Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gratitude: Absolute vs. Relative

Gratitude: Absolute vs. Relative
Have been reading a lot of text on spirituality etc. over the last few months and a consistent theme that comes up is around gratitude - how gratitude is the bedrock of happiness, how gratitude turns what we have into enough, how gratitude helps keep things in perspective even when things are not going so well... and that has led me to contemplate and explore the notion of absolute vs. relative gratitude. In my opinion, relative gratitude is much easier to cultivate and often takes the form of "I have X, which is so much more than someone else, and for that I'm grateful" OR "My situation is bad but their situation is worse and, for that, I'm grateful" ... relative gratitude by its very nature and definition, brings a comparison element into gratitude which, to me, is cheating yourself of feeling awash in the joy of gratitude. And, additionally, being in relative gratitude mode exposes you to the risk of unfavorable comparison - just as easy for your insides to trick you into a "I have less than X" as it is for you to convince yourself that you should be grateful because you have more than Y!
Absolute gratitude, on the other hand, is much harder to cultivate and it requires being in a constant state of thankfulness for whatever is in your life (good, bad, ugly) as every event, circumstance, person that you come across is presenting you an opportunity to learn, grow, evolve. Absolute gratitude takes the form of "all is well", "I am blessed", "I am whole", "I am fortunate", "I am in abundance" without regard to anyone else's lot or situation. 3 quotes that I read recently that really resonated with me.
1. The only time you need to look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough.
2. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday
3. Comparison is the thief of joy
So, which attitude of gratitude are you cultivating? Would welcome comments/thoughts on this post!


Monday, January 19, 2015

The increasing value of a human life ... when sick or dead?

The provocative title is a raw thought ... in light of my wife's grandfather passing a few days ago.  A great, humble man who lived a long and full life to the age of 97 ... a man I've had the privilege of knowing for the last 10 years - a giant among us - full of love, spirit, enthusiasm, generosity... RIP Nanaji.  Thank you for all you've taught us... despite the sadness of his passing, we are focusing on celebrating his life and his legacy.  I am super thankful that I got to see him a few weeks ago and spend some quality time with him.

Back to the question in the title of this post... why do we scramble to be at someone's bedside when they are critically sick?  why do we scramble and rush to someone's funeral?  Feels kinda odd given that most of us don't show the same level of urgency when someone is healthy and well.  Is the rush to be at someone's bedside when they're near-death an acknowledgement of the limited time we have with them?  Feels kinda odd given that our time with each other is inherently limited.  We're not immortal, the clock's always turning so why then do we not make time for the people we love while they're still healthy and alive and we're healthy and alive?  Feels kinda odd that the value someone holds to us seemingly increases in times of death and distress.  Why not bring urgency to express the love we feel, to give of ourselves, to be present, to give our time while we still have the opportunity? So, make that call, make that trip, do what you can while you still have the chance because, unfortunately, later could turn into never.  Ask yourself if you're ok living with the regret of leaving something unsaid, of not having been able to have that last conversation, that last visit only because you chose not to make it a priority.  Ask yourself whether it's better to celebrate in life together or commiserate in death?

If you're reading this post, I urge you to pick up the phone and call someone you love and tell them that.  Or go show up at their doorstep.  Or write them an email... that would be a wonderful tribute to our Nanaji and the way he lived his life.  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What are we teaching our kids?

... something I've been pondering about for a few days (and off-and-on since the birth of our daughter) ... what does the world look like from her perspective?  What does she see when I do the things I do (or not do the things I don't!) - how does she process information?  How does she think about emulating?  The list of questions goes on... one particular item that I really wonder about is how our kids process a parent's constant and incessant "busy-ness".  In modern-day society, I find that parents are burdened (or choose to) take on everything - work, home, social commitments etc. mean a jam-packed schedule and non-stop activity ... and all the kid likely sees is a blur of motion - seeing their parents and other adults rush through life at warp speed - stuck in a never-ending work-home-cook-clean-drive-attend cycle.  Parents/adults having to do it all (or choosing to do it all) - work, cook, clean, take care of the yard, take care of the kids etc. etc. - and I really wonder if the kids start to accept this non-stop motion as "normal" and acceptable ... and then they grow up and emulate what they saw as children and get stuck in the same rut?  Pretty much everyone I know who is busy (or chooses to be busy) complains about "how busy they are?", "how overwhelmed they are?", "how stuck they are?" and I really worry about the role model we're setting for future generations.  If being busy is the new normal, where is the time for the simple pleasures of life?  where is the time for true human connection?  where is the time for reflection?  where is the time for personal growth?  where is the time for pursuing a hobby?  I can't answer those questions for anyone other than myself and as a near full-time dad for the last 18 months, it has been amazing to have the ability to pause and truly be in the moment - the joy of watching our daughter grow up, the joy of being connected with her, the joy of doing what we'd like to when we'd like to instead of being tethered to the hands of the clock - it has been a mind-boggling blessing!  I hope that our daughter is learning that the "slow" pace of life is as much a viable option as the "rushed" pace of life is!  Time is all we have and by honoring it and following our heart and intuition instead of the human-invented clock can be an absolutely amazing journey!  So free up your calendar, say no to social commitments, stop to smell the flowers and go w/ the flow instead of scheduling every last minute of time available to you!  You're a human be-ing, not a human do-ing!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Leaving home...

