Sunday, December 18, 2016

The quest for the eluding happiness

We received a huge cardboard box for a shipment we had ordered online. The box was taller than my son, and we actually had trouble getting it through our door due to its wide width. Both my kids were excited looking at that huge box.

I got the box inside and emptied its contents. I was thinking of flattening the box and throw it out, when my daughter asked me if she could play with it. It was much wider than her and was almost at her shoulder height. We removed the sticky tape and cut a part of the opening before my daughter pushed the box to her room.

We had our friends with their 2 kids over at our place that day. All 4 kids were soon playing with the box. We could hear them laugh and shout. The box which I was planning to flatten and throw out had now become their doll house. My friend’s wife had helped them cut a square on one side and a circle on the other side, and those were the windows to the doll house. The kids had used the circle cut out to write their names on it. So it was no more just a box, it was the house of the kids. Looking at them engrossed with that box, I decided to wait for them to tire and throw out the box later once they were done with it.

Their interest with that box did not lessen one bit. I saw more improvements to the box over the next few days. They pasted stickers and drew images. They arranged their dolls and toy cars inside. The doll house now had a kitchen, a bedroom and a TV room. They had tied a thread with a small strip at the end and called it the doll house elevator.

In short, they had built a new world using that throw away box.

As I watched them enthralled with the box, I couldn’t stop myself drawing comparisons with us adults. The kids had made a world out of that cardboard box which I would have otherwise thrown out. We adults are not satisfied even when the world is given to us. If we have a 2 bedroom house, we desire a castle. If we are given the world, we desire the universe. The desire never really stops.

It’s just amazing how much we can learn from the kids. Yet, rather than learning from them, we want to teach them. We want them to go to school and learn from the adults to be happy. To me, it seems our education system is designed with the sole end goal of teaching us make money with the assumption that money will keep us happy. But the stark reality we miss is that, the kids are happier than we adults.

As I thought through all this, at some point my adult ego took over and justified the schooling system, the grades, the certifications, the money and that eluding happiness. As that ego hastened its grip, I no more could see the happiness which they already had. Just as every parent, I wanted my kids to go to school, focus on their grades so that they learn to make money to reach that mysterious happiness which is supposed to be waiting somewhere.

~Narendra V Joshi

Thursday, September 01, 2016

A giant leap in learning parenting

We had been to a picnic last week. It was a nature trail with different adventure activities for big kids and adults. My daughter wanted to do the rope way activity but we weren’t sure if she would be allowed given the age and height restrictions for the rope way. Once we were there we were told she had just the exact minimum height and that required an adult to accompany her. So I signed up with my daughter for the rope way activity.

The activity is spread over a wide area with metal cables and ropes connecting tree to tree. The cables were maybe about 15 to 20 feet above the ground, and once up, the only places where we could comfortably stand were the wooden planks which circled the strong tree branches. We had to put on a safety harness which ran from shoulder to waist. We had 2 safety belts one end of each tied to the harness and the other end had a special hook which we would latch to the metal cables as we moved along. We were given a demo and instructions and I was asked to follow my daughter so that I could help her if required. Once we were up, we were pretty much on our own unless we called for help.

We choose a path which was completely empty. Each section between the trees had different types of hanging planks and seem to require an increasing skill. We made through each of the section and finally came to a tree which had only 2 metal cables connecting to the next tree. The next tree was about 20 feet away. The 2 metal cables were one above the other with a gap of maybe 4 feet. Essentially it was a tight rope walk with our safety belts latched to the top metal cable. My daughter asked me if she can go and I told her to go ahead. I helped her latch the safety belts to the top metal cable and guided her to walk on the lower metal cable. She had to stretch and hold the top cable and started walking on the lower metal cable which was about 15-20 feet above the ground.

