As I thought about life,
I felt more and more convinced
that the whole concept of self-help
was a giant lie built around nothing.

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HAND – THE REFLECTION OF OUR MIND

Have you ever thought about your life without hands?

Well, it may sound weird but that’s a reality! On the streets, in our train journeys, and at differently-abled homes, we meet such amputee sports people. As we meet such people, we feel compassionate, we quietly intercede for them, if they beg, we give a few coins but does the story end there?

God has uniquely created us. He has wonderfully weaved each of our body parts that it exactly works like a supercomputer which is finely tuned or programmed to meet a definite set of purposes daily in our lives. It reflects the beauty of God’s handiwork in our body and as we gaze upon the beauty of the magnificent work, we tag it “PERFECT”.     

The works of Potter’s hand gives me my required vessel.

The work of the Painter’s hand brings beauty to my living room.

The work of the Carpenter’s hand designs my choicest furniture.

The work of the Chef’s hand feeds me my choicest food.

The work of the Writer’s hand enlightens my mind with knowledge.

The work of the Computer Engineer’s hand makes me technologically advance.

So on and so forth…

Well, what about them who do not have hands? Who are accidentally or by birth amputees, how about life for them? Who is responsible for their loss? Is their life imperfect and ugly?

In school, when the teacher calls my roll number, the sound of his speech beats my eardrum and alerts my mind to process the received information and my mind instructs my hand to raise up and respond “Present Sir”.

At the bus stop, I was waiting for the bus to the office. While my mind was instructing me to catch the bus for office, my eyes saw the moving object “bus” proceeding towards me and it immediately signalled my mind to read the route description on its dashboard and as I read the route description, I raised my hand to ask for a lift.

Wow, amazing! So much of technicality is happening in just a fraction of seconds!

Every output is the reflection of some input stored in the finite memory space. Yes, the translation of it is the “WORK OF MIND”. The hand is designed to give the output of our mind and the mind is designed to input information for a definite action intended for a definite cause.

When I joined the upper primary school as a newcomer, I hesitated to mingle with my classmates. During free hours, I preferred to eat my tiffin and sit alone observing the activities of my new classmates. In my observation, I found them using their hands for a particular sign language to express their anger to dominate the opposition team in the Cricket match and in my tender mind I thought to learn it for my survival in the group. Gradually, after one year I found myself using different vulgar hand sign languages which brought a bad reputation for me. Thank God, I was able to overcome as earlier as possible.

Irrespective of the nature of work the most important organ to reflect the knowledge of mind in our action is “hand” which plays a vital role. A creative thinker thinks creatively whereas his creative thinking is only confined within him but his creative thinking is recognized as Creative work only after the work of his hand. The hand is meant to work but dealing with the roots, it is the mind that instructs the hand how to work and what to work on.

The Bible always prompts for the renewal of the attitude of our mind because it is apparently the renewal of thinking reflects in the works of our hands.

Work on the mind for the work of the hand…  

May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.
– The Bible

ADDING COLOUR TO LIFE IS IN OUR HANDS

Yesterday was a family day. The day when families of all our team members get together to celebrate. In my career so far, there have been quite a few family days but I never attended one.

A month ago when our Engineering Director called for a meeting, I had very little clue about what was ahead of me. People who were called for that meeting were chosen as organisers for family day. What? I cannot attend family day, let alone organising it. I stayed calm for the entire meeting and told my Director, “I am on leave for a couple of weeks, but I can help with the planning as much as possible”. A date was not finalised for when the family day is going to be and I secretly wished it falls during my vacation.

A team of 5 were to chosen to handle a massive team and extended family of 300 people. This job was not going to be easy. As much as I wanted to stay away from it, I couldn’t do so.  When it was time to finalise the date, there were two options, one during my vacation and the other one right after my vacation. I requested the organising team to not choose the date based on my vacation, but eventually, it happened so that the date was after I return from my vacation. 

Before I went on vacation, I thought of finalising most of the stuff, because when I am on vacation, I may not be able to respond to messages or take calls. As most of the things were sorted out, I went for my vacation rather relieved. By the time I was back in office, the organising team had done a wonderful job in procuring props, gifts and also the logistics. Last Wednesday, we went through the list once again, cross-checked the schedule and distributed our respective responsibilities. 

