Categories
Fiction Mind Relationships Women

The Productivity Story

The Productivity Story

May 19, 2020

“Are you productive today?”

I asked the famous literary fiction writer; she promptly said, “Yes.” She had spent a considerable part of her day gazing at a blank word document on her laptop screen. In those hours, she had imagined multiple shades of a widow— the singlehood of the widow mixing, on her mental palette, with the plurality of biases against polygamy. The surging voice inside her had clamored for an opening line for her new novel. The writer’s block had lingered in her wordlessness.

She finds the journey of struggling with words quite meaningful. Meditative. The fruitful process of visualizing, creating the complex emotions of a character for hours is the preparation she needs to type her first word.

Those seemingly unproductive hours explain why all her books are bestsellers. How she wrote seven books by the age of 43. Why she has earned the reputation of an insanely productive literary genius. Paradox?

Paradox.

She has disciplined herself to be focused on a task, to persist even when there are no tangible results. Aware of the “just-one-time” trap, she distances herself from the temptation to check her phone—“for a minute,” “just once”—until she reaches the finish line. The instances when one minute extended to few good hours, she remembers. What does the phone have to offer her? Attention so seductive? She knows the deception that attention is, and talks herself out of gratifying her impulses.

So that she isn’t defeated by her fragile willpower when words refuse to cooperate, she keeps her desk free of distractions. The internet is switched off, the phone sleeps in another room. Out of sight, out of mind. A large peanut butter jar stationed on the desk caters to her food requirements. The rule is clear: no one disturbs her unless unavoidable.

After her recent divorce, a spiral of negative emotions ruined her ability to concentrate on writing. She wondered how a self-dependent woman like her became a slave of her own emotions. The fear of failing again in a relationship consumed her mind for days, leaving her with little mental space to pay attention to writing. Dealing with her emotions was no longer an option. In her daily journal, she wrote about them, their behavioral pattern; traced their roots as far as she could go. She identified herself as an airport, a temporary halt, where her emotions arrive at and depart from. With all the ruthlessness she could summon, she accepted them. She doubted their permanence and confirmed the importance of her work. They gradually lost their control over her.

Alongside writing, the single mother teaches a creative writing program. When she started teaching, she found it difficult to prioritize her day. Conceptualizing the classes, reviewing script submissions, writing every day, meeting literary agents, attending promotional tours, taking care of her family, et cetera. She resorted to multitasking. Reviewing scripts while spending time with her daughter. Absent in her presence. Neither could she enjoy her parenting time, nor could she do justice to teaching. The growing sense of dissatisfaction within her drove her to simplify her style of work.

“One thing at a time did I start doing. With 100% attention.” I noticed how sincerely she attended me. Her phone lying on its face didn’t own its owner. A deviation from the other celebrities I had interviewed.

She works less, achieves more.

“Multitasking is the common cold of productivity.” She showed me the note she had written in her journal. Red pen. Red journal.

“Unitask, Baby! I have taught myself how to live by this principle.” With gusto she uttered.

I couldn’t resist. “Where do you find the hope to write?”

“Hope? I find. In the sentence at a loss of words. In the wisdom of the young. In the asymmetry of perfection. In the poor cousin of freedom. In the You of YouTube. In the grapes, sweet and sour. In the choice between right and right. In the reality of fiction. In the eyes of an imaginary child. In the letter one wrote to no one.” She gently stroked her earrings.

“Hope, you ask? I find. In the answers not found. In the slow haste. In the misfits. In the rejections. In the brushed-away words. In the celebration of acceptance. In the paradoxes. In the toothless smile. In the borrowed law. In the doting parent one can’t ever be.” She leaned forward.

“Hope, I tell you. I find. In the faith that humanity is still within our budget.”

She knows how to get under the skin.

“Any more questions?” She grinned. Ready for her dinner date with a lawyer much younger than her.

My eyes were feasting on her aesthetically designed home. Small libraries divided the cavernous hall into six blocks.

“Is reading or writing your favorite habit?” I got up, ready to leave.

“Neither. Running. I started running when I was 11. I wouldn’t have known the joy of getting into a flow had it not been for running.” She tapped on her knees.

The quintessential question—“Any advice for those who are trying to crack the secret of productivity?” I had to ask.

“Flow.” That vehemence in her response.

Share on email
Email
Categories
Mind

The Life Forward

The Life Forward

May 15, 2020

You might have heard about “The Life Starter.” The point at which you decide to take responsibility of your life.

To live a life you would look back at with no regrets, you must have few principles to live by.

