I’m striving for imperfection on purpose

Last year I took a pottery class from the owner and teacher at Yay Clay studios in Philadelphia (yayclay.com). I told my friend/instructor that I wanted to make something imperfect on purpose. Lately I have been retraining my brain to let go of perfection. I only do this intentionally in safe spaces like private creative endeavors so that when I am striving for perfection where it counts I put less pressure on myself.

I had never thrown clay before but I secretly wanted to make the most beautiful thing I have ever created. I wanted to construct something from nothing and for it to be the best thing ever made. Instead of being hard on myself like I usually am, I tried some positive self talk. I reminded myself that it takes years to get really good at a new skill. “This is supposed to be fun! And my yoga teacher says that art projects are heart openers”. Reminding myself made it easy to set the boundary that I was going for imperfection. I purposely made uneven patterns to surrender and just make with my hands what felt good instead of what I thought I was “supposed to do”. Doing what I think I’m supposed to do is a sure fire way to fail and to be really hard on myself for no reason. It’s like when you have a dream and are trying to explain it. There aren’t enough words in language to help bring the majesty of a dream to life.  Most creative people will tell you that the vision they had for what they wanted to create often doesn’t manifest in the same way they originally designed in their head. That’s why I love movies so much. It’s the closest substantial creation to a dream there is.

Being proper all of the time is exhausting. Telling my teacher my intentions helped me reset a boundary with myself as well. The desire to making our teachers proud is a whole other level of perfection that is captured so beautifully in the movie Whiplash. The pursuit to make others proud is another “this is the way I’m supposed to be” endeavor that can either be dangerous or push us to greatness.

In a way I wonder if that’s where the pursuit of perfection started, from the desire to make our teachers and parents proud. Another place I am intentionally imperfect is yoga. I will give you my honest opinion on any yoga class you take me to because if the instructor pushes me to do things I don’t want to do I will leave. The point of yoga is to still our minds.  The art of yoga is to get our racing minds to slow down and reach an ocean like flow. I have read the entire Yoga Sutras and it’s not about the poses we hold dear to our hearts. In fact the poses were created to help prepare the body for meditation, and the poses make up only four lines in the entire book.  A yogi master is one who tells you to do what feels right for your body. Save the aerobics for kickboxing. Yoga poses are designed to help you stretch your spirit and your body to accept imperfection and peace.

My absolute favorite part of yoga class is setting an intention. I have said the best prayers while setting my intentions for class. “I surrender my life to myself”. “I dedicate this class to clearing from my day”. “My intention is to accept the poses I cannot accomplish and love myself anyway”.

The best part of heart-openers is that they show up in real life. I can now set intentions for my day, for a project, and through my communication with others like a champ. One class we were encouraged to be child-like but not childish. Child-like is the way we find wonder and joy in our every day activities. Being child-like is the way we tap into the essence of what makes us who we are before the first expectation was ever put upon us.

I hope you find healthy ways to remove attachments from your life. I hope you find ways to accept and celebrate your imperfections.

I hope you find peace in your daily decisions. I hope you find peace in the results of your actions, especially if it doesn’t come true the way you envisioned, because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

Workplace Bullying is Real but it doesn’t have to be

Leadership Styles: There are so many new ways to lead. Social entrepreneurship shows us a way to give back while still making money. Zappos.com has broken away from the traditional way of corporate America’s hierarchy by celebrating creativity and adopting a more team friendly or holacracy approach.

Leaders are Human: A common misconception is that leaders are perfect and have all the answers. The person at the top of a company is just a person growing and evolving like the rest of us. I suspect however they have a stomach for coexisting and perhaps even thriving in the face of adversity.

Leading with Resistance: The most difficult obstacle with leadership to me is leading while feeling the resistance of your peers. Being a visionary can be lonely. I’m using a strong word “visionary”, but isn’t that what we strive to be? Opposition is important, but is it opposition with the intention of improving or personal attacks against the person?