Was feeling morbid a few days ago and penned the following...

"Leaving home..."

What will you do when death comes knocking?

Will you man up and go smiling
Or will you go meekly with a whimper?

Will you leave with regrets and promises unkept?
Or will you leave with contentment in your heart?

Will you leave with resolutions unmet?
Or will you leave with all dreams chased?

Will you leave with a life that promised but didn't quite deliver?
Or will you leave having eked out every last drop of juice from the magnificent fruit that life is?

Will you leave with unexpressed love?
Or will you leave with the true depths of your love known to all?

Will you leave with friendships abandoned?
Or will you leave with friendships thriving?

Will you leave with a lot of money?
Or will you leave with a lot of experiences?

Will you leave with unforgiven grudges?
Or will you leave with a heart full of forgiveness?

Will you leave behind nothing but material possessions?
Or will you leave with a legacy that truly outlives you?

Will you leave without having asked for forgiveness?
Or will you leave having atoned for your sins?

Will you leave with the regret of what could've been?
Or will you leave with the comfort of having always given it your all?

What will you do when death comes knocking?

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Morning cuddles"... a short poem about my mornings with Aiyana

You lie next to me with your oh-so-innocent face
Together our bond creates a magical space

Your hand on my face trying to figure out why my stubble is so rough
My hand on your face trying to figure out how your face feels just like powder puff

You look into my eyes with a soul-searching gaze
I look right back telling you silently how my love for you has me in a perpetual daze

You put your little feet on my big tummy
And I give thanks that this is exclusive daddy time, without mummy! :-)

You converse with your coo's, aaa's and your never-ending eee's
I respond right back in "baby-ish" and have never felt more at peace

Time literally comes to a standstill as we silently communicate our thoughts
Who knew one could have such an extended conversation with tots

As your breathing slows, your eyes become heavy and you sleep with a peaceful smile
I give thanks for being a dad and think about how, for you, I would always gladly go many-a-mile

May our love, friendship and bond continue to bloom eternal just like your name*
Fatherhood is a true blessing, I exclaim!
* Aiyana is a native american name that means "eternal bloom"

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pitstop 2: Riviera Maya, MX - scuba diving and conversations w/ Aiyana about fear

After spending a fantastic 8 days in Cancun proper, we headed about 45 miles south to the Riviera Maya region of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula - an area rich in culture and heritage as it comprised a significant portion of the Mayan lowlands (although the Mayan culture did extend south through present-day Guatemala and Honduras).  The region is dotted with pristine beaches, archaelogical sites (incl. Chichen-Itza and Tulum), and Cenotes (sinkholes filled with fresh-water).  Our "home" was the Fairmont Mayakoba - an absolutely stunning property with amazing amazing service!  Loved it!

Coming up on our 3rd week of unemployment, we were beginning to settle into a decent routine - revolving mostly around Aiyana's continous Wake-eat-play-poop-sleep cycle! :-) - it certainly felt pretty amazing to be "free" and one of the most amazing experiences that I'm having on pretty much a daily basis is uninterrupted quality time with Aiyana - time to bond, talk, dance, listen to music, cuddle, kiss, snuggle ... being a dad is an absolutely amazing feeling!  Aiyana is developing quite the personality as she becomes more and more interactive - laughing, grabbing, expressing displeasure, making all kinds of sounds, clapping - such a joy to see her grow up right in front of our very own eyes.  How great to be able to experience all this without the interruption of everyday work! :-) ... now, if only I could figure out a way to do this full-time, all-the-time!  ... seriously though, working on some scenarios that will give us more "control" over our time which I've always believed is our most precious commodity (and non-renewable at that!)

