Being A Parent…Being A Friend

A question that I’m asked frequently by a lot of people – what kind of a relationship do you share with your children? I often find it funny that parents ask me this question. What am I supposed to answer…I share a great relationship with my daughters.

I was pondering this question as I was recovering from a bout of viral the last couple of days. It struck me that the people who have asked me this question aren’t very sure about their own relationship with their children. I am no one to sermonize others on bringing up kids…I have had my fair share of doubts of being an effective parent versus a good parent. However, I have to thank my daughters, Urvashi & Urmila for endorsing time and again that I managed to be both on different occasions… 🙂  Parenting1

The thought process continued and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who also has teenage children. My friend summarised our chat very effectively and I’m sharing some of those pointers here. Even if it helps one parent out there, I’m happy!

Communicate Easily & Freely: I have noticed kids respond to communication in any form. This is a process that must happen from birth. Communication means sharing. Very often parents expect their kids to come and talk to them, but, rarely share what is on their mind. Of course the child must be at an age & in a position to understand what the parents are sharing. This communication changes as the kids grow from childhood to adolescence…what’s important is to keep the process going on.

Allow Questions: I have been working with the youth on different projects. While addressing a batch of college students recently on their participation in the nation building process, I had the opportunity to interact with students and faculty. As usual, I noticed the faculty pushing the students to ask questions as soon as the talk was over. And, as usual, the students hesitated to ask questions in public. I don’t blame the students here. As a society, we do not encourage our young ones to ask questions. Children must have the liberty to ask…if we as parents are incapable of answering their questions, it is not the fault of the child. It is our problem…we need to find the relevant answer to satisfy the question.

Parents, go back to your own childhood…how many were encouraged to ask questions? What a child can’t receive, he can seldom give later in adult life. Parenting2

Encourage Decision Making: Both my daughters were encouraged to take decisions from their primary school days relevant to their age. The pros and cons were explained and they were told the consequences of not taking a decision. Even in adult life, most people are scared of taking decisions because they want their decisions to be right. My question to such people – if you don’t take a decision, how will you know whether it is right or wrong? Allow your kids the luxury of making their own decisions. They will automatically take responsibility and ownership for it. And even if it turns out to be a mistake, so what? Haven’t we made our share of mistakes in life?

Allow Them Their Mistakes: I have noticed parents constantly cautioning their children about situations, people, relationships in life. I understand that as parents we do not want our children to go through rough times, get cheated, ragged, bullied. Tell me, how much will you protect them? One day, they will have to face the world on their own! Then what? Children brought up in that environment have a warped sense of life and end up thinking that the world owes them everything. While as parents we know, that is a far cry from the truth.

Share Your Story: a lot of kids grow up thinking their parents are super heroes in the initial years. And then the teenage years descend on your off springs and their view starts changing. Erma Bombeck (one of my favourite authors) says, “Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen Three. It takes one to say What light and two more to say I didn’t turn it on.” That’s what teenage years do. One thing that stood me in good stead was sharing my teenage years with my daughters when they had “curious” questions. It helped them to know that their mother had gone through similar experiences in life. I was declared “normal” by my kids… 🙂

The worst thing I could have done was to have a “holier than thou” approach in front of them…Jane Nelsen very nicely puts it, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” Parenting3

Finally, it’s not just children who grow. Parents grow with them. I have grown with my lovely daughters. As much as I wait to see what they do with their lives, they are also watching me to see what I do with mine. While I tell them to reach for the stars,  the moon & the sun…I am reaching for my own stars, moon and the sun!!!

 

RIP Stephen Covey…

Only when someone dies do we realize the value of that person. Whether you know the individual personally or have just heard about the person…the loss you feel is something that cannot be described.

Today is such a day for me…my sense of loss after hearing about Dr Covey’s death is something I cant a put a finger to. His teachings have impacted my life tremendously as I had the good fortune to undergo his leadership session, hear him at a couple of speaking engagements and follow his blog regularly.

