspectives, or even practical pros and cons by people who have faced them.

And if you find yourself feeling shy or embarrassed to ask for help or inputs, don’t be. Every single person loves to dole out advice, it makes us feel like we can add value to someone else. So don’t worry about appearing foolish or feel embarrassed, if you need help, there are always people who will rise to the occasion and help you. All you have to do is – Ask.

Process of Elimination
By this stage, the information you have gathered will look like a laundry list. So identify your strengths and weaknesses (and really be honest with yourself), your aptitude, etc. and narrow down on the option which most suits your parameters.

Pros and Cons
When you have narrowed your options to about 3 or 4 choices, make a list of Pros and Cons for each of the option and decide on what you can and cannot live with. Which should further narrow down your list to 1 or (maximum) 2 options.

Practical Necessities
At this stage, it is time to get practical, find out if your options require special education or training, if so, what are the requisite scores or find out what kind of tests you will need to take to be eligible. Find different schools, how much it would cost you, student loans, etc.

By now, you will have a workable plan, so the only thing left to do is, go ahead and execute it.

Truth be told, it will be challenging, and will turn out to be a lot more work than you originally thought, but keep persisting, and follow a systematic way to solve each problem that you encounter and you won’t really feel so overwhelmed. Before you know it, you will be helping someone else.

Have you’ve ever been at crossroads about what to do in life? what career to choose? What made you choose what you chose? I would love to hear about it.

xo

Don’t break the Chain

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Is there such a thing as a “Bloggers block”? Because I think I am currently struggling through it. I say “think” since I have been writing anyway, but just extremely unsure of the content.

After the mini-makeover I gave my blog earlier this month, I have been having a rather difficult time to think of things to write about. This is weird because I usually just write what I feel. But lately, it has required a LOT of effort. I suppose it is because certain events have happened recently which have made me want to shut down my emotions for a little while. For now, I’m happy being numb, and doing tasks which don’t require feeling too much.

My work, for example – I can work as a Lawyer, extending support to the stakeholders without getting ruffled. Its not personal. The kind of work which is technical and detail oriented AKA time consuming, which means I can spend days before I suddenly feel the need to stop and address what needs to be addressed.

My attempt at writing anyway, despite the dreaded writers block (or the less glamorous emotional block) is because of something I once read, which was Jerry Seinfeld’s advice when he was asked by a young comic named Bras Issac if he had any tips for young comedians. Here’s what he said to the young comic –

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

Sage advice, really!

And something that has stayed with me for many years.

It applies to anyone – to create a pattern of consistency and devote time to write (or work on developing your own craft). Every day. Without breaking the chain.

After all, it takes years and years of efforts to be an overnight success!

So I figured, consistency is Key. To build anything sustainable, consistently developing and refining it is the ONLY way. And another thing – no one gets to skip this step. It could work sometimes, but consistent action IS the only key to any kind if sustainable success. Life goals should hardly be as limited as “to survive”, it should be “to thrive”.

In the content driven age we live in today, we are surrounded by people who make it look so easy. Showcasing ideas which are so clever, you wish you had thought of them first.

Everything I want to say might have been said already, but I’m going to say them anyway.

xo