Partway through the trip, we were joined by Anshu's cousins from New York - they have a 10-month old daughter and it was totally amazing to watch them interact and play (see pics below!) ... had a great time hanging with Shree, Taaniya, Jay, Neal and Anya!  Special shoutout to my "boys" Jay and Neal - enjoyed something very simple with them - a "tripli" - 3 of us riding one bike around the Fairmont grounds - made me wonder why we consciously or unconsciously forgo the simple things that can bring us a great deal of joy!

Moving on ... one of my bucket list items (#61 to be precise) was to get certified as a scuba diver - and what better time to pursue this than off the coast of the Riviera Maya - home to the Mesoamerican barrier reef - the largest reef in the Northern Hemisphere and the 2nd largest reef in the world.  After doing some initial research, I found a dive shop in the town of Playa Del Carmen (about 15 minutes south of where we were living), showed up and got started on my certification.  A 3-day course involving 5 confined water dives (in a pool), 4 open water dives (in the ocean) and 8-hours of classroom study.  It was quite the experience - the short story is that I got certified as a scuba diver at the end of those 3 days, the long story is that it was harder than I thought - what with all the equipment; the multiple variables involved - rate of breathing, buouyancy, weights, weather, water current; and not to forget the fact that you're 30-40 feet underwater and breathing through a mouthpiece! :-) ... here's the conversation that Aiyana and I had about my scuba diving adventure!

Me: Aiyana, daddy has always wanted to become certified as a scuba diver so I'm going to sign-up for a scuba course.  You know it's actually item #61 on my bucket list.
Aiyana: That sounds like a lot of fun dad, why haven't you done it so far?
Me: I've been busy beta - work etc. - you know how it is?
Aiyana: Actually, I don't.  Have you been really busy or did you just choose not to make it a priority?
Me: Hmm ... now that you ask me, it's probably more the latter.
Aiyana: Hmm ... so the next time you are about to make an excuse saying "you've been busy", how about you say "I chose not to make it a priority" and see how that works.
Me: Ok - deal - I can already see how that might change how I assign priorities - thanks doll for the good idea!

After the 1st day of dives (confined water - in the pool) - our conversation continues...

Aiyana: How was it dad?
Me: Loved it - it was such a cool feeling to be able to breathe underwater - the instructor made me go through many different exercises/drills.  Good stuff - although, to be honest, I am a bit nervous about tomorrow's open water dives.
Aiyana: Cool!  Don't be nervous dad - anytime you try something new, some nervousness is to be expected - I am trying so many things in my life for the first time since I'm so young but instead of feeling nervous, I always feel excited at every new thing!  So, how about you focus on the excitement instead of the nervousness.  You've got nothing to worry about!
Me: Hmm ... we'll see

After a night spent dreaming about diving, I headed into Day 2 - scheduled for 2 open water dives.  Dive 1 was a really bad dive - I was scared (yes, I was!) and consequently everything was affected - my breathing was too shallow, my buoyancy was out-of-control, my sense of direction was messed up - I guess I let the fact that I was 40 feet underwater and breathing through a tank on my back mess me up - reflected on how I might've felt before having Aiyana and I think I would've felt differently - a lot of times I find myself thinking about what impact my decisions and behavior might have on Aiyana.  Dive 2 was much better - I was able to get over the initial nerves and consequently the overall dive went much better!  Headed back "home" in the evening and Aiyana was full of quesitons for me.

Aiyana: How did it go dad - fun, right?
Me: It was fun but your dad was scared and nervous!
Aiyana: But I told you to focus on the excitement and not the nervousness!
Me: Yes, you did but somehow I let my head get messed up!
Aiyana: Hmm ... ok, well what did you see down there?  I've heard it's really a different world.
Me: I didn't see much - I was too busy checking my pressure gauges to see how much air I had left in my tank.  The instructor pointed out some flounder and some lionfish but I scarcely paid attention to those!  I was too busy wanting to get the dive over with.  I'm not sure this diving thing is for me!
Aiyana: Oh, come on dad - you've always wanted to do this so be positive and just go for it.  Don't focus on the things that could go wrong, focus on the things that will go right!  I know you can do this!
Me: We'll see!