As my tribute to him, I would like to share 10 quotes from him that changed my life…and am hoping it will help all of you.

1) The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

2) The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

3) Live out of your imagination, not your history.

4) Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

5) Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

6) I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

7) You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

8) I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

9) Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions. So love her.

10) Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy.

Rest In Peace Dr Covey…I will miss you…

Reading Stories Can Create Success Stories For You…

My parents were completely convinced that anyone with a reading habit was likely to succeed more in life.   So they encouraged the younger generation to read. They argued that whether you went on to be a lawyer, an architect, a business leader, a store owner, or a stay-at-home mom, having a grounding in good literature and a basic understanding of the sweep of human history and culture would provide the best foundation for any future learning – and for being able to interact well with other human beings. There was never a shortage of reading material at home…right from newspapers, magazines, comics, fiction and non fiction. Even though I was an economics major in college, I read pretty obsessively, mostly fiction and history, from a very early age and – in principle – I agreed with them.

However, one eternal battle at home was should one read more of fiction or non fiction. And what actually helps make you a better human being. I am sure all my readers have gone through this in their growing years. The thrill of reading a novel under the blanket with a torch :), or hiding a story book behind a text book…these are childhood capers most of us have indulged in. I could never resist a good novel when I could lay my hands on one.

My earliest recollection was reading the entire series of Famous Five from Enid Blyton and losing myself in the adventures of all the five lucky kids :). The first novel which had a huge impact on me, made me think & introspect, was Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I read it when I was in high school & the impact was such that, I went & declared to my parents that I would join the New York Mafia soon 🙂 :). 

But…coming back to is fiction better or non fiction? Where should I focus when I read?

Just the other day I read a wonderful article in the HBR blog by Anne Kreamer, The Business Case for Reading Novels, talking about some fascinating research that supports my contention. She cites studies that show reading fiction actually increases people’s emotional intelligence: their accurate awareness of themselves and others, and their ability to create positive relationships with others based on managing their own reactions.

 

The research Anne cites resolves my chicken-and-egg quandary. It seems that reading fiction improves your sensitivity to and appreciation of complex human situations. It provides a richer ‘toolkit’ of understanding from which to pull when making decisions and building relationships.  And as our business or work lives get more complex, faster-paced, less hierarchical and more dependent upon our ability to build support with those around us – that kind of toolkit becomes ever more critical to our success.

So if you’re feeling self-indulgent as you sit out on your porch of a weekend with Game of Thrones or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Lady Chatterly’s Lover in hand – reassure yourself that you may be improving your chances of business success just as much or more than if you were reading the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s wishing each one of you a fruitful day ahead!!!Image

Sowing Our Relationships!

There was once a group of learned Buddhist monks who spent all their time in scholastic debate. 

As part of their banter they would often wonder, half-joking, half-seriously, which one of them would attain enlightenment first. Whenever this topic came up, the only thing they could all agree on was that it would not be Stupid, the illiterate monk who was capable only of sweeping the monastery floor and whom nobody has any time for.

Of course, it was Stupid who got enlightened first. The jealous monks went to the Abbot. How come Stupid had attained enlightenment first? Had he been overhearing their intellectual conversations?

“Not at all,” replied the Abbot. “It’s just that while he was sweeping the corners of the monastery he made sure he was also sweeping the corners of his mind.”

See what happens when you start sweeping the corners of your mind and accept certain things. Read on. It was the coldest winter ever, and many animals died because of the cold. 
The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they shared their heat with each other. 

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other to stop being wounded.As they did this, they began to die… alone and frozen. 
So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together.

This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others that enabled them to survive the coldest winter ever.

Relationships are like that in our life. Not every time in a relationship we will find the going smooth. There will be ups and downs…just like the porcupines felt earlier. However, when you look at what you are going to lose by staying away, then it is better to adjust to the few quills and build the relationship. 

Our relationships with people around us influence our lives. We are positive, highly energetic with similar people…on the other hand, we also get depressed when negative people touch our lives. I personally tend to run away from such negative people! 