Wednesday I came home and still wondered if there was any way I could escape from attending the family day. I have a reason that I cannot disclose here, but the gist of it is that I don’t like to lie. I can give some reason to not attend family day, but being an organiser I did not want to disappoint anyone. I had a rough day on Thursday personally. I was quite disturbed and sleepless. Friday wasn’t great either. I was literally exhausted by Friday evening, almost cursing my life for the way it is in some respects. 

I had very disturbed sleep on Friday night as well and eventually, I woke up at 3.30. Today is a family day and I still not have made up my mind on attending it. Believe me, I sat on my bed wondering on the same till 7 in the morning. Various thoughts were doing rounds in my head – I have to drive for 50 km one way on a two-wheeler, I don’t know the route, haven’t had proper sleep, not in a good mood – how can I go out there and be normal ?? 

Something strange happened then at that moment, a thought that is extremely opposite to what I have been thinking. What if, just what if I set aside all these things for a few hours to entertain my extended family? Can’t I do so much? All I have to do is to switch off these thoughts for a few hours and just go out there. It is almost 7.45 am now if I quickly get ready and start, I might reach the venue by 9.45. Though I am supposed to be there by 8.30 as per schedule, I might be there by 10 am for sure. I messaged in the organising group that I would be reaching at around 10 so that they are informed. With no time to waste, I tried to stay on schedule. I reached the venue at 9.50 am, bang on!! 

My other organising counterparts were already on their jobs and they seemed relieved seeing me there.  It was 10.15 am when the families finished breakfast and gathered by the poolside venue for the fun events to start. Once I took the mike, and started off, trust me I forgot everything that was bothering me till then. The next 3 hours, I really did not think of anything else. Unfortunately, some of the props that we had ordered for some games have not arrived. Had to plan some spontaneous games but everything went well. Music, dance, games, laughter and lots of fun. 

After 3 hours, I felt dizzy and completely out of energy. I had a chocolate that was lying on the table. I looked around to notice empty space as families left to have lunch. The lonesomeness – the naked truth of my life was back with me. I had lunch alone, and took a seat under the shade wondering what would I do for the second half? The second half was time for families to enjoy the pool and resort activities. As I walked back to our venue, I noticed some kids painting and sketching. We have set up few desks for arts and crafts so that kids can unwind their creativity. I happily sat there and spent the rest of my time with kids, no,  budding artists and painters… 🙂

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

By the end of the day, it felt good when people appreciated the effort we put in. They enjoyed well and quite a few people applauded how everything was well organised. Some called me multi-faceted, some said I am a good orator and so on… It felt good. I would have really missed all this, if I would have succumbed to how sad I was or the thought that I might feel lonely when all others are enjoying with their families. If I would not have been the organiser, maybe I would not have been there and spent most of my day feeling sad. When I feel sad next time, I am just going to go out and spend some quality time somewhere instead of my home and try to forget everything else that is bothering me. A lesson learnt in practicals 🙂

ORGANIZED WORKING HOMEMAKER

I was a working professional earlier but 10 years ago due to personal reasons I quit and became a full-time homemaker. Last year I tried doing some work from home assignments but it didn’t work out satisfactorily. Now after a huge gap of 10 years I started working at a school.

And I tell you my confidence in myself was very low. All sorts of apprehensions were there in my mind both on the work front and the home front. And my biggest worry was “How will I manage both together? Both the fronts being equally demanding.”

Let me share whatever little I learnt.

  • Compartmentalize:

This is the first thing I learnt when I started working again. My work life and personal life are two compartments in my head. When I am at work I leave all my worries about home in the other compartment. And at home, I don’t worry about my school work, students etc because I think if you have to give your hundred per cent to something then all your thoughts should be centred on that. This has come naturally to me. As in school we teachers are away from our phones most of the time, its only after the students leave that we can use our phones so the distraction is not there. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule like if someone in the family is not well at home then you need to check on that person from time to time. Or vice versa, being a pre-primary teacher there is a lot of craft work to be done and at times I need to bring craft work home to complete. But still, I try that they remain the exceptions and not become a practice.

