Pandemic Lessons: Choice and Respect

So here I am, on my 52nd day at home. I haven’t stepped out, at all. Even to fetch milk or groceries or go for a walk. 

I have gone through many phases: starting with optimism, then losing my footing to see things change so fast. Then my body staring to feel fear, which I couldn’t relate to, and I figured I was picking up the collective fear around me and from social media.

After that it has mostly been a blur: between household chores, cooking and work I don’t know where the day vanished.

But then I did go into hopelessnes for a bit and then turned the corner within a few days. 

Today I sit down to write that this is not about having hope or being hopeless. This is about choice. Your choice. My choice. 

  • There are so many versions of truth out there, which one is truer? I can choose, I can also choose not to choose.
  • There are so many predictions on the post-pandemic world. By people you consider as having some influence on your life. You can believe any of them, or none at all.

It is also about respect – Our ability to respect the other’s truth. 

In the past few days, I have been listening to some of my friends saying, Stand in your own truth, often with fair warning that people won’t like it, especially in these polarised times.

So I am consciously spending some time looking at what feels true. Yes, I choose to believe that for me to navigate these times, I have to lean into my feelings, and not just look for more and more data and expert opinions. Because all the data I have looked at and the opinions I have listened to don’t give a full answer. Maybe because there is none. 

I was at a founder’s event last September in Boston. And out of all the leading lights and founders sharing the stage and giving their insights, I found one voice which was very interesting to me. I started following them on social media. And I have gained a lot over these months simply by reading their posts. Yesterday they went live on one of the platforms and spoke about the lockdown, which didn’t ring true at all to me. That was interesting to me, that I could detect that. The same thing happened with an author last week.

But it is their truth. And I choose to respect that. It is simply not mine.

I was at a webinar last week about how to sell in these uncertain times. And all the panelists spoke about bringing more and more empathy into their conversations. The question in my head was, “But, were you not already doing that? Were you selling with less empathy or none at all earlier? Isn’t this simply a new situation that we are all in? How did empathy become a new thing?”

Again, it’s their truth. Not mine. 

I believe this is a time to look for answers, certainly. But they are not out there. They are in me. 

I am on a social media group of entrepreneurs, mostly male. Usually they are a bunch of positive people encouraging each other. Now they are simply wringing their hands and sharing their fear. They are looking at each other for answers, and that’s not happening! 

You know what time it is (lockdown has a way of screwing up with the sense of time, doesn’t it)? It’s time to see for myself what do I believe in. What do I stand for? And operate from that place. 

Let me go in.

I am a beautiful being, full of light and love. I love to give, enable others. I am only limited by the restrictions my beliefs put on myself, or the beliefs the society has planted on me, some unknowingly, some in a designed manner. So, theoretically, I am unlimited. 

And I believe that is the truth for not just me, but all of humanity.

So I don’t think we are meant to be limited in this way, being in lockdown for the 50th day and counting! 

Yes we need to give our healthcare systems the time to cope up with the pandemic. And we are getting there. Equally important is that we focus on building our immunity (yes, I know it’s a privileged thing to say, but I am in a place of privilege, and if you’re reading this, you are too. And we can do a lot from this place for those not equally privileged). Sunlight, clean air, nutritious food, supplements, exercise, meditation – whatever it takes. We have one pandemic at hand, who knows what else could come up?

If we are meant to be unlimited, then I am going to question anything that sounds like it’s striking at the heart of that. I am not an activist. But I can make small dents in my universe, my way. I have been seeing people being deplatformed from Youtube and Facebook, for saying things that are their truth, often backed by credible data. I think they have a right to say their opinions, however uncomfortable it might be for me, however inconvenient it might be for certain businesses or ideologies. So I donated money to fund a digital platform that lets them say their stuff. Small dent, maybe no dent even. But I choose to be on the side of being unlimited.

I see my friends sharing posts that sound like priming us to think limited: “just focus on not dying, ok?” No, not okay with me. I am here to live, be ALIVE, not spend my time trying to just beat death for a few years. And any close friend who shared that with me heard my opinion about it. Usually I ignore posts like these. But now I think I have to stand up for limitlessness. I respect their choice to share, and I respect my choice to counter it with what I know to be true for me. 

So it’s really down to ‘respect’. Respect another’s right to have an opinion, a way of life, choice to wear a mask or not. Don’t cut them down, from your space of being a person, a person of privilege, a person of influence, or even a person working for the government. No need to be fanatic about anything, just let others be. 

What’s the last word here: I believe life has its way. It’s bigger than a virus, it’s bigger than all of us put together. And life will show us a way out, to return to limitlessness.

You can choose to believe it. Or not. I respect your choice. 