Your relationship with people is a reflection of your emotional health, your emotional quotient. It tells you how well you can handle your emotions. It also reflects your love for the self. So if you think that people around do not love you, it means that you do not love yourself……………..

Today take a good look at your relationship with your mother. Is it 100% perfect? Do you find any faults in her? Does she find any fault in you? Since the mother – child relationship is meant to be unconditional, & we find faults there also…it is bound to happen in our other relationships.
As we grow older, evolve and mature…..accept ourselves a little more…. love ourselves a little more… This gets reflected in our relationships. As we grow comfortable with ourselves, we become comfortable with our relationships too.

So…go ahead and give your relationships time, love, affection and care. When we build those bonds we must remember the following:

1. Building a relationship is like sowing.

2. You reap what you sow.

3. You always reap at a later date.

4. You always reap multiple times.

So…go ahead and sow the seeds that you want to 🙂 🙂 🙂 

My Guide Of Destiny…GOD!

Guide Of Destiny…GOD!!! I have been at two different events over the last few days…seemingly different, yet the same. The differences are not what I am writing today. My focus is on the commonality I saw and that is to have someone in your life who will hold your hand to the finish line.

 I am not writing about mentoring as a process    today…I love telling stories and am going to share some experiences here…personal & others.

Pallavi’s story personally touched me. She was the one who coined the term “Guide Of Destiny”. After a very successful career, achievements &  glory, she decided to take a break. The break became a challenge for her.  By the time she recognized this 6 months had gone by and then she desperately started seeking for help. A couple walked into her life to handhold her and bring her out of her despair. They enabled her to see opportunities that she may not have seen otherwise. So, the first takeaway I have here is you need to become a seeker. Seek & you shall receive…but seek with your heart!

Harrison’s experience brought out another dimension for me. Growing up in northwest Montana, he was fortunate to have an innovative neighbor who encouraged him on a weekly basis. One morning, six year old Harry, walked over to Mr. Clawsonʼs garage to see what he was building. That day, he was working on a contraption to clean up oil spills in the ocean. Mr. Clawson showed Harry how his device worked, talking to him as an equal. He then asked Harry to critique his design and offer suggestions for improvement. This genius was asking a six year old for improvements on an invention that would clean up oil spills! That simple gift of encouragement from Mr. Clawson changed Harry’s life forever. Harry realized that his own thoughts about the world had value & was on cloud nine for days and felt he could pursue anything and be successful. The second takeaway is as a mentor to be genuinely interested and to listen to what your mentee is saying.

A mentor is someone who guides you because of the experience he/she has and not necessarily because he/she is a subject matter expert in your field. My own mentor is someone whom I liked from the day I first met him. Binod & I clicked as individuals when we met and I thought initially that it was because both of us are people oriented. As days passed I realized that everyone connects to Binod & that is his unique quality. He has remained more committed to my success than I have been at times. And when I have felt low, he has been a sounding board & a punching bag. As my Guide Of Destiny, he continues to stand by me, giving me that firm yet gentle nudge to take the next step & move ahead. As a mentor Binod gives me so much that I have no choice but take a leap forward. Here is the third takeaway – you need to be a Go Giver.

Lastly, here’s my own experience of being a  mentor to a young cousin who subsequently became a business partner also. Seema spoke to me about pretty much every aspect of her life & looked for advice, suggestions, etc. I only realized I was put in the role of a mentor when her parents (my Uncle & Aunt) started telling me about her actions at home…she was implementing most of things that I had encouraged her to do, to the extent that today a lot of people call us mirror images of each other in thought & behavior. That brought home another point…the absolute trust that a mentor & mentee enjoy with each other & duplicating what the mentor says & does. 

We will all have challenges, both as a mentor and as a mentee. However, I end with a very insightful statement made by Dev Wadhwani, a phenomenal human being & entrepreneur I have had the opportunity to know & learn from…

“Are you a victim of your challenges or the master of your destiny?”