Most of us want to make a positive impact on the world in our lifetime. I think about Mark Zuckerberg’s open letter to his baby. It’s beautiful. He has a vision of excellence for the world that’s bigger than the resistance people have against him. If you look at the comment section of his letter he has mostly support from like-minded people in the beginning before the peanut gallery added their opinions.

When I was young what I wanted to be was successful- but for reasons you probably aren’t expecting to hear. I wanted to be regarded by my peers as someone they could respect, admire, and even like as a person. I was bullied frequently and worked hard in school because I kept thinking one day I am going to be an adult. And when I’m an adult I will be with people who act with civility and compassion.

Unfortunately as a newly minted HR professional I stand corrected. Even as a job coach I hear my clients in so much emotional pain regarding the mind games and tricks their co-workers are partaking in. I understand the art of war. I understand sometimes people are into getting what they want and pushing their agenda the only way they know how.

Celebrating Value Add: But perhaps there is another way. Perhaps we should continue celebrating our “Best Places to Work” and read the reasons why those companies were voted for in. Did those companies encourage wellness, spend money on team building, and set up their employees for success? Did those companies take action when a human rights violation was reported? Instead of the art of war at work, we can have a peace brigade celebrating each others’ victories, using the other person’s strengths, and keeping in perspective that making someone feel valued is so much more important than stepping on them in the moment.

I recently had a friend pass away. Her death was a suicide and I can’t help but think if her co-workers treated her with some respect instead of gossiping about her, she would have been set up for success. As I continue to grieve her another friend explained to me that we can never be too kind. No matter how stressful our daily responsibilities can get I would like to believe we are humans who want to feel competent and liked. Instead of complaining and wondering why the incompetent person on your team got hired and is ruining your life, why not teach them? Figure out their strengths and use that to your advantage.

New Skills: When we are focusing on our own professional development we have to do the same exercise. When we struggle with a new skill it is essential to remember we are supposed to be really bad in the beginning. You will get get better at it. You will master it, don’t give up. Write things down and trust that you are improving!

Remember the moments you were successful in the past and use those same skills to be successful now. My first career path was fundraising in the non-profit sector. I had to think about what made me successful during the job search and when I was in college. The answer was through informational interviewing and securing mentors. So I did the same as a fundraiser. I asked for advice and built a really strong group of advisers who brainstormed with me and who worked with me for a common purpose.

When I needed volunteers I noticed a lot of people were quitting because they were doing something they felt they didn’t know how to do. So I started creating customized volunteer opportunities. I started by asking the person what skills have they mastered in their current job, and what skills were they looking to gain for their next job. We then created a volunteer job description which was a mix of what they knew and what they wanted to know. This allowed them to gain quick victories on what they already knew and a really safe space with me to try new skills like video editing or going door to door and asking for auction items.

Everything is temporary: Workplace bullying is often like a fever. If you stick around long enough behavior will change. Bridges can be built with willing parties and corrective action should be taken to those who don’t know how to behave. Resources like the book/training Crucial Conversations taught me how to have strategic conversations with peers in a high stakes situation. Having mentors in my life also helps me discuss my concerns and roadblocks with people I trust so I can keep moving.

I hope you find the right resources, training, and environment that will help you earn the living you dream of earning.

I hope you find compassionate, kind, and authentic people to work with throughout your career, because I sincerely cannot be the only one who is looking.

 

People without boundaries are the worst

The best advice I receive are from people who understand the importance of life unfolding in a peaceful and joyful manner. There is no one path for us to follow but a few guiding principals like being present and practicing non-attachment go a long way.

In my sociology classes we discussed social norms and what happens when we deviate from them. Some of our social experiments made people smile and others just thought we were strange. Remember that scene in Patch Adams where Robin Williams hung upside down and made the elderly woman smile? She was frightened at first but then he counted and her reaction changed.

I’m realizing that’s what deviating from the norm is. Most people will be jolted at first but if you can count long enough, you either won’t be attached to their disapproval as much over time, or they might be pleasantly surprised at the example you have set for them.

