This article was prompted by many things, apparently unconnected at the time of each individual occurrence. However, I am sure that they are all connected, in hindsight. And the Universe, in its ever present benevolence, continues to grace me with its beautiful messages.
And there is no rancor, anger or any ill will of any kind in the writing of this article. Absolutely none. What prompts me to say this right at the beginning? Because, when people read some of what is going to be said here, they are going to think that I am upset or angry about something or someone. Far from it. I believe that there are only experiences in life – and ALL of these experiences are opportunities for learning. So, some of you who might feel that I am upset – rest easy, I am not! Actually, I am feeling great because I have learnt some beautiful things through all these experiences.
Many people, especially most of them who are “close” to me, have started calling me by various nick names – and some of them alluding to my being a “guru” of some sort. And whilst most of the times the reference is apparently jocular, somewhere deep inside, it probably isn’t jocular as they would like to think. The truth might be that they are extremely uncomfortable with my messages, and how different I have become from what I used to be! And I used to, until the moment I started writing this (the afternoon of Sunday May 1st, 2016,) get a little perturbed by these references.
I have touched this article many times after starting it – a first for me. Normally, articles are written at one go, and published without much editing or reviewing. I sometimes rue this, because I find some typographical errors when I read them again! I check with the Universe if it is alright to publish, and when I get a “yes” I do. This article I didn’t get permission until now, and ONLY after I had edited it a bit did I get permission to publish it.
I have also been “accused” of chastising and giving feedback and risk being not liked, when all I had to do was to keep quiet and people would like me more. It has also been alluded to that I give unsolicited feedback or advice. I have been told, thankfully only by a couple of people, that I am too uptight, too intense, and too serious and do not know how to enjoy life. More on this later in this article.
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be “graced” by the Universe (Grace = undeserved gift, as was explained by my dear friend Kichu Krishnan) to become more aware. The foundation for this was laid probably in my early childhood – and this is something that has been proven scientifically over years of research. That what happens in one’s childhood forms the basis of how a person develops as an adult. If parents care for and shower love and affection on children, children tend to grow up being caring and loving themselves. There is research that has been conducted on this aspect on lab rats, and on people as well. The parts of the brain associated with caring, loving and being kind develop in early childhood based on how the child is treated. And I was blessed to have enough people around me that showered me with love – and who made me feel extremely special. (Any one with young children, who would like to know more about this, please reach out to me – happy to help in any manner I can.)
And this I believe has been reinforced by a few things my father shared with me. Incidentally, my father has been the primary source of my aspiring to be of use to others, and to help them as much I can. He told me these 3 things:
To get people to do something that is useful for them, and they might not be comfortable with, you sometimes need to be “Unreasonable!”
Always care enough for others and help them as best you can – however, ensure that you keep your values and ethics intact.
If you have decided to help others, then you should not be worrying about winning a popularity contest.
He lived these values and tenets himself, and I might have both consciously and unconsciously modelled him in these areas.
The series of events that led to this article are many. I am listing down the various ones, so that it might help throw some light on how apparently unconnected acts and events are actually connected.
- Reading an article by a respected coach and a person whom I admire and follow.
- A series of interactions, over a period of time, with a few people who had contributed immensely to my growth during a period of life when I did not think well of myself.
- An apparent unconnected event in a social media group of which I am part and in which I decided to share my thoughts on some goings on that I felt were not very savory, and the reactions to that.
- Multiple instances of my giving feedback to people – and using a phrase I always use when giving such feedback – “I am giving unsolicited feedback, and according to me, definitely not unwarranted or uncalled for.”
- A quote that was sent to me by a friend whom I had not been in touch with for a while – about losing people on the path to excellence.
- A message from a stranger whom I had talked to, of my own volition, and offered some advice and suggestions that led to their being cured of a physical ailment, and in getting their important relationships working better.
- And so on – the instances are too many, however, what has been mentioned above would probably give an idea that these are apparently unconnected events that came together on one day!
The first stimulus was an article written by an amazing individual, a respected author had this heading, “If They Don’t Care, Don’t Waste Your Time!” My thoughts when I read this were expressed in a comment I made on the article, reproduced below:
Contrarian point of view – not applied to coaching. If the other person is not “interested” in changing, it is one thing to say they don’t want to change. Another way, that I use, especially with close and loved ones, is an approach that says to me, “I still have not found out how to inspire them to have the willingness to change!” I don’t think that using this approach to everything in life, is appropriate. For example, if a loved one had a substance abuse or addiction issue, would anyone say, they don’t want to change, so let me not waste time and walk away? In that case, it is most important to ensure that one can find a way to “Inspire” the one who does not want to change, to be WILLING to change. I agree that this is MOST needed and useful in “coaching” situations. Unless the client is willing to be coached, there is no point in coaching them. Agree 100% on that.