Happy 2020!

Maybe it’s time to have 20/20 vision.

Normally, I would tell you how my 2019 was, the strides I made, the times I failed, the times I grieved, and so on. But are these normal times?

2019 was the year that brought up so many things that deeply challenged our closely held beliefs. Worse, for many of us, they challenged basic tenets of humanity.

Every day we heard about inhuman atrocities, raging rainforest fires, gross misuse of platforms and outright injustice. Everyday many of us indulged in name calling, got frustrated with friends and family for holding a different point of view. 

Tiring!

But everyday we also heard of large scale protests going further large scale and questioning governments. Everyday we heard of people coming together to help the unjustly targeted. Everyday we heard of small and large acts of philanthropy.

Inspiring!

These are times of great change. I, for one, think that the only way I can ride these waves of change is by being me. 

  • When I think I have to build and run a business the “tried and tested” way, I give in to the cacophony. 
  • When I think I have to buy far far more than I need, I give in to the greed. 
  • When I think I should always go by data, and never use my intuition, I walk away from me. 
  • When I give in to the anger over the atrocities, the scheming behavior, or the blatant disregard for nature, I add to the swirling negativity. 
  • When I feel sad about a thriving community left without the Internet, rights and dignity, I give my power away, the power that I could have used to change things.

So, 2020 is about being me. That means questioning long held beliefs, double checking on all information around us, being skeptical of all knowledge that takes me away from myself and forces me to focus only on the external.

Being me puts me in touch with my true self that is joyful and empathetic, lively and compassionate. When I am in touch with me, I don’t have to numb the pain with a drink, or a Netflix binge. When I am angry, I don’t have to lash out. When I am me, I allow all feelings to come and go, so they get their place in the sun, and not live under my skin maneuvering my reactions.

The more I am me, the less angst I contribute to the world. And the world can do with a lot less of that, to be the powerful, joyful organism it is.

Happy 2020!

How Much is Too Much?

Some of us, especially entrepreneurs, have the capacity to take on a lot. Often take on a lot more than we should. And over time we get really good at it, and if more comes on, we might even take some more on. Or there will come a point where you say, “No, this is my limit. This is where a line is being crossed. This is it, this is too much.”

So how much is too much?

I don’t have an answer for that, because every person’s ‘too much’ is different, because each of us is different. Let’s look at questions that may help you answer your “How much is too much?”

Like many others on the planet, I have been propelled into an orbit where I am discovering new levels of integrity to lean into; or you could say I am finding parts of me that don’t feel integral to who I am. Which means I feel compelled to drop masks that feel completely stupid to keep wearing any longer. Or when I start writing posts for this blog, I say a whole lot more than I would usually say. There are blog posts that haven’t been uploaded here, because they are too honest, too raw, too much of my wading through troughs. It makes others comfortable. Or it gets some others to worry about consequences. Me? I don’t worry, I am not sure there are enough readers of this blog to really make any finite dent in the universe. But if it makes my people uncomfortable, then I will simply align to that, for now. So that’s the first question, and one that I will be dealing with for a while. How much is too much of honesty?

The first weekend of the year saw us have our lovely company offsite. We had a day of great conversations, discussions, drinks and dancing. The conversations continued over the week. One of the things that came up was that we don’t communicate enough. And one team member even pointed out that the co-founders need to be talking about their challenges to the team a lot more. We had another team discussion this week, in which the co-founders shared their experiences openly. It is not that we have not done this before. It’s just that we went a few notches further. More vulnerability, more rawness displayed to all. Is there a thing like too much display of vulnerability?

Here’s another one. You start a company with a certain focus, to really bring about a change in a domain you know you can make a difference to. And you do whatever you have to, to make it work. It builds, it grows, it stalls, it puts you through tremendous debt. And one fine day, you get funded. Nice! Now you have the wherewithal to make it bigger, and wider and deeper. And you do. Then the investors say, “Go buy that company out, because you have similar audiences.” You protest, but they insist (they are invested in that company too). So you agree to it. And then slowly (or maybe suddenly) no one is talking about that domain you were passionate to bring a change about in. How much interference is too much?

Here’s a really common one. You have it pretty good: a good job, money, a friendly spouse, a couple of great kids. You tick all the right checks: hang out with friends, take the vacations that look great on social media, banter with family and extended family, contribute to social causes, and so on. But somewhere deep down, you know this isn’t what you signed up for. When your best friend asks, “How are things?”, you often say, “Boring!”. How much is too much of boredom?

So many questions one can ask oneself.

How much abuse is too much? Emotional? Verbal? Physical?

How much of being taken for granted is too much? “She will do it for you!” “She won’t mind!” “She can do it by herself, she always does.” “She is a superwoman, she will manage.”