After another night of dreams about diving, I headed into the final day - 2 more open water dives with drills/exercises/skill tests baked into each.  I was feeling more confident thanks to Aiyana's encouragement and decided to let me rule my thoughts vs. the other way around!  Dives 3 and 4 were fantastic - I was much calmer, more relaxed, saw the amazing underwater beauty - experienced "weightlessness", saw lionfish, octopus, flounder, sting rays and all manner of colorful tropical fish swimming right alongside me - exhilarating!  That evening, Aiyana schooled me yet again! :-)

Aiyana: Dad!  Tell me how much you loved diving!  You did, right?
Me: I did Aana (my petname for her) - you were right, I focused on the things that would go right vs. the things that could go wrong.  I tamed my fear.  I opened myself to the possibilities and everything went smoothly.  I saw an amazing array of underwater creatures and experienced the vastness of the universe.  I felt a great sense of exhilaration at the end of my dives and am so proud to have earned my open water diver certification.  I could not have done it without your and mama's encouragement!
Aiyana: See, I told you "you could do it"!  Why else do you think it was so much better?
Me: I also visualized each dive before doing it - and thought about all the various aspects of the dive - getting on the boat, getting the equipment on, getting into the water, descending to the bottom - those were 2 minutes well-spent - imagining the outcome!
Aiyana: Awesome dad!  I can't wait to grow up and go scuba diving with you!

Life Manifesto (ever-evolving; in present tense and not future tense):
I live a life that minimizes regret. 
I strive to be passionate in all areas of my life. 
I strive to be a love magnet and a love transmitter. 
I dream big. 
I do not kid or cheat myself. 
I own my things vs. letting them own me. 
I am grateful. 
I take the risks needed to chase my dreams. 
I do not rely on the crutch of excuses that prevent me from living the life I want. 
 
I constantly see the beauty in everyday people, places and things.
I stay flexible and adaptable especially when things don't go exactly according to plan
I smile and resolve issues by being cheerful vs. being agitated and angry
* I pursue experiences that I'm afraid of as a method of self-development
* I visualize positive outcomes
* I rule my thoughts

And finally some more pics from our trip...

A panoramic shot of 5th avenue in Playa Del Carmen

5th avenue in Playa Del Carmen


My darlings in the hotel lobby - Aiyana was mesmerized by this life-size panther statue!

Awesome lobby lounge and bar 

One of the many infinity pools at the hotel - great views!


A fantastic dinner restaurant we went - El Fish Fritanga

Aiyana playing in her made-up play area

Aiyana sleeping, me pretending! :-)

Awesome baked fish dish at El Fish Fritanga

A view of the lagoon at the hotel

A cool Indian restaurant that we found in Playa Del Carmen

Did it!  Hard-earned scuba certification!
Clear blue waters - tranquil!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pitstop 1: Cancun, MX - fun times and somewhat imaginary conversations with our daughter!

As the 1st stop in our multi-city world itinerary, we arrived in Cancun, MX on Wednesday, 6/12 - we're spending about 18 days here (yes, blessed and lucky!) and splitting our time between Cancun proper (hotel zone) and Riviera Maya (about 45 minutes south of Cancun).  3 days in, lots to feel grateful for and lots to ponder upon!  As I've thought about the best way to capture our experience and preserve it for posterity as well as share it with our friends and family, I decided that it would be pretty cool to try and blog through Aiyana's perspective (our 7.5 month-old daughter) and write-up imaginary conversations that I think she's having with us (while I still have the chance to guess what goes on in that head of hers) - not sure how exactly that will play out but I figure it's worth a shot!  I intend to tag each of these conversations with a theme that is important to us - love, compassion, beauty, gratitude, perseverance, courage, the power of dreams etc. etc.  But first, here are some highlights of our arrival into Cancun and our stay thus far!