  • Plan Ahead:

This I tell you is the most important rule. And most difficult for me to implement. I have always been a last minute person. I could never make timetables and plans and if I made I wouldn’t be able to stick to them. But I realised the importance of this when I joined the school. Here we have weekly plans for all subject and all topics are divided so that we are able to cover them through the week. I realised how easy life becomes when you plan the whole week. Life is sorted, everyday morning we just need to check the work for the day and move ahead. Every time need not worry about the big picture. I am trying to implement this kind of planning at home also. If the menu etc is set for the week then groceries can be bought at one go during the weekend and last minute rushing to the supermarket can be avoided. Saves a lot of time and headaches. This project of mine is still work in progress but I have met a few homemakers who plan menus etc in advance and it really works for them.

  • Build a support system

If you are a working professional and have children at home you need a support system. I have two teenaged kids ideally they should have been pretty independent by now. But maybe me being at home has made them quiet dependent on me. Now I am working on making them responsible for their own work as I am not always around to help them. I am blessed to have my parents-in-laws staying with me who help in making my house run like clockwork even in my absence. Your husband, other members of your family, your friends and your maid they are all part of your support system. Build a strong connection with them. A strong support system is very necessary for a worry-free work life.

I am sure all the other working mothers would be able to add a lot more to my list I am still learning and discovering new rules of being a working homemaker. It is tough at times but still at the end of the day makes me feel satisfied that I am known by my name also not only as mother of so and so or wife of so and so.

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!

THE GOSSIPS AROUND A YOUNG GIRL

As an IT Professional either you work as a team lead or work under a team leader. As far as my knowledge is concerned you lead a team. Probably you are a wonderful leader. Every time you work among people or with people. And when there are people, there are gossips and rumours. Some are lies, some are true yet hurtful. Have you ever heard your teammates talking against you? How do you react to the gossips and rumours that go on against you? Do they help you develop yourself or demoralize you? Do those pinching words and statements make your life miserable or they benefit you to rectify yourself for a better you?

This is the problem statement given to me by my leader in Candles Online and I think he knows me really well to ask me this question. I can write a book on this topic but I think I would end up sounding as a victim if I do so. This topic really touches a sensitive nerve and I can only share limited information because this is a public platform and people reading this article know me and probably work or have worked with me. If I wrote this as an anonymous, I would have revealed a lot of secrets than I do now.

I was 20 days away from my 22nd birthday when I joined the corporate life. It was right after my B.Tech that I joined an MNC (US based) and was new to Bangalore. I was a super-excited kid then, high on ambitions and a little bit careless and immature. Little did I know then that I was embarking a journey that will define me and my personality!

I joined a team which was male-dominated – in a team of 30 people we were only 4 women. And 2 of us were from the same college joining together. Other two were quite high in experience. Rest of the team was full of men in their mid to late 20s or even mid-30s. Well, initially it was all good. I loved being a part of this team. It was just perfect. Everybody was super helpful and they made me a part of this family in no time. I thought I made some great friends but I was not aware of the fact that friends made at the workplace are usually just meant for work.

Within 6 months of joining I was given a raise because I did some good work. But along with that I also got a shock of my life. It was apparent that people recognized my talent but sometimes I felt that I was being given too much importance because of that. Then one day I heard a lot of people laughing and gossiping in the next cubicle. Curious as I was, I peeped in to know what the joke was. By then the guys were quite comfortable in my company – so they said: “we are not able to decide whether to hire the green girl or the red one”. I was confused. “What do you mean?” I asked them. None of them said anything and walked away. I was curious so I poked a guy who had become a good friend by then. He said “Interviews are being conducted for further hiring. They were joking whether they should hire the girl in the green suit or red top.” I was shocked. “What? How does that even matter? How capable are those girls?” I asked. “How does it matter? Whoever is the prettiest will get picked?” He laughed. I almost missed a beat and not only that my shock was quite apparent on my face. He got it and said “Oh, don’t worry. Everybody is aware of your talent now.” “What do you mean ‘now’? Tell me what criteria was I hired on?” I almost shouted thinking hard what I wore on during my interviews. He hesitated and then said “Ok, if you really want to know. You didn’t do very well. You got most of it only partially right.” I was crying inside and trying very hard to not let it show. “Well, were there other ‘guys’ who did better than me?” He smirked, “Yes, from your college only.”

