“Specificity to my life in the class of one.”

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
                                                    ― Judy Garland

Nowdays during my morning peregrination I’ve begun listening to podcasts. I used to be someone who advocated simply “me” time when walking. That was “me” from 4 years ago. Today when I walk, I listen to people talk about theories, concepts and stuff that makes me go “awww I never knew that” to “oh Jeez, that’s exactly what I was thinking from some time ago, so does that make me a genius or an omniscient?” to “wow, that’d be great to share” or “shoot, no wonder!” and so on. You get the drift :).

Today I was listening to Kevin Kelly’s interview by Lewis Howes and towards the end of the show, the host usually asks all his guests how they’d define greatness. One of the first things that struck me when Mr. Kelly answered was his forthrightness. He said, “Oh I think greatness is over rated.” And for some inexplicable reason I breathed a sigh of relief. You know like when you’re holding your breath for god alone how many years, let alone weeks and months and suddenly you hear something that you perhaps secretly thought might be true but were too afraid to ever say it out loud for fear of being booed as a “loser loser”? Well, I felt like that. I’d never really thought of greatness like it was over rated, but I would always question why people gave it so much importance. And so when this man, who’s got a bio-data which makes it seem like he came from another “super-everything planet” says that greatness is over rated, you start to wonder that what you wondered in the first place wasn’t so wrong after all.

You know growing up, we’re all surrounded by expectations that egg us on to ‘make something of our life’ which doesn’t just end at getting a job or getting married and making more babies on whom these expectations can be thrust upon. I mean when I think of how important it was for us as kids to ‘come first in class’ and always excel at everything that we undertook, and how it was the burning ambition, deep desire and seething resolve for most parents to somehow will their children to the best grades, make him/ her a topper which would pave the way to admissions in a “good” college and which would mean that the child’s path for / in life was indelibly paved in man-made nano-materials (yes, diamond lost its pole position as the ‘hardest material in the world, so so sorry to see you displaced like that tsk tsk!), it makes me cringe. How can each of us be superstars? Who’ll come and watch us and applaud all our imagined victories? To whom would the superstars strut their stuff because we would all be A-listers? How can you even be a superstar if there’s no acknowledgement from someone who thinks he’s rungs lower than you? Don’t you need the needy, the insecure, the doomed, the  “losers” to make you feel like you’re the acme of perfection? It sounds so ridiculous, but if possible our expectations have become even more virulent. Nothing has changed. Our children, our parents, our ambitions, our seething resolve to ‘make it big’ and achieve ‘greatness’ continues to remain the same.

Pause. I urge you. Think about it. What is greatness honestly?

If you get a degree from a “top B-school” or an Ivy League with a summa cum laude, does that make you great?
If you sport an IQ of 140 or more does that make you great? If you’ve become a successful Amazon with billions in evaluation but continue to make losses without having broken even yet, in a crazy skewed logic, does that make you great?
Or if you’re born gorgeous and have every single photographer and man and woman on Planet E hungering for more, does that make you great?
Or if you fight the Ebola or the ISIS or the Boko Haram or the LeT does that make you great?

I don’t know. I don’t know because I’ve been conditioned to believe that – looking good, having pots of money, achieving the pinnacle of your career, (preferably corner office and CEO designate of the company you work at, or at least a Director title), travelling the world in style, living in large houses, being able to drop brand names at the drop of a hat, being very well read spouting Milton and Nassim Nicholas Taleb with equal felicity or being able to play squash, bake beautiful Red Velvet cup cakes giving Julia Child a complex or swim and fly a plane or make love like Don Juan – is perhaps close to making eyebrows go up and lips turn into a moue and say “wow, he/she’s great”. Yes, every single ad drills it into me – you’re not leading a full life. Most of everything I see on the Net or in people’s attitudes or on TV reinforces that I’m not great. That average is a bad word and ordinary is totally N/A and belongs to the Dark Ages. But why? Why do we all need to be Folker’s super-Aryan babies?