When she had walked for about 5 feet, I suddenly realized what I had put her to. She was actually walking on a cable which was maybe 20mm (2 cm) in diameter holding a similar cable over her head. The 2 safety belts were latched but they were not for supporting her. They would only hold her if God forbid she slipped. I almost froze thinking about it. My entire life flashed in front of me at that moment; the first time I held her in the hospital when she was born, the time I walked her to school,.… I was praying as I watched her every step on that cable. Once in a while she would ask me if she was doing alright and I had to gather courage to even sound normal and tell her she was doing great. A small crowd had gathered below watching her as she walked on the cable. She finally reached the other tree and I heaved a relief thanking God for ensuring she did not miss a step.

It has been almost 5 days but I am still not able to get past that day. The steps she took as she walked still flashes in front of my eyes. I have been asking one question to myself – How did my 7 year old walk on a cable 20 feet above the ground? She did not walk because she had done it earlier or because she knew how to do it.

The only possible answer I have is – She had walked because no one told her she could not do it.

As I think about this answer, maybe, if there is anything stopping our kids from achieving what they dream, its parents like me. How many times haven’t I stopped my kids from doing something just because I have not done it or someone had told me not to do it? I still sometimes feel it was foolishness of me, but if I had stopped her that day, maybe she would never have found courage to do what she did. Kids stop not because they cannot do something but because someone tells them they cannot do it.

This has been probably the biggest parenting lesson I have learnt.
PS – I followed my daughter and walked on that cable holding the top cable, exactly how my daughter had done. I know I had not walked on that cable for the thrill of it. I had walked on that cable only because all I wanted to do at that moment was to hold my daughter.  

~Narendra V Joshi

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Mirror of deeds

My daughter celebrated her birthday last week. Her birthday was something she had been eagerly waiting for. More than the cake and the gifts, she was excited to tell everyone her new age J. She used to add up her age even before she actually celebrated her birthday. I used to be like her when I was a kid, waiting for birthdays to tell my new age. But at some point, the interest in looking forward for my birthday to celebrate a new age diminished.

The world is new and there is so much to be see.
To experience and grow what they choose to be.
Yet of all, growing up fast seems their only wish,
Bumping up their age like some race to finish.

When in the middle age you feel you are growing fast,
The world is the same and you should slow down to last.
Lowering the age might help only a bit,
But growing with the age takes a long grit.

Old age I am told is a different ball game.
When you know life is not just name and fame.
And age is a number to your destiny it leads,
For life is a mirror of your own deeds.

~Narendra V Joshi

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Learning management through skating

I enrolled my kid into a skating class last month and she has so far been having a good time learning to skate. After watching her enjoy the skating I finally braved myself to enroll into the classes. For me, it has so far mostly been a painful process but with a lot of learning and unlearning. For the unlearning part, skating is not as easy as the movies show. Every fall is painful…believe me. As for the learning part, other than the skating itself, I found an unexpected learning subject through the skating lessons – Management.

Here are my 5 skating lessons (and my management learning's through them) -

1)      Lesson 1 - Everything is not about health (or Money) – The first question my friends asked me was if skating is a good exercise and if it will help them lose weight. I had no clue. So I told my friends to think skating as entertainment rather than as exercise. If watching TV or even sleeping can burn calories, maybe skating burns calories too. Like in Management, money should not be the only expectation. Learning, and the satisfaction of building something is also equally important.

2)      Lesson 2 - Skating (and Management) is all about flair, and grace – Both Skating and Management start with struggle. Struggle to be brave, to learn, to keep inline. But once you move up, it’s all about achieving the balance and maintaining the balance as you move ahead. It’s how gracefully you skate (or Manage) and go along with others.

3)      Lesson 3 - Know who does what in the system – In skating, the head thinks (see, processes…) while the upper body helps a bit in turning but mostly sweats. It’s the hip which guides and controls and takes the hit when you fall, while the legs do the skating.

In Management too, the head thinks (sees, talks, plans….) while the upper management mostly talks and sweats for nothing. It’s the middle management which does all the steering and balancing taking blame as well, while the worker takes direction. Remember, the salary structure follows a descending pattern from the head down. Look closely and you will notice the sour spot (or sweet spot; depending on how you look at it) - Upper management - High salary, all talk and sweat for nothing. Know those sour/sweet traps as you choose your career.

4)      Lesson 4 - Watch and learn but don’t get overexcited – The most important part of skating, in my opinion, is to watch and learn. Watching others skate teaches you a lot of tricks because not everything is in the books. But look out for the trap. Skating looks easy when you see those kids skate. It’s the same in management too. Don’t get excited when you see people reach plum posts or when your friends race ahead. Remember, everyone has a different skill. Believe in your skills. You work on your plan at your pace.

5)     Lesson 5 - If you fall, fall with grace. But it’s important to remember, not all fall is because of you – An important lesson in skating is how to stop or slow down and how to fall. If you cannot avoid a fall, you are asked to bend your knees and fall back on your hips (butt) with hands up. Avoid falling on knees or landing on your hands. In simple words; fall with grace! Management too is similar. Use your head wisely and balance delicately to avoid a fall. But if you cannot avoid a fall, fall with grace; and try to be up and running quickly.

The most important of the fall lessons I learnt, is that not all fall is because of you. In one of the class, I fell 3 times at the same spot for the same reason. The first two times, I felt it’s because of my lack of skill. But when I fell the 3rd time (I hurt myself really bad) the coach asked me to step out of the ring to check my skate. Seems the wheels on my right leg were tight compared to my left leg. So this made my left skate go faster than my right skate leading me to the fall. In management too, even if you are doing fine, you might fall because of market forces or external changes. So don’t always blame yourself. Learn to fall with grace and get back on feet quickly.

~Narendra V Joshi


Sunday, April 03, 2016


It was said to have come from the hand of the God;
On every single forehead which has walked this earth broad.
Meant to be resolute and the eternal truth;
For the forehead it foretold its life’s journey and youth.

I scrolled through my forehead to learn what it told.
And ploughed my brain through its every delicate fold.
Through my palm and through every vein in my heart;
There was nothing I could find which mirrored my life’s chart.

At first it looked like an omission by God.
But a scrutiny of my life-chart squared out that odd.
Every event in my life were only a reflection of my deeds
And nowhere was a sign of any predestined leads.

~Narendra V Joshi

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Knowing the practical side of honesty

We had been to a friend’s place the other day. My friend and I stood outside his house talking. A neighbor of my friend who also happens to be our common friend saw us and joined. We 3 stood outside and spoke for some time until I got ready to leave. I bid them both goodbye when this common friend said “I am sorry, I could not call you into our house. Our house is dirty. But let’s definitely meet sometime”. I was not expecting him to invite me and did not know how to react. The way his facial expression changed when he said “our house is dirty” was enough for me to believe his every word. I looked at my friend and he too made an expression which told me this common friend was telling the truth. 

Two parallel thoughts raced through my mind at that moment.  

My first thought was a kind of appreciation for this common friend for his honesty. He could have been quiet, or, if he really wanted to say something, he could have given some other reason. But not this guy. Here was an honest person who had put out the real situation. He did not want to call me because his house was dirty. I had a deep sense of appreciation for his good thoughts and his honesty.  

The other thought in my mind was a little different. Though I had believed what he said, I was almost forcing my mind to think that he wanted to purposely avoid me and it had nothing to do with his house. I had a line of questions in my mind, which were forcing me to think otherwise. If his house was really dirty as he had said, how was he even living in that dirty house?  

With everything going on in my mind, I didn’t say anything but just bid goodbye to them and started back home. The incident however kept playing at the back of my mind for several hours. I had a kind of appreciation for his honesty. At the same time I was appalled at how he and his family lived in a dirty place. Topping all this was the affirming expression my friend had, which told me this was a more common scenario in this common friends place.  

But again, what could I do? If there is someone who has to think, it is that common friend who should think and act. Or maybe my friend, his neighbor, should advice this common friend.  

After a lot of thinking, I felt I had an advice, from my own experience, for this common friend. Honesty is a good policy. But knowing when to open your honest mouth and when to keep it shut is the best policy.

~Narendra V Joshi