How much of helping others is too much? Thin ice, there. But a worthy question to those who can’t say No. And I know many of those; I have been there myself.

How much fear is too much fear? Of self, of others, of what others think?

How much carbs is too much carbs? Pass me those fries, please.

How much?

So it comes down to this: Where do you draw the line? Do you even know there is a line? And if you choose to have the line crossed, do you know why? And are you truly okay with that?

Whatever you answer to any of this, there will be naysayers. What will you do about that, especially if you have that ‘too much fear of what others think’?

You Are What You Believe

Yes, we are also what we eat. And what we consume (read/watch/listen to). But that’s not what I want to talk about. This week has been about coming up against beliefs. Usually that is what a trep’s life is about – busting beliefs that mostly limit you, and hence the business. But the thing about beliefs is that they are so tricky; they are so ingrained that we might not even be aware that we have them. So it takes some work to spot them and then decide what we want to do with them. 

But first things first.

This week was about pause, first and foremost. It is probably the pause I said I should have taken in a post a couple of weeks ago. No, I didn’t take it voluntarily. The Delhi smog forced me into it. Coughing and sneezing, I had to hit the bed and stay there for 3-4 days. So a little lesson there: the body and mind need a rest, and it will find its way to get it. Don’t wait for the smog to hit. Just switch off and rest.

The bit about beliefs came into the forefront, also a couple of weeks ago. My doctor asked me to examine the level of belief I have in my goals. And even though he got me thinking, as soon as he asked me that, I knew, it was not 100%.

“Well, how can it be 100%? There are some clients who seem to be unhappy. There are cash flow issues. There are conflicts with co-founders, and team members. Failure is always staring at your face.

Right?”

Yes, it’s all your reality. But why do you persevere? In the hope that things will get better; the next thing will be better. This tweak here will make it better. That pitch there will make it better.

Hope is nice. But it doesn’t cut it. Hope keeps you simmering well under 100% of belief.

Ever heard of The Stockdale Paradox? You have to have 100% belief you will prevail, but at the same time deal with what’s in front of you.

Except that what’s in front of you overshadows the belief. And those throw up more beliefs you have, which are stopping from the 100% faith in your goal. And that’s what you have to get a hold on.

Here are some beliefs I have come up against with others, these past few days.

“I am not good enough.”

This is by far the biggest one I come across, maybe because I deal with it myself.

How do you beat that? Maybe you’re not good enough right now with this specific task, but that’s not who you are. Move on. Believe you’re good, notice all the times you were brilliant, great, good. Acknowledge them, celebrate them. The enoughness will soon set in. Spend less and less time where you think you’re not good enough.

“I am too ___ for that.”

Old, young, poor, dumb…you can choose your poison.

Really? Are you? Why do you think so?

Why? Who told you that? And why do you believe it? Is it true? Should you believe it is true?

If you did it, what would it make you feel? Try it and see. And if it still feels bad, well you wouldn’t be worse off, would you?

I don’t really know how to ride a bicycle; I can balance myself, just about. I did it once long ago. Did I imagine it?

Today, as I went with my daughter as she took her first pedals with cycling, I also took the bike for a whirl. Yes, I can still balance. And better than I remember. If you had asked me a couple of months ago to do, I might not even have tried. I am too old, you know?

Oh it’s not a battle I won. It’s a just a belief I dissolved, because I am just practicing my belief-busting muscle.

But there are so many for all of us to work through. Here are some that you might identify with:

  • Business is hard
  • Money is hard
  • I have to work long hours to make money
  • I will never have a house/car/vacation like that!
  • I can never have a relationship that great. Or friends. Or clients.
  • I am not an extrovert, so I can’t do that. I am not a sales person, so I can’t sell. Or something else equally limiting you have made out to be a belief.

So I am coming up against beliefs, and seeing what I want to do about them. With some I am ruthless, and throw them right away. They just don’t serve me. With some, I am wary. They have served me for a good while, and may be nearing some expiry date. I will wait it out with some of those.

But it’s the invisible ones, I know, that will do me in. The ones I don’t know about yet, I am blind to. They are such an integral part of me that I can’t see them for a belief. I sometimes spot them in conversations when I feel deep resistance to what is being said, and hence I become aware they exist.

So what do I do once I know I have to let go of them? I just try to be vigilant of what I think. I catch myself with the belief, and if I am with someone who gets this, I will air it out. So they can help me through it.

Or I go look up a video to help me burst through it. “A video? Which one?”

I don’t know, seek and ye shall find. The algos work well, nearly every time! (That rhymed!)

Bust some beliefs that don’t serve you any more!