It always surprises me when those closest to us create such havoc in our minds. Controlling people tend to assign doom when things don’t go their way. The logical step is to create a boundary, but what do you do when they don’t respect that boundary? Again, then a third time, until it feels like you are just blue in the face.

My lesson on this predicament is still being unfolded but for now I’m going to hope that my beliefs on how I should live my life are under review and that smile from society is just a few counts away.

Saying that I shouldn’t care what others think is true to a degree but the reality is we all need a network of people who support us. Until I find more like-minded people I’m just going to have to work with the village of people still raising me. Us adults need a village too!

I hope you find peace in your daily life and confidence in your choices. I hope you find support in the times you need it most. I hope you build a life that fits your needs and desires. I hope you find good people who respect boundaries because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

Why Finding Like Minded People Is So Important

For the last few years I have been learning a lot of new skills. It has been a battle to find enough patience with myself but I feel I have made strides. I have been reading about and practicing Love and Kindness mediation and yoga.

I feel a dramatic difference in the way I adapt to change, just by implementing positive self-talk, and by reminding myself it takes time to learn new skills, tasks, and grasp new ideas.

The most painful experience when learning new skills, is feeling the frustration from my teachers and cohorts.

When I learned that the two most important ideals in people’s lives were to feel loved and competent a bright light bulb went off in my head.

If my teacher and cohorts aren’t creating a safe space for me to learn or adjusting to what I need/ask for, it hinders my learning dramatically.

What’s the solution?: This is when we need to remember there are like-minded people out there like us.

Why is it the solution?: Finding like-minded people is what makes me feel less lonely in the world. It makes my way of thinking seem less off the charts, and more on point. It makes my way of understanding and comprehension seem normal and uncomplicated.

Do it yourself: I often remind myself that my confusion is temporary. It takes most people three months to pick up something new and one year to feel like they have reached the first level of mastery.

How to find like-minded people: When I was on the plane a few days ago, my orange juice started tipping towards me. The woman next to me saw it and I caught it just in time. I told her how thankful I was to find such a thoughtful person. Inside I felt relief to find someone out there in the world who was thoughtful and kind. This woman was a complete stranger and she still managed to create a safe space for me. I’m so grateful and told her so.

So the how is 1) When you are in front of someone who makes you feel anything other than whole, remind yourself it’s temporary. 2) Remember that for everyone one thoughtless person, there are ten thoughtful people around the corner 3) Make a list of activities you love doing/subjects you love studying and join a group of people with the same interest.

Who gathers like-minded people? Meet-up.com has a ton of great groups. You can search by interest, location, and even start your own! Your local library probably has a few groups too. I joined my local writing group and felt so at home. And remember there are conferences and festivals on most every topic out there! Sometimes I go to art fairs and ask the vendors if they have classes because I love art so much! And finally townships have a ton of classes. Most townships have a community education program including cooking classes, art, music, fitness, computer/tech, and dancing!

I hope you find like-minded people who make you feel included, loved by society, and who celebrate your high competency because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

Team I am ready for you

I realized something about myself today. I am happiest when I am working with a team of like-minded people. A recent poll mentioned in Washingtonian Magazine said that something like 53% of young professionals under 30 mentioned fame as a top career goal.

For me I always wanted to have people I really trusted and enjoyed around me at all times. I know it is best to keep work and pleasure separate but we are raised in so many systems. We are in school for a set amount of time each year. There are annual festivals and traditions to look forward to. And we celebrate it together!

Now that I’m out in this “real-world” I want my wonderful team to appear. I am not in that 53 percentile. I am not one of the fame seekers but I still want to accomplish a lot. I want to be a really good recruiter in any industry, write books, pioneer diversity initiatives for television and film, have fun in my personal life, see Italy, and so much more.

Shifting to an abundance mentality has been an exciting and rewarding new frontier. Divine timing however remains a puzzle. Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting on the sidelines. I know how to create structure for other people, but I’m not always sure how to create it for myself.

