ONE OF MY MAGIC WORDS

Mumma, what are magic words?” asked Joey.

There are three magic words – Thank you, Please and Sorry. And you know where to use which magic words, right?” I asked.

Yes, but why are they called magic words?” Joey asked again.

Because whenever you say these words, it does magic on the other person and other person feels very good. And in turn that gives you happiness too.” I tried to explain…

Ok mumma, I will try to use them.” he ran away immediately after uttering these words…

The same evening when Joey had a fight with a friend over sharing his favorite, he apparently hit one of his friends who went crying back home. When I asked him to say “Sorry”, he stomped his feet, shouted on me and started crying hysterically. Well, these are the everyday stories of being a mother.

Later when he calmed down –

Joey, why didn’t use the magic word when I asked you to? You know your friend would have felt so much better if you would have.” I told him gently…

Mumma, I don’t like ‘Sorry’ word. I like the other two, but not this one.” He told me innocently.

Why is that?” I asked him hoping that I don’t probe him too much.

I don’t know.” He looked at me expecting that maybe I know why he doesn’t like just this magic word.

You know what, it is difficult to use this magic word. Because this magic word makes you realize that you did something bad. It makes you feel guilty (I know for sure he doesn’t know what this word means). And you have to say it when probably you are getting too angry or frustrated with the other person. That’s why you don’t like it.” I told him almost sure he didn’t understand.

Then why do I have to use it?” this time he asked with tears in his eyes.

Because as soon as you use it, you will feel much better. And you can be friends again with your best friend. Isn’t it? Do you want to play with your friend again?” I asked

He nodded.

Then you have to give up your anger and apologize to him. Once you do that, he will also become happy and you can be friends again.” I told him

He called up his friend immediately and apologized. It hardly took 30 seconds for them to reconcile and they were back again to being best friends. They are just two 4-year-old boys who struggle to get over their anger and ego to apologize.

At work, we follow agile methodology of software development. That basically means that we plan the work only for 2 weeks and at the end of the two weeks, the whole team meets and discusses what went really well in last two weeks and what could have been improved. It is also an opportunity for the team to appreciate each other.

My role in the team is to define the plan for these two weeks and set the right priorities for the team. So, if I mess up – the team ends up working on something that might not be needed. And I do have messed up at times which made the team suffer. It isn’t a good place to be at. And when such things happen, I dread the session at the end of the 2 weeks. Because I know that I would be put on the spot and will be questioned on my decisions.

To prep for these sessions, I only tell myself that “It is ok to mess up, but it absolutely not ok to make excuses for it. If I messed up, I need to own it up and apologize and take the corrective actions. There is nothing else that I can do better to rectify.”

Every single time that I have owned up my issues and decisions – it has worked wonders. Sometimes working with other teams, I really struggle when another person is not ready to own it up. You got to own up and apologize – that is the only way forward. Otherwise, it is only a blame game and we adults look worse than the two 4-year-old boys who keep blaming each other for not sharing, snatching and hitting. Somebody needs to tell us, adults, that magic words really work – use them appropriately and you will save so much time and energy.

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GEEKY WAYS TO SAY I LOVE YOU

This article will appeal to most of the geeks out there. Here are a few of my favourites. It is really fun to express love in geeky ways.

It is tough for geeks to relate with people since they are low on socializing and do not have much exposure to romance. Nonetheless, girls always demand the guy to show his affection in terms of words, which could be a disaster for a geek. Here are some lines to impress your girl with words.

  1. I love you as much as there are helium atoms in Sun.” This could be replaced with “I love you as much as there are H2O molecules on this earth.” The purpose would be to show a geeky way to measure your love for her. Almost always, when a guy says “I love you”, girl questions “How much?”
  2. My heart is orbiting around you like an electron around the nucleus.” This is another way to simply tell her how much you think about her.
  3. Out of all the star trek movies, I enjoyed the second one the most because you were sleeping on my shoulder and I could smell you closer than ever.”
  4. No matter how much you reject my feelings, I know you will come back to me since Newton said that for every action (of love), there is equal and opposite reaction (of love) and Newton’s laws have never failed the world.
  5. The four chambers of my heart are overflowing with the love for you. Probably that’s why it beats so fast when you look at me.”
  6. The inter-connection of my neurons seems to be broken or is it my testosterone that is making me go crazy for you?”
  7. If I had to give up my mac, iPad, Wii and PS3, I would do that with tears in my eyes – tears of happiness.
  8. You give me enough energy, I don’t need caffeine.”  
  9. I can see high oxytocin in your eyes for me.”
  10. If I was an automobile engine, you would be the fuel to drive me.