- The inbound journey was eventful - it was Aiyana's first international trip and while she did great, we hit a few snags along the way.  Snag #1 was with our hometown airline, Delta - minutes before our boarding our connecting Atlanta-Cancun flight, they decided that we needed a separate ticket for Aiyana.  This despite the fact that I had confirmed and re-confirmed with Delta via phone that no separate ticket was needed for her and she only needed to be listed on my itinerary (which she was) - of course, this issue did not pop-up when we boarded the first leg of our journey in Memphis.  Trust Delta to throw you a curveball - so, we scrambled and got Aiyana a ticket and boarded the flight with seconds to spare (literally!) - we were the last people to board the flight!  Upon arrival in Cancun, we headed to pick up our car rental where we hit Snag #2 - there was a $200 difference between the confirmed reservation price and what the counter agent wanted to charge us.  After some back-and-forth, they adjusted the reservation to reflect the confirmed price and we were on our way (or so we thought) - less than half-a-mile into our trip from the car rental place to the hotel, I discovered that the blinkers/indicators were not working so we looped back around and had to wait for them to get us another car - of course, Aiyana was way past her bedtime by now and beginning to get fussy!  Finally made it to the (absolutely fantastic and beautiful) hotel around 10:30pm after having left the house around noon - long and eventful journey but we were sure glad to have arrived!  2 life lessons reinforced on the inbound journey
1. Stay flexible and adaptable as challenges present themselves - that's what gives you the best shot at resolving them!
2. A smile and a friendly disposition goes much further than an aggravated disposition - during the course of our car rental issue, I discovered that the agent at the counter had a 5-year old named Camille who was born in Vegas so we chatted about daughters for a while - I have no doubt that that conversation made her more willing to go above-and-beyond to help us out! :-) - how often do we make a customer service person the recipient of our wrath/ire?  Of course, they're just doing their job as well and they're as human as any of us!

The first few days in Cancun were spent lounging by the pools and the beach and were the scene of one of our imaginary conversations with Aiyana.

Me: Wow, look at this place, look at the water, the ocean, the sky - all so pretty
Anshu: It's magical - so glad we made it.  I already feel very relaxed looking at the azure blue water.  This place is really really beautiful!  And I love the view from our balcony - just mesmerizing!
Aiyana: I agree mom and dad, this place is incredibly beautiful but I have a question
Me: Shoot!
Aiyana: Have you noticed lately how beautiful Memphis is and how beautiful our home is?  I find them both to be exceedingly pretty - the river, Beale St, downtown Memphis, Autozone park, FedEx forum, the art and photography in our house, the layout of our house, my play area, our cars, our neighborhood, the golf course, the restaurant we went to last week, the gym, the pool you took me to, the kitchen in our house, our yard, the dining area, the Memphis Zoo, oh and I almost forgot - did you see how beautiful the flowers are in the yard that's just around the corner from our house - I see them everytime we drive by and smile... everything around me is so beautiful and it's all so new for me - I love it and I love noticing how pretty our surroundings are and how pretty even the simplest things are.  Didn't I hear you say once that "beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder?" so, do you see the beauty all around you?
Me: Stunned Silence (mouth agape)
Anshu: Stunned Silence (mouth agape)

Note to self: Consciously look for the beauty in everyday people, things and places.  There truly is magic around us if only we pause to look and ponder.  Updated life manifesto below!

To be continued...

Life Manifesto (ever-evolving; in present tense and not future tense):
I live a life that minimizes regret. 
I strive to be passionate in all areas of my life. 
I strive to be a love magnet and a love transmitter. 
I dream big. 
I do not kid or cheat myself. 
I own my things vs. letting them own me. 
I am grateful. 
I take the risks needed to chase my dreams. 
I do not rely on the crutch of excuses that prevent me from living the life I want. 
* I constantly see the beauty in everyday people, places and things.
* I stay flexible and adaptable especially when things don't go exactly according to plan
* I smile and resolve issues by being cheerful vs. being agitated and angry

And here are some pictures from our trip so far...
Anshu and Aiyana stylin' in the balcony

The bartender at this awesome authentic Mexican restaurant we went to - La Parrilla - he carried the margarita glasses expertly balanced on his head right across the restaurant!

At La Parrilla - great Mexican food!
The view from our balcony1

Beautiful grounds!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top 6 reasons why I quit my perfectly good job at a perfectly great company!

7 days into a mini-retirement of sorts, I've been contemplating and reflecting on many things ...
- What transpired to get us to this point? 
- Why we chose to do what we're doing at this very moment in our lives? 
- What lies ahead?  Where do we go from here? 
- What do all the trigger events (that caused us to make this leap of faith) mean? 
- How do we make the most of this mini-retirement? 
- What are the key priorities in our lives? 
- How is my self-identity redefined given my newly-found unemployed status? 
- What memories do I want to create during this "down" time?
- How can I make sure that this "down" time is not just about me and us but it's also about giving back and passing on what we've been super fortunate to receive?
- Who do I really want to be when I grow up (I hope I never grow up)
- What is going to be my legacy?...
... questions of all kinds swirl around in my head - some I pause to ponder on, others just flit across the screen of my mind only to come back later, still others do the very same peek-a-boo tease that I'm trying to perfect with our 7-month old daughter!  Something I read a long time ago comes to mind "When lamenting to a friend about the lack of clear and explicit answers to existential questions in a protagonist's life, their friend replied ... "Maybe you're asking the wrong questions!!!" " ... so, I don't know if the questions that I've briefly spelled out above are the wrong questions but, if nothing else, they are making me reflect on things and the amazing thing is that they are not making me overly anxious about the future despite there obviously being a lot of uncertainity right now ... something that Margaret Drabble (English novelist, biographer and critic) said eloquently comes to mind "When nothing is sure, everything is possible" and so it is with a great deal of hope and faith, we have embarked (as a family) on the road less traveled.