Yesterday I saw a TED Talk about how most of us have ideas all the time and never act on them. I’ve figured out how to do projects without a team but I miss them. I miss doing a project with a group of people who want to succeed. I miss having a colleague review my thoughts and give me feedback on how to be even better. Maybe I didn’t realize how much collaboration is such an integral part of my creative process.

I don’t mean to idealize teamwork because it certainly had its pitfalls when you are with the wrong group of people. However from an organizational development perspective it is so thrilling to have people specialize in what the company needs and essentially be parts to the whole. In sociology we often were reminded of the human body being made of many different parts. Each organ has its function and is equally important to the body overall, just as each type of job contributes to society functioning as a whole.

I hope you realize your worth is tied to just being you. You contribute positively to the world everyday by being present with those around you. I hope you find a team of people who support you, make things happen, and push you to reach your full potential because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

Figure out if people’s words and actions match

Some days when I have moments of ambiguity, I remind myself that I know that I want to feel included, loved, and competent. And I want to have people around who help me accomplish this feeling with ease. The right people are like mirrors reflecting back all of those quiet moments of wonder you already think about yourself. And when it gets really fun the right people help you create a safe space to dream and build those dreams into reality.

Our jobs when interacting with people is to figure out if people’s words match their actions. Most people tell you exactly who they are within the first two weeks of meeting them.

When I was at a conference, a contact told me about a game he plays. He watches people and observes them. Then he asks them questions to find out if his instincts on people reading were right or not. Interesting game right!!

I feel like so much heartache in every aspect of life comes from expectations and people not matching that view we have of them. But if we pay attention to what people tell us, and then put a time frame to see if they are all talk, or all action, we should be able to weed out the real people from the fakes.

I hope you find ways to bless and release the people in your life who aren’t serving you.

I hope you find the right collaborators, love interests, and creative partners who help you build your life the way you want to live it!!

I hope you find ways to articulate appreciation to the people in your life who already think the world of you because I cannot be the only one who is looking!!

Following the advice we give to others is how we love ourselves

The best advice I got in college was to pretend I was another person- give that person advice, and then take it myself. I have rewritten this opening sentence a bunch of times because it sounds crazy.

For some reason it is easier to give advice to others. Within our own minds it seems we are conflicted. We often are battling guilt, what if questions, other doubt, and worst case scenarios. Meanwhile advice for others rolls off our tongues. If I don’t follow the same advice I would give others when I am in the same situation then it’s a form of self-hatred. If you know something is not good for you and you do it anyway it is like drinking poison. Let’s kick guilt to the curb. Where was guilt born? If we aren’t hurting someone else emotionally or physically why does guilt take up so much head space? I struggle with guilt everyday and I don’t even know how most of it got there. Are we a society that just makes each other feel bad for having fun?

There is this fantastic philosophy out there that you can do anything you put your mind to. I still believe this but I often pray for the right gurus to come along and teach me. With the right teachers mastering something can be thrilling.

The term going with the flow was taught to me in a different way today. My mentor said to me, “be the water on the rocks”. If you want something really bad and it’s not coming together reassess where your life is at in that moment. Maybe that desire isn’t serving you. She told me that is the ego trying to force something that isn’t meant to be.

The theme of my last few posts have been trying to find this balance between making things happen and letting them happen. It feels like if we set a vision of excellence and do our best to execute we should feel really good about our effort. Trying to master something is like being on the right path to gathering resources. The very concept of mastering something means that you are never finished. You always have something else to do. You can get really close but you have to keep going. Your ambition, your passion, and drive simply have to be challenged again in order for you to be molded into an even greater master.

It’s okay if what you thought your life was going to be doesn’t come true. Maybe if it came true, it wouldn’t have been all that you imagined it would be. Maybe just by going for it, you had all the right conversations with the right people. Maybe just by going for it, you felt so much joy you could barely handle it. What I’m realizing is that our job is to follow our heart’s desire. As soon as it becomes a burden or is not serving us, drop it and shift direction like water on the rocks.