As a female myself, I really wanted to help all the guys in this matter because expressing our feelings especially expressing love for someone we love is of uttermost importance. Many times we lose life’s this important battle or stay on the back foot because we fail to express ourselves at the right time.

So, go ahead and express… But remember, don’t use these lines on just anyone to flirt but use them carefully and responsibly for the one you love and care so much.

MY DREAM OF BEING A WELL-KNOWN DANCER

I just love to step into my dancing shoes – literally and figuratively. Dancing makes me happy and confident. It is one of my so many passions and since I was a kid, I wanted to be a well-known dancer. Now let’s define ‘well-known’, it has a different definition for each person and for me, the definition kept changing over the years.

I never had any formal training in dance, so quite soon in my life, I realized that I won’t go far with this ambition. Did I take any formal training? No, because I was busy with life and always had my hands full of something or the other. When I started working in GE Bangalore right after college, I was absolutely delighted to know that they had a dance group. They had multiple different events all throughout the year enough to keep this dance group on its toes. In my 8 years stint in GE, I have done at least 15 or so performances. Some of them were repeats but yes, those were performances. I loved that time of my life. Late evening and weekend practices, learning those new moves and always eager to teach coaches. It was a fun loving group which gave me a lot of friends.

However, there were some consequences of being known as a “dancer” at my workplace. When I left GE, I knew for sure that I would never mix up work life with my dance life. The two don’t blend well together because at my workplace I want to be known for my work. So, I joined Philips with a clear goal in my head that work would mean work alone. At the same time, I also conceived my son which meant I had practically now no time for a dance. Being a new mom took a good amount of toll on me.

Still, I did not give up. I took up Zumba when my baby was just 4 months. And the first time I did Zumba, I came back crying because I realized how stiff and heavy my body had become to even think of dancing ever. Slowly and gradually, with years of Zumba training – I could sustain more than an hour of the session. I even had the ambition of becoming a Zumba instructor myself – but gave up looking at my fitness levels.

Where am I now with my dream of being a well-known dancer? Well, people at work still know that I dance well (though I am not known for it). I still do Zumba but limited. I sometimes try to practice on my own in my bedroom on some Bollywood numbers. Recently, I choreographed a couple of dances for kids in the apartment and performed myself also in a group. This was done on Ganesha chaturthi last year. A few years from now when my son grows up enough, I can probably take up dance classes for kids or maybe even adults. I would definitely do something about it, just waiting for the right time. I hope that I don’t stay this busy with my life all my life to pursue this dream.

ATTACHMENT TO MY PERSONAL DIARIES

Trust me, this was difficult. When I was told to write on this topic – it was difficult to think of a non-living item that I am attached to and feel I need to have it with me at all times. I thought of my mobile, laptop, kindle, clothes, jewelry, shoes etc. as the first items. But those are needed because my life depends on them – I don’t have any attachment with these items. If my laptop breaks today, I wouldn’t care much provided all important data that I need to run my life is safe.

I am attached to my past, memories, people but not really things. While I was almost thinking that I will give up writing on this topic – something came striking to me. It was the fact that I have preserved my school diaries and personal diaries that I wrote as a child. I have carried them all throughout my life. I had them with me in my hostel while in college, then while working before marriage and then kept while moving multiple homes after marriage.

Now I feel that soon I will have to keep them in a lock because my son might someday sneak in and read my childhood secrets – which I wouldn’t want. Childhood secrets, they are such mesmerizing memories.

While writing those journal, I used to write the whole conversations in my diary, sometimes the whole day’s schedule, sometimes just my feelings, sometimes just the questions that I had for life. Whenever I read them, I go back to that age of innocence, craziness and confusion. And needless to say that I love that. One can say that I am actually attached to those memories. But the fact that I have preserved those memories so carefully in pieces of papers – I am attached to those precious diaries.

There are 5 personal diaries and a few school diaries also which I used to scribble on. And they are full of text that is written nicely and sometimes scribbled. At some places the pages are torn because I was so angry while writing it. If I read all of them one after the other, I can see myself grow from a little child to a grown woman. And it is a very exhilarating feeling to see what I was and how I turned out to be me.