Maybe somewhere down the ages, we forgot what it was to be simply us, simply human and simply humane. Today, we’re all trying to live grandiose lives without conducting a SWOT analysis of ourselves and just accepting that “this is who I am” and going on to be the best version of ourselves. Instead we’re too busy trying to desperately fit into a second rate version of someone else. Look around you. Watch the sun, see the drops of water on leaves just after a downpour, look at the colour of the sky at dawn, hear the birds, look at ants, look at rivers, wonder at the salmon or the Siberian cranes or the Olive-Ridley turtles, the Amazon rain forest, the ocean. Now breathe the air. And then tell me what you think of the way we define greatness.

Do listen to Kevin Kelly. You may agree with him when he says, greatness is over-rated. Being unique, doing something that only you can and doing it really well is what he recommends. I say aye aye sir!

 

The Walk Of Life!

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
Friedrich Nietzsche

 

I go for a walk as often as I can. The alarm on my cell phone tears into my ear drums at precisely 5.15 am. It’s been set to shake me up from my dream state for months now. It gives me the satisfaction of waking up early, sliding the darned thing to silence (yes in these ‘smartphones’ everything’s a slide now), and going back to the land of nod even if it’s only for a few extra minutes. I finally rouse myself around half an hour later, sometimes it’s even an hour later, drag my track pants on, brush (more often than not I brush my teeth after the walk, I know, I know Egads! but I don’t care, it’s not like am getting up for a passionate lip-lock or anything right?) or not, select the podcast that I’m going to listen to during my walk, lace up my shoes and am out of the house. It’s a wonderful feeling actually. I wonder then why I don’t do it more often. That’s something to probe – if it gives me pleasure, then why don’t I practice it more? I think I am lazy. I don’t think there’s any getting away from it :)). Well sorry to digress. Where was I? Out the door and the feeling of embracing the day bright and early and all amped up. Yoo hoo day, here I come!

I listen to a podcast usually by Srinivas Rao of the Unmistakable Creative or by Lewis Howes. I like the people they interview and I like their interviewing skills and I like what their insanely inspiring guests have to say. So while that’s running in my ear, I’m also looking at the trees and the flowers and the grass and the hedges around the gardens and everything green in the driveway around our apartment complex, smiling at the many regulars who also go about their daily ritual of walking, at the neighbours who play badminton in the grounds out at the front and so on. So while doing my thing the other day, I realised some crazy but helpful lessons that I could learn from, from my daily perambulations. I’d love to share them with you, let me know if it resonates with you at all :). Here goes:

a) Don’t keep count – I have a habit of keeping count of the number of rounds I complete in the given time frame that I’ve set myself – 50/55/60 mins and 10 or 11 rounds mostly. I realised recently that I’ve slowed down a little, yes, my pace of walking has slowed down by say 2 mins overall. Am sure for world-class athletes that’d simply mean – RETIRE! For me it simply means “Renu, you’ve grown older and you’re body’s slowing down!”. However, I realised what’s the point of thinking about fast, slow, age, retire, number of rounds, time, etc. I am walking. Why not be fully present in and to the act of walking? Just enjoy it. Why keep count? It doesn’t serve a purpose right? Like it doesn’t serve any purpose to:

  1. Keep count of the number of emails you receive in a day or the number of unread emails looking darkly at you from your InBox.
  2. Keep count of the number of times your parents have forgotten to make that to-do list and purchase those items from the grocery store (it could be your lover/ spouse/ children/ room mate/ friend with benefit, etc.). Does it matter?
  3. Keep count of the number of times your friends have gone on a vacation abroad.
  4. Keep count of the number of times your colleague has changed his/her car in the last 5 years.
  5. Keep count of the number of ‘likes’ someone you know gets on FB.
  6. Keep count of the number of friends anyone has – having 999 friends doesn’t mean shit – on FB or other social media. Ask the person to list down the 999 by name in alphabetical order and I can guarantee you that by the time he/she’s on 85 it starts getting difficult and the person will start blowing air and puffing his cheeks like a toad.
  7. Keep count of the number of designer clothes or shoes or bags or whatever else is ‘designer’ nowadays that anyone you know possesses. Gucci, Pucci,Choo who?
  8. Keep count of the number of promotions  and salary raises or client wins or fantastic breakthroughs someone you know has had. So what does it do for you if they have had the breakthrough? If it can inspire you to do your best and put your ass through the grind, to try and achieve the results you’re hankering for, sure, go ahead make it count.
  9. Keep count of the number of men/ women who’ve come and gone from your life. It wasn’t meant to be. Or just be happy for the enriching experience. After all how many of your friends would be able to proudly state that they’ve dated 20/25 men / women in their lifetime? Enjoy the moment, be unapologetically you in every encounter and live the experience.
  10. Keep count of the number of degrees your friend’s son acquired over the years and squirm with shame at the (unfair??) comparison with your child. Should labels and degrees matter?