Our morals are mostly loose and easily lost in challenging times. When fine isn’t our sign. When fear is our wear. When hope is walking on a tight rope. To see clearly through light and dark, you need to have your eyes powered by few values so that your core is tight enough to fight the plight.

How do you identify those values? They stem from what frequently leaves your soul sore.

Do you remember? In a state of rage, you were no longer the sage. Betrayed your resume and costume. The delta between the rage and the sage is what you repeatedly game to tame but blame on someone’s name. The ill feeling you get from the difference between how you want to behave and how you actually behave. That delta is a hint of what your values could be.

Do you treat everyone with a baseline respect? If not, how do you feel when you behave disrespectfully? Bad? Then, one of your values could be to treat people well.

Take a pen and paper. Have a difficult dialogue with yourself. Write your values.

When everything else falls apart, you still have your values. With great dignity, you live by them.

Share on email
Email
Categories
Mind

The Life Starter

The Life Starter

May 12, 2020

Time quietly slips out through the unchecked items on your to-do list. Chasing productivity becomes an unproductive race. Developing a good habit seems to be a near-impossible task. You find it difficult to reason with the critical inner audience who knows how easily you get swayed by distractions. Trapped in guilt, you make another fresh start but fall back into the same pattern. The cycle repeats itself. You get closer to what you want to run away from. You are stuck at the same place.

Frustrated, you dial the seductive drug—motivation. It gets you temporarily high and leaves you on standby. You desperately crave for more of it and try to find it in quotes, stories, talks, videos, etc. Passionately, you keep on hunting on your smartphone’s screen for another kick. In those insecure moments, you wish it responded to your feelings. When the mind is less irrational, you mentally put together those hours you have spent on seeking pleasure and motivation. You understand how much of your life you have already wasted.

Now that the realization occurred to you, what choice do you have anyway?

You have many—blame your boss, curse luck, order two large pizzas online, badmouth the government, watch a new series at one go, stalk your crush on social media, smoke a packet of cigarettes, masturbate more frequently, play the victim card, read books for the sake of reading books, etc.

The best of all—patiently wait for a miracle to happen. Do nothing.

Or, you take complete responsibility of your life. Rather than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, you seek pain and avoid pleasure.

You start right now, my friend.

Break the self-destructive pattern. Once and for all.

Share on email
Email
Categories
Mind Relationships

The Deal

The Deal

May 08, 2020

It has been a year or so since I conducted a session for a family—a young man, his father, and his terminally ill mother. The son knew that he might get the same genetic disorder from his mother, going by the family history. We met a month before the son would leave his home for higher studies.

The lady met me despite her severe physical limitations. Her speech was affected but still she spoke. Not only spoke but also bantered with her family members. They were more than happy to reciprocate. Jokes, not tears, filled the room.

When death knocks on the door, what, if not love, could possibly replace fear? What could possibly inspire one to look for self-improvement at that stage of life?

I still can’t get over the intense love in their unadulterated conversation.

“…

Mother: He doesn’t use cream. I keep on telling him every day. His skin is dry. Please ask him to apply cream daily.

Son: She doesn’t walk around the house. The doctor asked her to. She doesn’t listen to anyone. If she walks, I will apply cream.

…”

Deal.

The highest form of love.

To all the mothers: Thanks for loving us so much!

Share on email
Email
Categories
Leadership Mind Organizational Behaviour

The Two People

The Two People

April 29, 2020

You reveal what you hide when you need to hide it the most. Long suppressed and hidden, the darkness within you oozes out of the concealed pores underneath your light, flawless make-up. Your face of authenticity becomes feeble in comparison to the authentic mask of the dark. The ugly person inside you peeps out, giving you away.

Like everyone else, you have a side you dislike about yourself. The more you dislike the truth, the more you try to keep it away from public view. You start denying the existence of this part so strongly that it becomes an independent, rebellious entity in itself. Rather than your controlling it, it starts controlling you. You feel intimidated by its existence but can’t eliminate it either. What choice do you have?

Let the two people—the beautiful and the ugly; the good and the bad; the one that lusts for appreciation and the other that has the I-don’t-care-what-you-think attitude; the original and the duplicate; the dogmatic and the openminded—that you are accept each other. By accepting the ugly person, you nullify its power on you and create possibilities of making it your source of strength. How our weaknesses birth our strengths is a telling paradox.