The second stimulus was the series of interactions I have had with a few people who had contributed immensely to my growth during a period of my life when I did not think very well of myself, and believed myself to be “not as good as others.”
A key theme seemed to emerge from these interactions – that while these persons still loved me dearly, they appeared not comfortable with my approach to life. One of them was of the opinion that I was too intense, not enjoying life, and that I was a “Self discovering, philosophy spouting, Zen seeking, universe connecting Bangalore based goofball with his own unique vocabulary.” 🙂 🙂 I am still smiling as I read that again! Remember, I have already stated right upfront, – no rancor, anger or ill will if any kind.
Another of these persons would always offer their two bits to anything I said – it was almost like, “how could this person be saying these things?” So, if I shared any message of any kind, there would always be a response that to me seemed to be aimed at having the last word. What makes me say that it seemed to me to be aimed at having the last word? Because, on a careful reading of my article or message, it would have ben apparent that what was being conveyed had already been covered! And still the response would come. I came to look at it differently, and thanked the person always. As a lesson learnt many years ago, thanks to my dear friend Kichu Krishnan, and practiced ever since, “I’d rather choose the relationship, than being right!”
A person who was part of a social media group that I was also a part of, decided to remove themselves from the group. And this led to one more instance of my giving unsolicited (definitely not unwarranted according to me) feedback on this, after a bit of time. A change from the norm was that this time feedback was not done privately, as had always been done by me before. This led to an exchange where again, I was told that I was being patronizing and that I was casting aspersions on people. Again, I asked myself, is being right important or the relationship important? I decided that the relationship was far more important and I apologized, unconditionally and sincerely. And learning from Randy Pausch, I said, “I am sorry. It was my fault. How can I make it right?” To the last question, I was asked to go over the entire exchange we had, and factor the learning into my future actions. I went over the interaction multiple times, and gained a fair bit of insights and have changed my behaviour appropriately. And this article is in many ways a result of that.
Thirdly, quite a few people who have known me for a while seem to be extremely uncomfortable with the transformation that has taken place in my thinking and approach. You might ask me, “How do you know this for sure?” The fact is that giving feedback, and asking people to introspect, and to offer advice, is seen as “taking classes” (for those not familiar with Indian English – this is a colloquial reference to chastising someone) for their behaviour. It had become a joke in my friends circle that if someone did something, then chances were high that they were in for some “classes” from me! Why only friends, even family members started believing that I was intent only on making them wrong, and that I always wanted to give them my views! I paraphrase Randy Pausch from his Last Lecture, where he says, “If someone gives you feedback repeatedly, that is because they care! When they stop, it means they have given up!”
And every time I heard something like this, I would be tempted to say, “Chuck it all. Why bother? Let them be!” I used to ask myself, “Can I not keep quiet? Why should I give feedback and advice, especially when not asked? Do I run the risk of being seen as overbearing, patronizing, conceited and the like?” And I would introspect on how I could still do what I was doing, and in a manner that was more inspiring. And every time I went through this, the answer that would come back to me was simple – “Do your duty to the best of your ability! Not everyone might have been graced by the Universe to be able to look at things differently.”
And if I had been graced with that, then it would be very irresponsible and unfair on my part to not do my duty. It was, is, and always will be a choice though. And the guiding light for making the choice, has been this thought – “Who am I to decide if this is helpful to them or not? If my intention is to help for the greater good for all, then I MUST!” It is pertinent to note that many a time, I have been more than firm that I ought not to offer any advice or feedback unless specifically asked for. And every time, things would transpire that I would get a message that I ought to keep giving the feedback and advice.
I looked at this turmoil inside of myself as the fight between the small “i” or ego, and the BIG “I” or the spirit. What could be hurt was ONLY the small “i” and never the Spirit. And therein lies the lesson:
“If I really care, then I ought to find it within me to be inspiring at all times, regardless of whether the recipient is willing to receive my messages or not.”
And at times, I am tempted to say to myself, “I choose not to make the investment in this relationship any further!” However, that only means that I am still on the path towards the nature of the all loving and all accepting Universe – that state of being all loving, and all caring. If I truly were all loving and all caring, like the Universe is, then I would find the strength, and the means to be inspiring. The silver lining in this cloud is that I am aware that I need to grow, until I am always ready, willing and able to offer whatever best I can, to those beings that need it.
And the purpose of this article is not to beat my own drum, or to say how great I am. Very simply, the essence of this article, to me, is to inspire and exhort each and every one of us to be a “true friend” by giving feedback to those we care about. And doing it as inspiringly and sincerely as each of us can.
And it always helps when such feedback is prefaced with telling people, “I care for you, and you matter, and your well-being and happiness are what prompt me to do something that is as uncomfortable for me to say, as it is for you to listen.”
May the Universe continue to grace each and every one of us, with the greatest health, compassion and love at all times and the strength of character to care for others, and to inspire them at all times.