Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.
Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party several months in advance, just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.
I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter.
Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?
Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame.
- The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously.
- The second is to guard against storms.
To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.
Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement.
But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive.
Just getting better from current level s feels good.
If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.
Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.
There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.
You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever.
No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.
One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity.
If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worke d up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.
I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.
Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book.
Some IITians kill themselves over low grades how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life.If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.
Disappointment' s cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal.
After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me fi ve years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved - Movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly.
"Seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result" at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan - I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.
Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark.
Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.
There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.
I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.
Executive presence is easy to spot, yet tough to define.
Clearly, leaders seem to have this quality in abundance. Having a better
executive presence is closely linked to rapid promotions and attracts positive
attention and inspires others around you. While it may seem hard to acquire,
focusing on the following will help enhance your executive presence:
Appearance: At work, your physical presence conveys both
professionalism and confidence. Besides clothes, neat work habits add to your
Body language: Direct eye contact, firm handshake and swift
body movements enhance visual impact. Posture helps too, as walking and sitting
upright conveys authority with a dash of dignity.
Maintaining Calm: Leaders know that remaining calm in the
eye of a storm highlights their ability to manage interruptions and
work-related stresses with ease.
Communication: As words add weight, good communication
skills are extremely important. Leaders are able to present to diverse
audience, connect with their listeners at a personal level and command respect.
Listening skills: Leaders know that displaying good
listening skills shows genuine interest and humility and helps make an
emotional connect. Also, it shows their ability to hear conflicting views and
listen to feedback.
Voice: Conveying your message with conviction and clarity is
found in abundance in both business and political leaders. Varying the tone,
volume and pace to captivate their audience, effective use of pauses and
emphasising important words, all help maintain audience interest
Did you hear the new Tanglish (Tamil &
English) song "Why this Kolaveri Di" ? In case not, 'have a chill pill from your busy
schedule @ Kolaveri D <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR12Z8f1Dh8>i
(YouTube HD Video)
This unreleased song is going viral these days. It has got views of more than 17 Million on
YouTube, hottest search keyword at Google and the most talked about topic at
Here are a few lessons we learn from Kolaveri Di
1. Be a Trendsetter If you are a trend setter, then people try
to copy you and follow the lines set by you. Seniors in any organisation should
be trendsetters! If you believe in something that you are good at, keep doing
the work. Innovation at work always helps create new benchmarks and takes an
organisation to maturity levels. Overnight success takes decades to happen
2. Under Promise, Over Deliver If you take a close look at the lyrics of the
song, it calls itself a "flop song", reducing one's expectations but
the feet tapping music bound by lucid lyrics gives it the jazz it requires. One
of the key mantras for any service oriented organisation.
3. Think Out-of-the-Box There is a 90% chance that you didn’t hear this
song first on TV (the balance 10% didn’t have internet connections). Traditional
medium like MTV or Channel V or any radio channel was not used. It was
out-of-the-box thinking to promote the song through Youtube. A song posted on YouTube has created so much
buzz through shares and WOM (Word-of-mouth publicity) measures, nothing could
stop it from going viral. Investing almost nothing this campaign achieved huge
success! Think Guirella! (it really helps!)
3. K.I.S.S. At the end of the day, it’s a simple song
that everybody can relate to, that’s exactly why it works. Keep it simple,
silly! People's lives are complicated already, don't over complicate them.
Keeping things simple is also an art, an organisation should master.
4.Talent has to be recognized Talent is not always about being beautiful
or show-off, it has to be recognized. The Kolaveri song is composed by
debutante Anirudh Ravichander. His talent is recognized to the extent that the
music promotion label is under Sony Music banner. Sometimes we tend to judge
people by the image he carries and we forget about the important aspect of
exploring the person.
Are you a person who says, “I will do whatever it takes to be successful at work”? If so, I would encourage you to continue reading.
A stereotypical day of a working professional would be along the lines of- a painstaking commute to work in the ‘always backlogged’ roads, a team meeting or two, constantly checking emails, working on project tasks for the day, taking a few breaks, making a few phone calls and the same grueling commute back home at an insane hour of the night. After this, all you are left with is – stress, anger, frustration, fatigue and the most important of all, a big paycheck.
What has been written above has become the norm and the worst part is, you have learnt to live with it!!!. In such cases, the term ‘work-life balance’ barely makes sense, because of being unfairly flexible at work and inflexible with others.
Family, Friends and Work are the three most important things that we claim to care about. From a mathematical outlook, these three form the sides of a triangle. To reach the pinnacle in whatever you are set out to achieve, balancing the three sides is very important.
If this is your 24 hours: Work & Commute = 14 hours, Sleep = 8 hours, Getting ready to work = 2 hours, your work is consuming your life!!!. The family and friends sides of the triangle are no longer in the picture and your career is a simple, predictable, no-fun straight line. !!!! . There is a famous saying, “What goes around, comes around”. If you don’t have time for your family and friends today, the same will come back to you sooner or later where they will have no time for you and that could be devastating.
I’ve observed and learnt how crucial this work-life balance could be and its impact on normalcy in one’s life, during my career in Mumbai. From the daily-waged workers to professionals, people in the United States have set a great example to the rest of the world on mastering the work-life balance and how flexible they can be. These are my simple observations, learning’s and recommendations.
When your boss asks – How flexible are you? – Be honest and set the right expectations. If you or a family member has commitments that would prevent you to work beyond a certain hour or over the weekends, tell him so.
Hard workers and smart workers are in mixed proportions in any project/company. Be the smart worker who can execute and deliver his tasks within a normal 8 working hours for which you are paid for.
Long hours at work are required when you accept a task that does not belong to you or is not your area of expertise. Analyze your core strengths and weaknesses and accept work based on that.
Effectively estimate your tasks. The benefit is twofold – your schedule for the week or month becomes predictable to you/your family/your friends and your project manager.
Communicate – Be it a visit to the doctor, a friend’s wedding, a birthday, your kids parent-teacher meeting, an anniversary or just a casual night in the town – Plan it accordingly, inform your reporting manager that you will not be available during the planned date and time.
A project deadline that will prevent you from attending to your family can very well be taken care of by another resource within the company. But, no one can take your place in the family.
Unless you have signed-up for a 24hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year job, do not entertain work related calls beyond a certain hour of the day and switch off your mobile phones over the weekends and holidays.
Minimize socializing with co-workers. After a tiring day at work, if you have a cup of coffee with a co-worker and discuss the mutually interesting topic – work!!! , the impact of stress just doubled.
Listen to good music, talk to your friends and family (using your personal time) and give them a sense of belonging that you are there for them. What will reciprocate is simply beautiful and loving.
Leave work at work. Do not discuss or bring work to your home or when you are on a flight/train to your vacation destination. Shelve your laptop, BlackBerry and get off the communication radar. Now you will have all the time on earth to spend with your family during the vacation or the evening.
Break the norm – If you have set an example to your employer that you are available 24×7, it is never too late to break the barrier, set new expectations and regain control of your life. Go for it!!
Wishing you a well deserved, balanced work and life!!. Cheers.