In this blog post, I wanted to jot down (type up) my thoughts and outline the Top 6 reasons on why I quit my perfectly good job at a perfectly good company!  But, before I do that, some background:
Since late 2004, I have had the amazing fortune to work at one of the world's most admired companies - in the 8+ years that I was there (still feels a little strange to use past tense), I've had many many amazing opportunities, been fortunate to experience many great experiences, and been blessed to create some amazing relationships - something that I am super super thankful for.  During my employment, I've also had many personal milestones - got married soon after I started working here, had a baby shortly before I left! - through it all, the friendship and warmth of my colleagues has always blown me way - be it at the wedding shower that was hosted for us or the absolutely fantastic baby shower that was hosted to honor us just before the birth of our first child.  Time and again, my work family has come through for those in need and it is true that the people here make it an absolutely remarkable place to work (perfectly good company, perfectly good job).  On the other hand, one of my life goals has always been to take some kind of a mid-career break and "retire" while I still have the health and energy needed to pursue some passions - however, the traditional fears that bind us all (career prospects, job prospects, family obligations, societal pressures etc. etc.) prevented me from pursuing that life goal.  About 12-months ago, the itch to really pursue this life goal became stronger than it had ever been before - at that point, given that we were 4-months from the arrival of our first-born, I could not see myself taking that "risk" and casting off into the unknown!  Life being what it is and without going into too much detail, about 4-months ago an opportunity presented itself where the risk was mitigated to an extent (at least financially) and after some deliberation, we decided to take the plunge and just "go for it"!  With that being said, here are the top 6 reasons why I quit my perfectly good job at a perfectly good company!  The reasons below are followed by a corresponding life manifesto - in no particular order...

1. Life is short: All of us are routinely exposed to the fragility of life - be it through the passing of a loved one or the sudden onset of a friend's illness - yet, despite our initial shock and sadness at these events, we continue to live our life in much the same way that we did before these events transpired.  I decided that it was no longer acceptable to me to put off the things that I've always wanted to do and that I did not want to "die wondering".  Ten years from now, I did not want to be in a position where I thought to myself "what if I'd taken that leap of faith" or "what if I'd done something crazy" ... Regret, truly, is like a cancer and now, more than ever before, I choose to live a life that minimizes regrets.

2a. Happiness is an inside job: Too often we make our happiness contingent on an external person, external event, external "thing".  Sure other people's moods and idiosyncrasies affect us, sure material possessions bring some joy with them but it's also true that when the only person who has the remote control on your life is you, chances of your being happier are a lot higher!  Tuning into my intuition and gut led me to the conclusion that this "leap of faith" was worth taking!

2b. Happiness is in the journey, not in the destination: Related to what I said above, why wait to feel "happy" when you get that next promotion, new house, new car, new significant other etc. etc. If you wait then soon after you get your next promotion or next car, you'll be pining for something else... I'm now fairly convinced that if you choose to be "happy" then all those other things you "need" and "want" will flow from that.  A mounting body of scientific evidence supports the notion that being "happy" comes prior to external "happy" events vs. the other way around.

3a. Aiyana: Our 7-month old daughter lights up our life and she's only going to be this age, once in her life.  I want to spend as much time with her as possible and be eligible for "dad of the year" honors!  I only see her existing in 2 states of being with both states often being simultaneous in their manifestation.  State 1: Love Magnet - she is an automatic magnet for love - even when she's crying/howling, even when she's sound asleep, even when she's quiet and contemplative.  State 2: Love transmitter - truly children love unconditionally, deeply and without holding back.  I'm totally inspired by her and wonder why we, adults, choose (consciously or unconsciously) to stop existing in those 2 states at all times.  As she grows up and acclimatizes to the vagaries and realities of life and looks up to us for guidance, I want to look her in the eye and say "be bold, take some risk, be creative - just look at what your crazy parents have done".  Trying to practice what I preach - easier said than done!