Pawan, a partner at a boutique consulting firm, had deep insecurities and an obsessive need to hide them. If he noticed the slightest of change in people’s facial expressions during his interactions, he would feel worried about the impression he would have created. His overconfidence would often come in conflict with his hidden insecurity. His efforts to appear confident would have the reverse effect on his colleagues, who, by then, knew how to leverage his insecurities. They would throw a doubtful expression at him, maintain a strategic silence, or praise other partners to disturb his peace of mind. To be disliked or considered less was his nightmare, and to please them, he would dole out a freebie, bonus, promotion, or leave, depending on his insecurity quotient on that day. It reached a peak as he started spending his own money to buy people’s approval. When his bank balance took a massive hit, further worsened by no progress in his career, he realized that he had to stop. Stop did he but relapsed in a week, neutralizing all the confidence he had built by resisting his insecurities. It didn’t take him long to identify his self-destructive patterns.

Though Pawan was aware of his problem, it cost him a major setback to acknowledge his deep insecurities. We worked together to enable his insecurity to be friends with his outer confidence. Pawan, over a period of 16 months, channeled his insecurities into creating extraordinarily rare output at work. With rigorous practice, he transformed his tendency to read expressions into a powerful capacity to objectively empathize with people. He earned recognition and respect.

Pawan still feels insecure but now this insecurity fuels value creation for him.

 

*Name has been changed to protect the identity.

Share on email
Email
Categories
Mind Relationships

The Mother and the Ladies

The Mother and the Ladies

December 24, 2019

They were in love. I could see that in the pink flower placed neatly in her wavy hair and in the matching colour scheme both of them wore to the early-morning session. Together they seemed carefully crafted to be framed but not to be posted on social media, lest love be robbed of itself. Certainly, they, unlike those who don’t believe in the institution altogether, would say yes to the idea of marriage. After all, they were holding hands, an unconscious gesture that seemed too appropriate to be inappropriate after celebrating 25 years of marriage and parenting two lovely children.

Good Morning, Madam. Good Morning, Gentleman. How may I help you today?

“Good Morning. It is about my son. He is 20. I am not liking the way he looks at ladies. The way he looks at the helpers at our home and when we go to restaurants to eat, the way he looks at the ladies around. It is disturbing.” The lady was disturbed by her own words. Her husband affectionately handed her a bottle of mineral water.

Isn’t this natural?

“My husband and I thought so at first, but it is not only about staring at ladies. It is about where he focusses, where his eyes go, and how he does that. Last week, we were in a temple in South India and the ladies were standing on one side and the men on the other side. After all, a temple. There also! It was embarrassing for both of us.” She exhaled. The empty water bottle made a crumbling sound.

She wasn’t ready to buy a well-defended social construct. This mother is a ray of hope in a world where toxic masculinity is celebrated at the expense of the dignity of not only women but also countless men who aren’t perceived as “man enough” or refuse to “man up.”

Hope, nonetheless.

After a long, heartfelt discussion, they left holding each other’s hands.

Love, truly.

Share on email
Email
Categories
CEO Mentoring Mind Relationships

The CEO and the Bird

The CEO and the Bird

December 24, 2019

His words were hiding beneath his unquiet eyes. Unable to decide whether to set those words free or hold them a little longer, he took a hurried sip of the calming hot coffee. His eyes, which were trained to radiate confidence, feared that he might seem weak if he had revealed his hope. His humane hope was visibly shadowed by his logical fear. That hope won for the first time in nearly five decades, after an extraordinary battle that required him to swallow his own pride along with the last sip of the coffee.

The delight of making a decision, without using Excel sheets and frameworks, brewed a childlike joy in him and wiped away the veneer of plastic confidence. He looked relaxed in his vulnerability.

“I need a partner. I feel lonely.” He spoke as though he protested. The world in his eyeballs—shadowed by uneven eyelashes—seemed intentionally unfair towards him.

Why all of a sudden? I asked.

There was a tough silence in the room. His pride was inappropriately touched.

He spoke with a sudden clarity.

“A few months back, I bought a blue bird. Every day, before leaving for work, I would personally prepare her food and place it inside her nest.”

Nice.

“But she wouldn’t eat much. I couldn’t understand why.”

Oh.

“Then, one morning, I waited after placing the food in front of her. I whistled. She gently looked at me and started eating. Occasionally she raised her eyes, flaunted her beautiful beak and tail, and continued eating.”

That’s beautiful.

“You see, she needed someone to witness her life.”

Witness? As in?

“I could see myself in her. The desire to be seen and heard. At the end of the day, when I return home, I feel a strong urge to share my fame and name, my little wins, and my minor disappointments with someone—with a person. Not with Netflix. I need someone to witness my life.”

Moisture glittered in his eyes and radiated warmth. Those words were finally released. Finally spoken.

Sans the trained confidence, the CEO was truly confident.

Share on email
Email