b) Acknowledge your co-journeyer – Yes, journeyer isn’t even a word. But hell if YOLO (You Only Live Once) almost made it to the Oxford lexicon, then maybe journeyer can also be a legitimate contender. So what do I mean by this eh? See, we’re all on the journey of life. There are a ton of other souls who are journeying with you and it’s no big deal to smile at them along the way. Life is no fun when soul mates aren’t there along the way to smile at, greet, thank, learn from or be inspired by. Competition, comparison, envy, maybe the go-to terms in the Ivy League colleges of the world intended to keep you in the rat race like hamsters on a wheel, let’s acknowledge them but not bury ourselves in them on our walk of life shall we?

c) Look up, look down, look all around, notice – While you acknowledge your co-, journeyers, take a moment to look up at the sky, the birds if there are, the fluffy white clouds, simply breathtaking sight of the plume of fuelled smoke that a plane 30,000 feet above farts away to glory, the tops of trees swaying in the breeze, the hedges of shrubs protecting the turf around which they’ve been arrayed, the different shades of green, the flowers that have sacrificed their lives and lay mute on the ground wondering about the next step that’ll trample them to oblivion (or moksha maybe??), the child that stares at you unblinkingly making you wonder if he’s attracted to the halo of energy that you exude, the elderly and their measured walk and the inevitability of ageing, the young and their unbridled enthusiasm, yes notice, notice, notice. Why? Because it means you’re paying attention to life. Your life. And it’s not a blur of ‘to-do’ lists, missed goals, shifting goal posts and emptiness. Life unfolds in every moment, it’s up to us to notice, and live it. There’s so much to live for ain’t it?

d) Piece of shit doesn’t a walk mar – Yup. Shit happens. We shit bricks. Dogs shit. Everyone poops. The shit hits the roof. Your job is to notice that shit (refer point (c) above) and deftly by-pass it. Notice if you must without being squeamish, that it looks brown and beige in colour perhaps, maybe lumpy, loose, and smells like?Mmmm….shit?! Bypass it and leave it behind. Getting the shit out of your system is the best thing you can ever do,or else it can cause the toxins to build up and eventually who knows, you would have to undergo painful enema. Ye gods! Why go through such pain when all you have to do is notice it, recognise that it’s shit, sometimes acknowledge shit’s presence, maybe even smell shit from afar and realise that something ugly, messy, shitty is about to hit the roof. And in the ultimate shitty analysis also remember that shit gets wiped out / trampled upon/ bites the dust/ washed away/ obliterated as it eventually will. Let it go.

If I were to summarise the above 4 lessons I’d say this: don’t be too attached to the outcome of your journey, just ensure that you’re wholeheartedly, soul-fully, immersed in that moment, in that journey, acknowledging those who’re there behind, ahead of or around you, being grateful for their presence in your life, step with confidence, one foot in front of the other, so what if you do step into shit once-in-a-while, it will eventually get ground to dust belittling its own significance, be thankful for the bounties of this wonderful, magical, delightful, mystical absolutely gorgeous and abundant Universe and finally being grateful that you’re an integral and unique part of the warp and weft of the pattern called Life. 

That’s what life is all about. It doesn’t matter where you’re going honestly, because when you’re walking many paths open up, yours for the taking, leaving you with choices and opportunities, beckoning you to be adventurous, seducing you with promising bounties and wondrous experiences along the way. Walking is life my friends, wouldn’t you agree? I urge you – keep walking!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=087Bv3p4KLQ

(God knows I love Mark Knopfler!)