We are meant to feel joy and experience abundance all of the time. I keep saying this because I myself am trying to still master this concept. I have been coaching myself moment to moment to receive joy in its fullest form. “You deserve this. I am worthy. Let joy in.”. I played basketball for eight years and have two championships under my belt. I think my basketball coaches would be really happy to hear I developed a motivating voice!

So my conflicting philosophies have found some middle ground:

1) We find the balance between making things happen and letting things happen with grace. Grace helps do a tango between the two. Moments in tangos have slower parts and sharper parts. The music guides you. I wonder what thing in life the music represents in this metaphor. For me it’s god and the communities I belong to.

2) We have to shift gears if things don’t work out. If we trust that everything is rigged in our favor it will allow us to enjoy the life we have instead of mourning the life we thought we would have.

3) We should do everything in our power to get what we want. The key phrase is “in our power”. There is so much we can’t control. If I do everything in my power and it still doesn’t come true I have nothing to feel regret about. At a certain point I guess we just have to surrender and let other people come 50% of the way.

I think we struggle to follow our own advice sometimes because when it comes to ourselves we have a built in blindness. Our fear is so close to us that it serves as blinders. Maybe the blindness is built in because we are all connected. Compassion for others is the best mirror. Compassion for ourselves is the most outstanding subject to figure out and live by. I hope you find OUTSTANDING ways to be kind to yourself because you are so worth it and so am I. I hope you find ways to sustain self-love and kindness because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

It’s not rejection it’s redirection

I recently attended a graduation of a close friend. She applied for one grad school program and didn’t get in. The night she didn’t get in she came out to eat with my family. After the meal she told me her plan B. It turns out she had been wanting to do her plan B, but fear was stopping her from pursuing it.

She now has her masters in her “plan B” program. For me what I realized is that when she didn’t get in, it wasn’t rejection it was redirection. If she got in before, she wouldn’t have been 100% authentic in what she wanted. That door needed to close for her, in order to redirect herself. So that old phrase, when one door closes another one opens is true- but in a different way. Maybe the doors that close are just a way to gently guide us to our best selves.

There was an interview with Arianna Huffington where she quoted the poet Rumi, “It’s rigged — everything, in your favor.
So there is nothing to worry about.

Below is my note to the graduate:

“No matter what you go through in life moving forward you will always have this detailed journey to look back on. You will always remember following your intuition, doing everything in your power to succeed, and finally surrendering to the circumstance.

Remember that even when we do everything in our power the universe still has to meet us half way. I’m not saying this to overwhelm you, but rather to comfort you.

You now have so many tools to overcome obstacles and advise other people that life always gets better. When we are authentic with what we want the path always becomes a bit clearer.”

The thing is that I really admire her and anyone who creates a vision of excellence for themselves and goes for it. It’s so easy to live with regret. It’s harder to go for it and do everything in your power to make your desires come true.

In The Gita it says that if we do not try to accomplish our desire we are left wanting something, and therefore will be reborn (reincarnate) until we fulfill all desires. Talk about procrastination!! So whenever I’m on the fence about something, I always ask myself- Will I regret this if I don’t do it? It has been a great guiding question to move me forward on what really matters moment to moment.

And all we can really do is what’s in our power. Even when we love someone, all we can do is ask them to spend time with us and give us a chance. If they say no, at least you went for it! You did what was in your control and remember it’s not rejection it’s redirection!

Many people told me how much fun my 20’s would be. Yes I am having fun but I also find these years incredibly painful. The amount of rejection we face is ridiculous. We are trying to form our careers, social lives, basically start everything! It’s not easy but certainly comforting to know that decades from now, when I look back I will see how I was for sure exactly where I was meant to be. It’s upsetting in the moment when a job or experience doesn’t work out, but in the long-run if you dive into as many opportunities as you can, you won’t even remember some of those rejection letters.

That’s the beauty about constantly going after your desires. There are so many paths, opportunities, experiences to have that if you keep moving you will barely notice what doesn’t stick. And gratitude for what does stick is what makes me feel so alive.