I wish I could share these diaries with my family and friends, but that would be a breach of trust to the little me who actually wrote it. So, I will not do so. Because if someday I meet the little Prabhjot, she would be very disappointed with her own future. Well, now I am talking of time travel ☺

I don’t write daily journals anymore. Maybe because I have started blogging. But writing blogs is very different than writing a diary. While writing a blog I need to keep up to a standard because there are readers who will read it and judge it. However, writing a diary is just me. It will never be read by anybody other than me. And so it is me in my purest form. Probably that is why I am so attached to my diaries much more than my blogs.

This makes me feel that I should start the practice of writing daily journals. If I do, I wonder what 50-year-old Prabhjot would think of the nut case that I am today!!

WHAT ARE DIFFERENT WAYS TO CELEBRATE?

Last few years, we have been playing a fun game called “Secret Santa” just before Christmas. It is a lot of fun and basically involves exchanging gifts in secrecy. We always used to fix an amount of money that people should not exceed. However almost every time, there will be one or the other person who would exceed the budget to show off the kind of gifts he/she can buy.

In the year 2017, I played a different kind of “Secret Santa”. There was an organization which was collecting Christmas wishes from kids living in the orphanages. They hardly have the luxury to exchange gifts. This organization then placed a huge ball of wishes in the middle of our campus. Each one of us was supposed to take up a wish and fulfill it for the child. We would never get to meet the child nor would we be able to see the expression on their faces when they receive the gift. But still many of us picked up more than one wish. Some of them really cute and few were emotional.

Those kids were asked to write down their wishes to Santa. Some of them wrote that they wanted a doll or a book or a car. Some of them even wrote that they wanted a family. Most of us tried our level best to fulfill their wishes to the best of our ability. And we so wanted to see how kids react to our gifts.

For me – that was the best “Secret Santa” that I ever played. It was really secret and brought joy to somebody who really needed it.

I ended up wondering why can’t we celebrate every festival in a similar way? Why do we need the decorations, sweets, gifts etc to celebrate a festival?

I realized that it is all about passion. If one is passionate about caring for the poor, they will find ways to work on it. Just like this organization did and they did it beautifully. If one is passionate only for his/her own pleasure, they will work on themselves only. They will show-off, buy big stuff for home, expensive clothes for the family, beautiful gifts for friends etc. There is nothing wrong with enjoyment but in my view, it should have a purpose other than satisfying one’s own desires.

Simple things can help take a big step towards this

  1. Why not share home-made Diwali sweets with underprivileged kids?
  2. Why not decorate an old age home just like you would do to your own on Diwali or Christmas?
  3. Least that can be done is to invite the family of your house help on festivals to celebrate together. Maybe visit their homes as well.
  4. Every republic day and independence, take up a project of planting trees or filling potholes or spot-fixing a garbage area.
  5. Make decorations using recycled material
  6. Make sure the all our idols that are immersed in water are environment-friendly.

I only listed down a few examples. There can be a million ways to give back to society during our own festival celebrations. Only if we make it our mission to do so, it is possible otherwise like most of us, we will always end up prioritizing our own desires over anything and everything else.

One of the biggest problem in our “Big Fat Indian Weddings” is the wastage of food. Of course, a lot of other things are wasted too and to top the list is the clothing and jewelry. But food wastage saddens me the most because usually close by the wedding halls are the slums who has kids and adults sleeping with an empty stomach. It could be so easy if we could just give away tons of food that turned out to be extra to these beggars and slums sleeping hungry. The only problem here is to arrange for logistics. There is some organization who have started this work, but in my view, the families of the bride and groom and the wedding point owners should take it up as their duty to ensure that every bite of the food cooked goes to a hungry person.

Do not waste. Every time you know that something is getting wasted, raise your voice and find out ways to get it to the person who can use it. It is so simple, only if this becomes a way of living life.

I am struggling to get there and I believe many more are. A lot of us want to do good but just don’t know how. Here is a simple solution – make it a mission of your life and you will find a way.

Celebrate because you love the festival and spirit behind not because it is supposed to be done in a certain way.

THE CANARY IN MY ATTIC

The voice in my head, I call it The Canary In My Attic
It’s wings fluttering as it flies through my thoughts

Not letting me listen to the sound of my brain
The rational mind, the sensible cognisance

Yes, It beckons me at the most ungodly hours
Piping in my ear, not letting me be
Whispering dreams infused with passions

Making my nights sleepless and my days restless

Singing, “You can be so much more.”
Tweeting, “Never settle for the second best.”
Chirping, “You have so much potential.”
Clucking, “No, this is not the right choice.”