3b. Anshu: Family means a lot to me and if I don't make that a priority, I will only stand to lose.  Temporarily free from the run of day-to-day work life, I am looking forward to spending quality time with my wonderful girlfriend and wife (yes, it's the same person)! :-)

3c. Family: I do not ever want to regret that I did not give my loved ones the time that I could have when I had the option - that is my need even though it may not always be their need!  This mini-retirement gives us an opportunity to spend time with our extended family which is very important to us!  And it gives Aiyana an opportunity to get to know her grandparents, uncles and aunts!

4. Passion is powerful: Read any (auto)biography and follow any successful businessperson, sportsperson, artist etc. etc. and you'll see that one common thread that ties them together is the passion for what they do - a great job certainly provides a lot of fulfillment but I was starting to ask myself routinely "what is my legacy going to be" and "will this be truly what defines me" after I'm gone.  I don't know the answer for certain but want to explore what other experiences I can leverage to build a lasting legacy.  And it is in search of that true passion that we're casting off from safe harbor!

5a. Dream big or go home:  What is the point in living a good life when you know deep inside you that it can be even greater (measured by fulfillment, not by material wealth) ... so, if you have a dream, make it a big one and chase after it with all you've got!  Anything else and you're just kidding yourself.

5b. Chasing your dreams is always worth it:  Almost always, the pursuit of dreams is fraught with risk - Pursue them anyway!  The world belongs to the "crazies" - the easiest thing in the world is to find excuses on why we can't do something.  Something as simple as turning that around to "why you can do something" starts to open up all kinds of possibilities and doors!  "Possibility thinking" certainly works for me!

6a. It all eventually works out: Looking back at my life, the events that caused me the greatest anguish also proved to some of the biggest disguised blessings!  So, I have to trust that the pattern will continue going forward - to quote one of my inspirations, Steve Jobs, "you can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path." 

6b. Fear is limiting, Faith is empowering: My mom always said "Fear is the absence of faith and, conversely, faith is the absence of fear" so we decided that it was time to "Keep the faith" and "jump off the bridge and grow our wings on the way down" - in teen-speak, YOLO (You Only Live Once).

So, off we go - being full-time parents to our 7-month old daughter and exploring the world for the next 4-6 months; bonding as a family; learning and growing; pausing and reflecting; thinking and doing...  I plan on updating this blog along the way so feel free to follow along as our family travels the road less traveled!

Life Manifesto (ever-evolving; in present tense and not future tense):
I live a life that minimizes regret. 
I strive to be passionate in all areas of my life. 
I strive to be a love magnet and a love transmitter. 
I dream big. 
I do not kid or cheat myself. 
I own my things vs. letting them own me. 
I am grateful. 
I take the risks needed to chase my dreams. 
I do not rely on the crutch of excuses that prevent me from living the life I want. 

And, finally, a few inspiring thoughts/quotes that keep us motivated even when we're occassionally racked by self-doubt about going down this path.  Thankfully the moments of self-doubt have been few and far between, thus far!














Friday, March 1, 2013

Life lessons - training for and running my first half-marathon

As many of you know, 6 months ago, I signed-up to run my first-ever half-marathon - a full 13.1 miles/21 kms - not ever having been a runner, it certainly appeared to be a daunting task but I chose to sign-up to raise money for cancer research and care at the St. Jude Children's research hospital in Memphis, TN - a world-leading facility that accepts patients from around the world - without any financial obligation. The result of one man's vision and passion to eradicate childhood cancer! Having seen several members of my friends and family circle deal with this devastating disease over the last couple of years, I felt a strong urge to do something and thought that raising money for St. Jude and, in parallel, achieving better physical fitness was a worthy goal!

In the 6 months since I signed-up, I've had many twists and turns, ups and downs - not just around training but also the usual events that life brings to us - and through the many hundreds of miles of running-in-training (241 to be exact, but who's counting?!), I've had a chance to reflect on many things - be it my good fortune at being able to do this or the overwhelming support I've received from friends and family or the incredible beauty that's all around us or the importance and value of setting goals or to have a sense of gratitude for every day, every moment, every breath - that being said, here are my top 6 personal take-aways from this endeavor. They are in no particular order...