I remember this incident very well. Because that was the first ever shock I got in my corporate life. I thought everything was perfect and I had landed in a perfect place, a perfect team. What, I was hired to look pretty? My first reaction was to just resign but sanity took better off me and I decided to continue just to prove that I am rather talented and much more than most of them. So I became competitive, a bit too much maybe. That really went in my favour but all the while there was a sulking negativity inside me.

This same guy who had revealed this information to me, later on, went on to propose me for marriage. I refused since I was not in a state of mind to think about it. C’mon I was just 23. He got engaged quite soon in an arranged manner but for a long time, other teammates believed that I was heartbroken and sad because of his marriage. I continued to get a lot of attention in this area which I simply hated. Why did they want to interfere in my personal life? I can never understand. These rumours really irritated me to the extent that I completely cut off from this colleague with all personal aspects.

There is one more incident that stands out. I got a chance to visit the US in 2007 just a year after I joined. It was for a specific project and I was super excited. I had to travel with 3 other colleagues of mine. None of them was really good friends of mine. I was a very open and friendly person. I was a kid who used to speak her mind. I never really cared at that point of time “What would people think of me?” So the first weekend in the US, I asked these guys out for a swimming session. I was very excited because the hotel had a heated pool and the idea was too exhilarating for me as I love swimming. One of the guys agreed to join me. As a result, we met at the agreed time and I changed into my swimming costume and we had a good one hour of swimming which was very relaxing yet tiring.

Next day when I went to work, I got a ping from a colleague who was in India. And he asked me “How my swimming session was?” I was surprised. How did this news even travel thousands of miles? Was it a big deal? Well yes, it was. Apparently, every detail of that one hour was discussed which included the details of my swimming costume as well. Trust me, I really devastated after listening to all this. It was horrible. I felt so lonely in that country that I gave up the idea of studying abroad and working there. All I wanted was to come back home and be with my people. Well, it wasn’t possible then. I was there on a 3-month project, so I decided to confront these guys. I did but it just ended up in a fight and a bad argument.

Yes, I am an open-minded girl. I like to dress up. I like to party and all. But how does that ever mean that I am seeking attention or I am ‘easy and available’. Well, that was what my image became after a few years of working in that team. I was linked with a lot of men even after I was married. I hate to remember that time. I have only recited a couple of incidents but those few years that I worked there – it was really bad. Sad as it is, I was not aware of any harassment at workplace policy neither did I take pains to figure those out.

Once I even heard a horrible comment passed for a girl who worked with us for a very short duration before she was fired. She was extremely pretty and was fired because she was extremely poor in her performance. The comment that was passed for her was – “Why did they have to fire her? All she had to do was to kiss each one of us every day. That would be enough for us.” I was flabbergasted when I heard this. I was so shocked that I couldn’t speak and retaliate. The only thought that ran again and again in my head was “Am I also talked about the same way?” Well, that comment was made in front of me without being scared of me. Why did I let that happen? I still don’t know. I probably lacked courage in letting such men know how they are supposed to behave. And because of that, I ended up being a victim.

I should have stood up for what I felt was wrong and insulting. Instead, I tried to be “cool girl” who doesn’t care. I should have spoken about it and took help from authorities to rectify so much that was wrong. Instead, I just stayed silent and tolerated. I took these guys to be my friends, believed them to be my own people when I constantly felt insulted by them. There was constant fear that kept growing, that fear was of being judged for every choice that I make. Choice of picking up what to wear each morning to the choice of laughing at somebody’s joke, choice of trying to be one of them and choice of talking to them and those multiple choices that I made during those years. One fine day when I decided to quit, everything ended just like that.

When I joined the new place, I decided that I want to be known for my work and not for anything else. It has been almost 5 years since that era ended and I lead a team now. I believe I am known for my work and I think I am happy with the way I have proven myself (to me). I made some strong rules when I joined this organization.

  1. No friends (especially male)
  2. No nonsense. Just talk work and come home
  3. Work super hard. Keep the focus always on work
  4. No extra-curricular. Earlier I used to participate in dance competitions, sports competitions and other such stuff.
  5. Always remember what you are being paid for and how you are returning back to the organization.
  6. Follow your intuition. If you don’t feel comfortable – speak up and loud.

My current organization has a good male to female ratio, so that really helps. Although, it was a horrible time that I went through in my first organization – I have become a much better and matured person since then. Every incident helps us to grow. Every person who comes in your life comes to teach you something. I have been through counselling and therapy sessions to get over the impact of all those years. It took time to rebuild my confidence and become who I am today. So, today I do not hold any grudges to any of the people I came across earlier.

I hope I answered your question well, Charlie!

WHEN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIVES COLLIDE

Many of us lead two lives – personal and professional. Our day is split between these two lives. The two sides of us are so intertwined that a problem with one without a doubt affects the other. Small disturbances like occasional fights with significant other, kids falling sick as well might affect us at work temporarily. Can something more severe in degree take away our concentration and dedication towards work? It might be the death of a family member, end of a friendship, breakup or a family member suffering from an illness like cancer. The answer to this mostly depends on whether or not we are passionate about what we do. If we are passionate, we won’t give up on the job but find a way to deal with it.

The last three years of my life had three negative moments which were very personal. The pain of those is still there in me, deep down. There are days at work when I am sitting at my desk with tears rolling down. During that time, I can hardly concentrate on whatever I am doing. I must agree that emotions can engulf us at any time. If the pain is unbearable, I walk up to the restroom, have personal time to cry out. It is very important to acknowledge but not resist the confrontation to our own feelings. It is better to let them out. Shed the tears, holding on to them could be counterproductive.

Some days are a little worse. Either I would have had a bad dream or wake up and feel very low. I pull myself out of the bed, walk up to my plants, water them, talk to them and sometimes I just break down before them. I know that unlike pets, plants cannot understand us, but there is no other soul who I can talk to. Such days when I cannot control my thoughts, I usually opt to take leave from work. It certainly helps to sort out the thoughts and return back to work with clearer self the day after. It would always help to take a break from work, not a long one, but a day or two does benefit us in many ways.

There is one more thing that really helped me over time. Disconnection from social media. It is better to have lesser distractions when we are already fighting to concentrate. Not only that, say, for example, you had a break-up. A few days later your ex posts a picture, is it really important to see that? I don’t really think so. Once we give up on someone or they give up on us, it is always better to let them go not just from life but from the radar of our attention. We don’t really need to spend our valuable time on someone who doesn’t really value us.

Most of the times I pulled it through but there was a time when I just could not deliver at work. I was feeling very guilty. At the same time, I did not think it was appropriate to talk to any of my colleague’s. I was struggling, literally, nothing was working. I could not read a design document or a requirement document to understand them. After some time, I thought it might be better for me to resign, sit at home and return back to work when I feel better. I walked up to my manager’s cabin to tell him to accept my resignation. I tried once, twice but I couldn’t do it, my inner voice was shouting at me to just do it. I finally gathered courage and told my manager the decision. He did not react much but listened to my problem with great interest. He said, “You know what, while I agree that you need a break, I do not agree that you need to resign. This weekend please sleep well, take good care of yourself and we shall talk on Monday”. In our next meeting, he said many encouraging words and gave me feedback which brought me back on track. That is when I understood he was observing me. Our managers/supervisors are not always our go-to people, but they have the right to know why we have been under performing. A good leader would show the right path, so, it is always better to talk to them. We have to be careful about how much we let them into our personal territory.

While on the personal front things weren’t good, things weren’t great at work either. No person used to talk to me (I was new in the team). People had their own doubts on me. Every design of mine was going through several levels of scrutiny. My ideas weren’t even seconded by another person. The problems I raised were unheard. There was neither recognition nor a word of encouragement. I had been through a lot to prove what I am capable of.

From leading one crucial module in our product, two years down the line, today I am technically responsible for the entire platform we are creating for our new line of products. There is an onus on me to deliver. I work for a healthcare company, the first thing I see in the morning is a visual of a happy mother holding her newborn (Imagined visual). The joy in the moms’ eyes keeps me going, on and on. This is possible only because I am passionate about what I do. No matter what happens, how many people say that I should leave my job to get back to my family, my job brings satisfaction to me. I do not need another person to acknowledge how good I am, the added responsibilities at work speak for themselves!!