It is a part of me, The Canary In My Attic
It’s free and liberated, unlike me

But it’s wild and untamed, unlike me
It’s fast to love and faster to hate

Making my mouth water to see the spoils
Prompting me to go give in to my temptations
It’s perched on the highest branch watching me
And I wanna succumb to the voice of the little bird

The Canary In My Attic is the bird of my soul
I need it to keep me human in a world full of bots
I need it to know the right from the wrong
I love you little bird because I am caged, you are FREE!

HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR WORK LIFE BETTER

Strange, that I am writing this article now when my work-life is so much of a mess. There are emails to be sent, clarifications to be made, multiple releases to be closed, issues to be fixed, customer complaints to be handles, plan for 2019 to be done and much more. This is usually the case every year end because there are just too many things to close for the current year. And the show stopper question is “Did we meet our year end targets?” Things that were ignored and postponed all through the year need to be closed before the magic date – 31st Dec (For us, it is 24th Dec because last week of the year is work shutdown).  

Well, how to organize the work-life? I am not talking about work-life balance here because that is a different story all-together. I am only talking about managing work within working hours.

I am fortunate enough to work for an organization that has amazing work-culture. We can avail enough opportunities to manage our work life balance. Targets are flexible, negotiations are easy and deadlines are strict but are not insane. Something amazing happens when the organization gives its employees the ownership to manage their own work – employees are empowered and motivated to do the work and never really take advantage of a flexible work culture. That is what happens with me and my team. We have the option to work from home and take unlimited sick leaves. However, I hardly see people take undue advantage of it.

1. Ownership

Ownership is the key ingredient to manage your work life well. If you are not given ownership or you are not willing to take ownership – you cannot climb the ladder. Go beyond what is expected out of you. Take control of your career. Like one of my mentors always says – “Do not ask your manager, what is the next role for me. Figure it out yourself and if nothing existing invites you, then create a new role”. The very obvious question comes, “How can I create a role in an already established organization”. The answer is very simple, there are always problems. Identify the problems of your customers, peers, managers, subordinates and pick one and start solving it – in no time you have created a role for yourself. If you really create value, people around will see it and appreciate it.

So ownership is the key. Not just in your current role but go beyond what is expected out of you. See ahead what is next for you and create your own roles.

2. Time- management

Find a tool for time-management that works the best for you – it could even be a simple To-do list, need not be complicated tool. But have something that works and motivates you. If you do not have such a tool, you would invariably always end up working on wrong things. And if you really want to be able to spend no more than 8 hours at your work – time management tool is a must.

I am a Product Owner and one of the key responsibilities of my role is to set the priorities for my team members. Indirectly, I am sort of doing time management for my team which is 6-7 people. Sometimes, it drives me crazy. If I don’t do my job properly, the whole team will end up working on something that nobody needs, which is indeed a big disaster.

3. Urgent work vs. Important work

This is an important matrix that can help you decide what the right thing to work on is.

First quadrant shows work that is urgent and important. While working on these we are usually in the fire-fighting mode. If you spend too much time in this quadrant – you will end up stressed out.

Second quadrant is the place where ideally you must spend most of your time.

Third quadrant is the work that is urgent but not important. This is the kind of work that you should be able to delegate or decline.

Fourth quadrant is the work that is not urgent or important. Try to eliminate this kind of work as much possible.

4. Communication

It is very true that human beings are experts in partial listening. We listen/read only what we want to listen or read. This creates a huge barrier called miscommunication. Multiple options can be used to resolve this problem – always summarize the agreements at the end of each meeting, send out minutes of meetings at the end, when in doubt ask and ask more and keep the emails limited to the people who really need to know things. There are a lot of other ways also.

The key here is that when you listen, listen clearly. Do not already start thinking of your own response. When you speak, speak clearly. Ask and ask again, summarize to ensure that communication has happened like it should have.

5. Think win-win

Like every other relationship, trust and respect forms the foundation of your work relationships as well. The key to succeed to think win-win. If you want to step over somebody to get to higher position, then chances are that you too will get stepped upon. Think of making your team win and think of ways to make each person that you work with get to higher and better position. This would help create a healthy work culture in the organization or the team, which works for everybody in the long run.

There are many more that can be listed down. But these are the primary ones that each person working in a professional environment must keep in mind.

All the best for your endeavors!