I hope you find ways to reframe your “rejections” because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

Be a good customer

There is always talk about poor customer service.  I personally think we also need to be better customers.

The truth is what we need is a mix of both. Since there is tons of discussion on good service, I’m going to focus more on the consumer side today.

Imagine being yelled at about a problem that you did not create.  The person on the other end just had something happen to them by the company you work for. You are talking to this person for the first time, but they are screaming at you like you just popped up in their lives and smashed a windshield.  Perhaps they are telling you their whole life story and several days worth of turmoil. There is so much pressure to keep calm, get the other person calm, and still rise above and restore this person’s faith in the product at hand.

Being a customer is almost the only time we yell and could potentially get rewarded for it. It’s the public version of an adult temper tantrum. And some companies have policies that reinforces this treatment of their employees.  “Sure we will refund your money plus give you an additional 10 percent off”.  Meanwhile you have ruined the rep’s day by your uncouth reaction to something they probably had nothing to do with.

Normal human interaction doesn’t work like this. Normal interaction usually involves a bunch of smaller steps with a person. You build trust as you go. But any type of exchange where you are speaking or seeing someone one time should not be license to let loose.

Telemarketers especially get yelled at just by saying hello. “I’m not interested!” “Stop calling here”. Looking at Hindu philosophy they are just doing their duty. Our responsibilities are all essentially the same. We provide food and shelter for ourselves and/or loved ones.

On the customer service side I want to praise the company that rewards the softer spoken customers as much as the rude/loud ones. The issue is that sometimes assertive behavior gets more attention. It turns on a trigger in our minds to react quicker.

All I know is, we all deserve more kindness. If we experienced more empathy on a day-to-day basis we would feel a greater sense of personal peace. If we became more empathetic to our brothers and sisters in the trenches of life with us, it would also be that much sweeter when we are on the receiving end of it.

My plan of action is to increase the number of compliments I give- especially to strangers. Sometimes reinforcing people’s good behavior will keep them from caving when another is bashing them in.  And we never really know how isolated any one person is.  More importantly, people hear what they do wrong so much more frequently than what they are doing right.  How will they ever duplicate the good stuff, if they aren’t even aware how awesome they are?

I often recall my high school English teacher telling us the story of a stranger on a train smiling to someone on the platform. That smile gave the individual on the platform enough hope to keep living.  That smile gave that person enough hope to cancel their plans for suicide.

With near death experiences, like car crashes and heart attacks, the theme is to live your life better and tell those you love, how much you care before it’s too late.

My thought today is to be better customers.  My love letter to you is for us all to be more responsible and equally graceful with our brief interactions with each other as much as we are with our most sacred relationships.  You don’t have to give all your energy away in an over the top manner. But perhaps at least, leave people in a neutral space. Maybe let’s all be a little less annoyed with the person walking a bit slow on the street.  Let’s actually answer our baristas when they ask us how our day is going, and ask them how they are doing in return; instead of just replying with our orders.

And please, please stop yelling at the stranger on the phone.  I’m not a perfect person, but I know I cannot be the only one desiring more peace in my day-to-day life.

I hope you find gratitude even on your worst days. I hope you know that there are so many people who care about you if you are ever blind to this fact. I really want you to remember the bad stuff is temporary! This too shall pass can be such a powerful reminder in the moment we feel that our despair is endless.

I hope you find positive human interaction in your daily life because I cannot be the only one who is looking.

Reset button back to positivity

I just had a call with one of my mentors this morning. I shared my goals and how a lot of decision makers have been discouraging me lately. The response was simple but still what I needed to hear. “Sangeetha, there are a lot of people in this world. Some people will bring you up and others will push you down. You have the skills you need and everybody has to start somewhere to get the rest. Don’t let anybody stop you from reaching your goals if you feel the end result will bring you joy”. For me this conversation did the trick because it was a combination of inspiration and specific actions steps towards a solution.

I hope you find your reset button back to positivity, because I cannot be the only one who is looking.