1. Set big, hairy, audacious goals for yourself that scare the @#%^ out of you: As Lewis Carroll very eloquently said, "if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there..." - once I was signed-up and committed to the goal, I knew what it was that I had to achieve, I mapped out a plan to get there and identified milestones along the way - first 5K, first 10K, first 10 miler etc. etc. - having the goal and the roadmap, helped me stay on track and even though the goal appeared enormous at first, chipping away at it over time gave me a lot of confidence and self-belief - "if your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it" became my mantra! Having an audacious goal - be it about relationships, career, physical fitness, whatever - also helps you become more than the person you thought you could be - and truly there's no better feeling than that!

2. Be consistent and Show-up: For those that know me well, I am no early bird! Instead, night owl is what describes me best - the St. Jude heroes training group that I ran with once a month began their running @ 7am - meaning I had to be up and out-of-the-house no later than 6:30am (that's usually when I go to bed!!!) - but I told myself that this was important and I needed to do it, once I showed-up for the training runs, the energy from my peers carried me through runs that I never thought I could do. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can't run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.

3. Have a support system, be your own cheerleader: Enlist supporters anytime you are going to set a goal for yourself especially when the goal is an audacious one.  Having committed to running the half-marathon, I enlisted my family, my friends, work colleagues and socialized the heck out of the fact that I was running/training - having a strong support system, kept me accountable and provided the necessary kick on the backside, when needed!

4. It never hurts to ask - "If you don't ask, the answer is already no" - that certainly holds true - when I first started, my goal was to raise $1,000 for St. Jude - within a few days, I'd raised the money and questioned whether I'd set my initial goal too low, I then bumped it up to $2,500 and kept pinging people across my networks asking them to support this cause - it's something I deeply and passionately believed in - thanks to the overwhelming generosity of friends, family and even strangers, we raised nearly $12,000 for St. Jude.  I feel so blessed, overwhelmed and grateful to have been able to do this - it was a heckuva ride!

5. Be grateful - life is short - "No is a mild cut. Regret is cancer." - I read this quote somewhere along the way when I was training.  It hit home.  So many times we put off things we love and are passionate about, we put off making that phone call to someone we love, we put off chasing our dreams, we put off going that extra mile, we put off not being everything we can be - the list goes on and on and on... life truly is short and fragile.  Just ask the kids who have been diagnosed with cancer and their families ... why should we ever put anything meaningful off.  Count each day as a blessing, each moment of good health and good fortune as a gift.  Practice gratitude daily, hourly, by-the-minute - whatever it takes!  Make it happen!

6. The right equipment helps but attitude is really everything - Early in my training, I invested in some good running shoes and other running gear - that really helped me train and push myself.  However, more important than the tools you might have, is the attitude that makes the difference - again, if you believe you can do it, you can!!!  Don't make excuses about not having the right tools or resources at your disposal - if you're truly passionate, you will find a way.

UPDATE: On 12/1, I ran a full 13.1 miles - to cross that finish line was an awesome awesome feeling.  I felt proud, grateful, blessed and overwhelmed - all at the same time.  The race-day weather was absolutely gorgeous, I beat my target finish time by 44 seconds and even though I cramped a little bit around mile 11, some stretching made the cramps disappear.  So many people believed in me even when my own belief wavered - I can never thank my supporters enough.  The race experience was incredible - running through the hospital was overwhelming and having complete strangers cheer me on, pat me on the back, run with me was an incredibly amazing experience.  Together we did this for the kids of St. Jude and you have my eternal gratitude for that.  What's next?  Who knows?  This running bug has really got me so I plan on running another couple of half-marathons in 2013 and I am not ruling out running my first full marathon for St. Jude in December 2013!!!  And as a final note, here's a quote from a book I re-read recently ...
"... Today is your chance to awaken to the gift of living - before it is too late. Time really does slip through your fingers like tiny grains of sand. Let this new day be the defining moment of your life, the day that you make the decision once and for all to focus on what is truly important to you. Make the decision to spend more time with those who make your life more meaningful. Revere th...e special moments, revel in their power. Do the things that you have always wanted to do. Climb that mountain you have always wanted to climb or learn to play the trumpet. Dance in the rain or build a new business. Learn to love music, learn a new language and rekindle the delight of your childhood. Stop putting off your happiness for the sake of achievement. Instead, why not enjoy the process? Revive your spirit and start tending to your soul. This is the way to Nirvana..." - from "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari"