Monday, July 30, 2012

GETTING INTO A WINNER'S MIND





















A young one asked me just this morning: “Sir, I am planning to give GRE; is it tough?”


I had to answer him: “Yes, it is,” or, “No, it is not.”


I only smiled and said, “Sit down.”


For next fifteen minutes, we discussed on the subject: “How, who do it, are able to do it?” In other words: “What it takes to do it?”


The young man, apparently, was inspired by his cousin who had passed the exam and had gone to the US to do his MBA in one of the top Universities and then got settled there with a fantastic lifestyle.


“Have you checked with your cousin as to how he did it?” I asked him during our discussion, “Have you asked him as to what it took to do it?”


“No sir, I haven’t,” confessed the young man.


“Can you do that for a few days from now?” I asked him.


“Yes, I can do it online and through phone even; he is close to me,” the young man said.


“That’s great,” I exclaimed, “Probably, you may not need the answer from me, then.”


The young man could get the message across: “Get it from the Horse’s mouth!”


He thanked me and went home. 




I had the subject for my Blog, today: “What it takes to clear GRE or GEE or CAT or IAS or IPS or even CPT… or, whatever it is to be passed to be wherever you want to be?”


I was watching the Olympics games, last night. The event was Table Tennis.  Two girls, from two different countries, were pitted against each other. The difference: one girl had two hands to play; the other had only one-and-a-half!


“O my God!” I screamed, “How did she come this far… Leave alone the Gold?”


Yes, I asked to myself, “When it is so tough to get into your own country’s contingent, how could this girl cruise so far?”


The girl had to defeat all the two-full-handed-girls – the normal girls - from her own country… to be there!

I did not see which of the two went on to grab the Gold, last night. To me, this young gritty-girl was the ‘World Champ’!


During the course of the discussion this morning, I told the young man this: “I really have no idea as to what the GRE test involves. But, this much I know… You have to get into a winner’s mind.” I added, “You need not know how does a winner do it?”




So, whether it is a GRE test 


or an Olympic-entry, 


and whether it is Microsoft 


or the Mount Everest, 


the rule of the game is same: 


“Fix your goal and pursue it 


with all the passion in your soul.”

 


Will you achieve it?


Is it tough?


I have asked the young man to find out from his cousin, a winner.




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Denzil Pais




Sunday, July 29, 2012

THE FIRE THAT BRINGS OUT FINE STEEL
















I love the guy who praises me, my work. I love him for the obvious reason: he praises me!


I feel good when he praises me, my work. So, he is my friend… I love him!


But, what about the guy, who criticizes me, my work?


No, I don’t feel good when he does that… So, he is not my friend… I don’t love him!


This does sound like a juvenile rationale… “Kids do such things!”… It is easy to castigate it like that.


But, freeze for a moment! We do behave like kids…


Because, it is easy to love a person when he compliments you… and, tough when he chides!


Well, once again, I said ‘we’. Yes, I have generalized. Therefore, let me correct by saying this: I, a 54-year-old teacher/parent/husband/son etc., do behave like a small kid when it comes to ‘bouquets’ and ‘brickbats’ in life!











To accept someone’s compliments does not demand my character-strength. But, to accept gracefully, and in right learning-spirit, his criticism, demands loads of my character-strength. It is pure wisdom when I learn to separate me – the person – from my work. If the criticism is about my work, it doesn’t reflect me as an unworthy human being. And, yet, that is exactly what is not happening: Every time some one says something bitter or nasty about my work, I tend to ‘take it to my heart’… internalize it and, thereby, cloud my image about that person.


His remarks are not sweet… Hence, he is not a sweet person. A simple conclusion!


Yes, there is truth packed in it. Tons and tons of it!




To me, accepting criticism 


is still an unfinished lesson in life. 


In spite of all my so-called 


reading and learning,


 writing and teaching… 


I am still limping in this area.



Believe me, I feel incredibly relieved when I make this confession. It makes me feel I am a genuine human… and, I am growing-up in this area as each day passes by.


Yes, all this – the wayside wisdom as I have aptly described my daily writings – dawns upon me only when I slow down… distance myself and see. To see criticism as an opportunity to grow, and to see the guy who gives it as my real well-wisher – a partner in my growth - I need the inner trust and confidence. 


It is fire that brings out fine steel… from the otherwise ugly iron!




GERALD D’CUNHA


Pics.: Lionel Saldanha





Saturday, July 28, 2012

THE EMPTY VESSELS




















In many of us, the need to win an argument is more compelling than the need to win a friend!


Of the many attachments we have in life, the attachment to our opinions, often, seems be the strongest one. Our compelling need to win our arguments – prove ourselves right, score a point – yes, this stems from our innate attachment to our own opinions. 


It is difficult to get off a tiger’s back, once we have climbed it!


Our tendency to argue with others – ironically, most of them are with our own dear and near ones – just reminds us of this tiger-safari…


It is sensible to leave the tiger alone…




I come across this man very regularly. He is highly qualified, holds a doctorate and a high post in a multinational company… earns a handsome package; his wife, even more qualified, earns more than her husband.


I know both of them. What puzzles me is this: the husband has an opinion on every subject, every event, every person… yes, on every thing under the Sun! At the drop of the hat, there goes this man: voicing forcefully his opinion. His views are, always, rock-hard… rigid. “I-know-all” is what this man trying to tell any one who gets into a discussion with him. Discussion has to end with an argument. It is extremely difficult to come out of an argument with this person, without getting bruised.


Many call him a ‘hot-air balloon’ and keep a distance from him… Many call him an ‘empty vessel’ and pity him for the loud noise he makes…


I just don’t get into a duel with this 'Smart aleck'!

“Two noisy waterfalls can never agree on anything”… I do not want be another noisy waterfall before him!





And, I also know this old wisdom: 


“Two bulls fighting must disengage their heads 


before one is defeated.”



I do not want to be fighting full, either!




The man just wants to win his arguments… He wants to score his points. 


I say, “Let him be the Champ!”



Now, about his wife. This woman is grace personified… ‘Argument’ is a foreign word in her dictionary… She makes you feel at home when you talk to her… Her opinions are never forced upon you… When they are voiced, you can feel, that there is a lot more scope to accommodate even another hundred opinions… Her being just one of the many! You feel you are having a discussion with another ‘growing-up’ human… your co-human! You never get a feeling, even for a second, that you have to ‘score a point’ or ‘prove something’ as you talk to this lady. 


Understandably, many call her ‘a mature woman’… some call her ‘a wise woman’… and the rest call her simply ‘a nice person’!











The old proverb, “The empty vessel makes the most noise” … looks new when it comes to this PhD! 


What good it serves?


Every time I think of this couple, I feel good that wisdom and maturity have not much in common with how many PhD’s you hold… and, yes, yes, it has nothing to do at all with how much noise you can make!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Gloria Pinto




Friday, July 27, 2012

WHY DO WE FALL?






















My young son was insistent that I should watch the first two editions of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy on ‘The Batman’. So, at home, he arranged to screen for me, along with his own authentic commentary, the first two Batman classics – ‘The Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’.


Yes, I had missed both of them when they were first released. This time, I truly enjoyed the ‘Super-hero’ drama… I was, particularly, overwhelmed by the genius of the filmmaker – Christopher Nolan… his convictions, his vision, his grit and his stupendous hold on the medium. And, of course, his infectious passion. It left me speechless… Inspired!


So, this morning, I watched, along with my son, the last edition of the trilogy – ‘The Dark Knight Rises’… Where else? 


You need to watch it only on a giant screen at IMAX, parked yourself on one of the top-most seats!


I could realize the reason why my young son had gone all way out to watch the very first show on the very first day at 7 in the morning! Today, he was still excited to watch it, for the third time, yes with his father… at 7 am!


I was happy that he had showed me, with all the graphic details, the first two. So, this morning, I was easily able to  glide through the storyline. 


Outstanding stuff! A great experience!




Well, as Christopher Nolan keeps reminding us in his three movies, any of us can be a ‘Super-hero’!


Yes, any of us – with the capacity to fear, bleed, cry, get angry… feel loved, lost and betrayed… yes, any of us, the ordinary, fallible humans – can become, do have the capacity to become, a ‘Super-hero’ like the Batman.


And, it doesn’t really matter what mission, in life, we will accomplish as a ‘Super-hero’… But, it does matter, we take up a cause of larger-good. That’s all it is. 




It does matter 


that we beat our own fears… 


turn our anger into 


something very constructive 


and life-enhancing…




It does matter that we have some good souls around us to support us in our missions… It is their faith in us, their constant reminders as to who we truly are… Yes, it does matter.


In the entire trilogy of the Batman movies, one such soul is Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s (Batman’s) family butler… who loved, nursed and guided Bruce Wayne to his great powers… It is someone like this simple soul, who remains present in our lives, constantly reminding us to rise-up and soar again… over and over again.


“Why do we fall, Master Wayne?” he gently inspires his prodigy – right from the day the little boy falls in the deep pit and gets permanently scarred with the fear of darkness and bats. Yes, he strokes the little boy, Bruce Wayne, with the answer, as well: “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up!”


The Batman falls again and again and again… But, he rises too again and again and again. Yes, he returns holding us hopes, to inspire us to soar beyond our threshold limits.














I am happy Alfred reminded about this simple mystery of our existence not only to Bruce Wayne, his prodigy… but, he did it to me, too!


It doesn’t matter, in life, what our missions are… It doesn’t, really, matter what we are trying to save – whether the city of Gotham or our own souls – as long as we keep picking ourselves up… 


Yes, each time we fall!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Ronald Fernandes






Thursday, July 26, 2012

FROM THE WARPATH TO THE RECOVERY-PATH





















Someone had referred this young man to me. So, he came a month ago to seek my help in the three accounts subjects of T.Y. B’Com. He had failed in all three of them in the latest exams. Now, he was here with me seeking my help. 


I took him in. 


As I started teaching him over the days, I realized that he deeply disliked the subjects which he was learning from me. He wasn’t showing any enthusiasm, skipped the homework regularly with one excuse or another… and, when I became strict, he would skip the class the following day. Talking to his parents turned a futile exercise… as the young man seemed to detest their attempts to change him even further.


So, it was high time I taught him something else before he learnt from me ‘accounts’!


I changed gears, immediately. I started talking to him on a heart-to-heart level. Earlier, when I had made several attempt to drill in his head the ‘reminder’ that he had ‘failed’ and ‘wasted’ a year… and, he ‘should’ learn from that ‘mistake’, become more ‘determined’ this time, that he should not ‘let his parents down’, once again… yes, all this had made no impact on the young man. Apparently, he detested such ‘high-voltage’ sermons from any one, including me. Now, while helping him open up, I realized that he detested, almost violently, his parents’ attempts to preach’ him.


That route was blocked for me, too. 


I had only route open, if I had to make any breakthrough with this young man: try to understand as to why he detested learning the subjects I was supposed to teach him. 


The story went this way. The young man had scored well in his tenth-standard exams and he was passionate about taking Science. However, his father, who ran a Chartered Accountancy firm, had his own agenda for his son. He pressurized the innocent young man to take up commerce, which the sensitive boy – who was unable to assert himself before his dominant father – reluctantly opted. The suppressed feelings of anger and hurt, of not being heard and cared for – slowly built in him the deep resentment to whatever his father stood for. Obviously, this included the accounts subjects he was supposed to be good at in order to be a Chartered Accountant. So, the dislike for the subjects was the off-shoot of the dislike for what his father had done to his son. It was revenge!


Was the injustice done to the innocent son really responsible for turning him into a rebel?


Apparently, it was.


Now that, by constantly resenting what his father stood for, the 20-year old had landed up where he had…

 
Was he winning or was he losing the battle with his father?


I had no clue about the state of mind and state or heart of his father. But, it must be of the worst kind. Full of anger, hurt, betrayal and isolation. Or, could it be one of retrospection: repentance, genuine anguish through a deep realization? 


I really did not know.


I only knew this: by holding on to the anger and wounds, by silently trying to prove his father wrong, by constantly giving in to the deep resentment of his mind, the real loser in life was not the father but the young man himself. He was an adult now… and, he was going on a self-destructive warpath. 


No, there was no way he could teach his father any valuable lesson… 

No way could he really learn to love another soul on this earth as long as he harbored this deep resentment… 

No way could he enjoy the simple joy of living… 

No way could he feel confident as he went about his life.



“Whose life is it, any way?”

“Whose business is it to change your father?”

“For whose sake, should you come to terms with your resentment… reconcile?”


During our cordial discussion, these questions came up. 





I tried to prevail upon the young man, 


with lots of compassion, 


the need to walk away from the warpath 


to the recovery-path… 




I seriously hope, he would…


Because, there is no other way to feel good deep within!











The famous organization, ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ (AA), helps millions world over to get over their addiction to alcohol. There are those simple yet incredibly powerful ‘twelve steps’ through which, the ‘patient’ (that’s how an alcoholic is treated here) is slowly and lovingly guided to get over his ‘illness’. Invariably, resentment is cited to be the number one offender and the greatest threat to an alcoholic. So, the treatment involves helping the ‘sick’ to identify and deal with his deep resentment as he went about his path toward recovery through the powerful medicine – the twelve steps to recovery!  


Ironically, there are two other branches of this famous organization. ‘Al-Anon’ helps the family members of the addict – the spouse, parents, siblings and children. These are the most affected people because of the alcoholism of their loved one. Yes, the same twelve steps to them, too… because, the same is the root-cause of their agony: deep resentment!


And, there is ‘Al-teen’ to help the innocent teens at home who are caught-up in the same vicious whirl-pool of resentment. Yes, the same twelve steps to help them to gain serenity… the same poison to go: resentment!


 
The young man, my student, has come in my life to help me understand this universal affliction – ‘resentment’.


It is there in our lives in one form or the other. Yes, we may not be alcoholics or the ones affected by them. But, we do have resentments of varied kinds in our lives… and, as long as we are caught-up in their venomous tentacles, I think, we would remain in our agony… Low in self-confidence, low in trust. Of course, with that killing feeling inside our hearts… of being a loser in life! 


Probably, that seems to be the reason why Robert C. Solomon - the thinker, who wrote so much on the emotion of resentment and its dark effects on those who experience it – had said: 

“It is the moment when humanity is at its lowest ebb!”




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Vivek D'Cunha





Tuesday, July 24, 2012

FIFTY-FOUR YEARS OF SOLID GOLD













Like many of my well-wishers, Paul, my friend, too, had sent me B’day wishes, this morning. In the end, he wrote, “I, for one, believe that we should live life as if each day is our B’day.” 


I had said the same thing, so often, to so many before! So, when Paul reminded me of it, this morning, I thought I would reflect on it for a while.


“Do I live my life as if each day of my life is my B’day?”


No sir, I don’t! Honestly, I don’t.


Like all of you guys, out there, I wait for my B’day to come… and, when it comes, I cut the cake, blow the candle and have some special time with my family…




My B’day is on 24th July… I wait for the day to come, to celebrate it!


No matter how old we are… how rich and how poor, how literate or illiterate, how handsome or how ugly… a B’day is a special day for all of us. When someone calls you or message you to greet, it does feel good. You feel young and counted… cared for and honored. And yes, though, sometimes, I pretend before the world that it doesn’t really matter, the truth is – at least in my case - it does. Yes, it does matter. 


So, if my B’day is my special day, so be it. If I am unable to live each day of my life as if it is my B’day… so be it. Maybe, because I am not able to live each day as my B’day, this day looks so special. That is the reason why, I must pause, today, and allow myself to savor all the good wishes sent by my fiends and well-wishers… and, thank God for giving me such a wonderful life, filled with such wonderful dear ones… And, I must reflect on the times I have been ungrateful for such a marvelous privilege… I must sincerely ask God to have mercy on me…


When everyone around you greets you ‘Happy B’day’ or “May God bless you”, it leaves you but humbled!

This life – of fifty-four years of solid gold – has been worth every nano-moment of it!


No regrets for the sins I have committed. God, my most ardent well-wisher, has washed them away… and, given me a million chances to make a fresh start. I hope, I have not let Him down in this regard.


No justification for any hurt or pain I have caused to any one. I have asked them to forgive me… and, if I haven’t been able to, for whatever reason, I do it now with not strings attached. 


Every moment of my life has been coated with gold… and, I can’t thank enough for this blessed opportunity. Even the most troublesome moment, even the most heart-breaking incident, even the most hell-bent tormentor – has been there only for the right reason: to make me a wonderful person… wiser, stronger and saner.  “Thank you; thank you; thank you!”


I have been blessed with a wonderful spouse who keeps me firmly grounded, and who constantly acts as my lighthouse…


Life is all about coming home! 


Isn’t it?


I couldn’t have asked for a better son than the one I am blessed with. They say, “God always gives you what you had missed in your life through your children!”


I can only say, “How true it is!”





If there is heaven on this earth, 


it has to be my home. 


If that is not, 


I doubt, anywhere else it can be!

 


“Thank you, dears.”












If there is another life for me on this earth, I would plead God to make me a teacher again.  “No, I am not bored, my Lord… Nor tired!” I would tell Him… and, send Him this wish-list:


“Grant me, once again, my Lord, the boon of expression – ‘Vaachas Chame’!

Give me the gift of writing my simple, heartfelt notes of the day…

Give me the same humble parents, the same sane spouse and gifted child…

Give the same – very same – students who I adore so much…

Give me the same friends, and yes, the same enemies… 

But, never forsake me my Lord, when it comes to keeping-up my zest and sense of wonder… 

Never allow, even for a day, to turn bitter about life…

May the same Stars light my hopes… May the same Moon keep my romance on… May the same Sun bring me promise each morn… May the same Rainbows and clouds keep my heart eternally tender and sensitive. 

May there be strength in my sorrows all over again…

May there be steely substance in my setbacks…

May there be someone always waiting for me on the ‘other side’…

May there be my cheerleaders to pep me on…

May there be my heroes to inspire…

May there be those wise ones with their good counsel!

Give me this very life, my Lord… this very life!”




So, another fifty years? 


No, another fifty reasons why I wish God gave me the same life as this one… fifty-four years of solid gold!




GERALD D’CUNHA

Pics.: Sony Ullal








Monday, July 23, 2012

WE BECOME THE HEROES WE WORSHIP










What we deeply admire, we attract. 


That’s the ancient Law of Attraction… in the recent years, made extremely popular by Rhonda Byrne in her DVD and the book – ‘The Secret’.


When we deeply admire a person for some of his qualities, we attract those qualities in us. It is the best way to shape our character. Yes, that’s why the person who we deeply admire and try to emulate is known as our ‘role model’. 


We become the heroes we worship!


We do.



Last night, I was watching an interview with my hero, Sachin Tendulkar. It was somewhere in Dubai, and in front of a select audience. The questions were very simple and direct and Sachin was humility personified, as he is always. We find it difficult to believe that, in spite of such mind-boggling fame, success and power, Sachin still comes about as someone who lives next-door! He is unbelievably unassuming and down-to-earth. We can feel that his stupendous fame has not touched him. He looks real, vulnerable and very, very mortal. Hence, he enters straight into our hearts… 


Because, he is one of us!


We silently believe, that we too can become like him. If not a great cricket star, we can become some one we want to be… in something we as passionate about.


In the end, there were some questions from the audience. One of them was the familiar one: “Sachin, who is your hero?”


Earlier, during the interview, Sachin had already spoken about his great cricketing hero – Sunil Gavaskar. So, this question from the audience got a different answer. 


“My dad,” said Sachin without blinking. Then, he explained why. 


At 16, Sachin had played for the country. It was a huge achievement and a matter of pride for any father who lived with his ordinary hopes and dreams. Still when his son got into the Indian team, the father advised his son not to get carried away by the early success and fame. “It is there now, it may not be there tomorrow,” the father had reminded his teenager son. He had added, “As much as you focus on becoming a great cricketer, you also focus on becoming a good person.”


Sachin spoke highly about this quality of his father… i.e., being a good person. “Whenever we entered our drawing room, we would often wonder whether the person sitting next to him in our drawing room was his best friend or our local postman,” the cricket legend confessed, “my dad treated everyone with equal dignity.”


I got goose bumps as I heard this from my hero!











Our heroes are ordinary humans with blood and flesh… with their own huge weaknesses. It is just that they have in them some qualities which we adore… and we deeply admire our heroes for these qualities. Yes, we know they are humans and there are many flaws… and, we consciously choose to overlook them. We choose to look at the qualities which we long to own in us… and, before we know it, they become our own. 


That’s the power of silent adoration of our heroes for their select qualities…


That’s the ‘Law of Attraction’ in action…





Our heroes may not be even literates… 


They may be some humble souls, 


working as some ordinary fellows 


somewhere… 


Still, we crown them as our heroes 


for the reasons of our heart: 


their qualities we love.




Last night, my admiration for Sachin shot up by another few notches… I loved him for his humility, his down-to-earth simplicity… for his silent, deep admiration for his own hero – his dad. 


I am sure, my own admiration will help me become like my hero. 


A simple one.




GERALD D’CUNHA


Pics.: Janardhan Narayan


Sunday, July 22, 2012

GOING THE EXTRA-MILE





Dr. Napoleon Hill, in his famous book – ‘The Law of Success’, emphasizes on one important law of personal growth: ‘Going the extra-mile’.


I was about 21 or 22 when I got hold of this book. By then, I had been heavily influenced by Dr. Hill’s most coveted classic – ‘Think & Grow Rich’. The Law of Success, thus, did not have much to contribute to my growth’, even though for millions, worldwide, this voluminous bestseller was ‘the Bible’.


To me, it was ‘Think & Grow Rich’. It still is!


However, even at that young age, the law of ‘Going the extra-mile’ appealed me, instantaneously. I could feel the quiet power concealed in this law. And, I knew, it was the easiest of all other Success laws to follow… As, to go the extra-mile meant: going beyond the call of duty!


All that I had to do was: do the work with my full heart… with all the passion in the world… Do it with love, do with joy… and do it for more hours than expected, do more than what was paid for.


Dr. Stephen Covey, decades later, gave us a very similar law – which he re-named as ‘Habit’ - in his ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ and called it ‘Be Proactive’.


Much, much before that, Ralf Waldo Emerson, in his famous essay – ‘Compensation’, had already unearthed this natural Law of personal growth. Dr. Hill gives immense credit to this immortal teacher, Emerson, and informs us that the Law of ‘Going the extra-mile’ was inspired by the essay ‘Compensation’.

Any work done with the spirit of ‘going the extra-mile’ has to help us build our personal power… It has to build our strength… our character. It has to help us ‘earn interest’, as Emerson reminds us… and, when we keep this habit up, when we keep living this law of working more than what is paid for, working for love and joy and not for money alone – yes, when we keep practicing this law of ‘Going the extra-mile’, the Nature is bound to rewards us with compound interest!


I remember how much I had loved this imagery!


Both, Emerson and Napoleon Hill became my instant ‘heroes’!





The habit of going the extra mile, 


as I said, is the easiest habit to embrace…


 and, yet, it is the most potent one!










Today is Sunday. Jesus Christ’s famous teachings – more than two-thousand years past – haunt me, today. It was He who gave us, first, this Law of ‘Going the extra-mile’. But, it needed a sage-like Emerson to inspire Napoleon Hill… And, it needed a Napoleon Hill to inspire me…


Probably it needs me to remind someone, somewhere…


I think, that’s how it is indented to be!




GERALD D’CUNHA


Pics.: Hariprasad