Things That Do Not Matter vs People Who Matter

In our day to day lives, we very often loose the bigger perspective and be consumed by many small issues which don’t matter too much in the long term. In the heat of the moment, it is not uncommon for people to see other people with a ‘what can you do for me?‘ attitude only. Placing undue attention on materialistic things weakens our ability to see the value of basic human to human bonding. There is also a famous quote by Spencer W. Kimball

“Love people, not things; use things, not people. ”

If we take the bigger perspective of life into the picture, people are always more important than anything materialistic. All materialistic things have been created by humans only and never has any materialistic thing created a human being. Remembering the value of human life and relationships can help us realize that things can always be replaced – houses can be rebuilt, lost possessions can be regained but the people in our lives are not replaceable. And during tough times, it is always the people in our lives who help us weather the storms and never our possessions. Yet in our good times, how easy it becomes to become attached to our jobs, money and ‘what we can buy‘ when the real joys of life are always free.

"People were created to be loved, Things were created to be used, The reason the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved, and people are being used."

"People were created to be loved, Things were created to be used, The reason the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved, and people are being used."

Decide What is Important, the Person or the Matter
Before getting into any conversation, we should always ask ourselves “Who is more important, the person or the task at hand?” and then never forget this during the conversation. There might be times when our ego can drive us to say mean things which could harm the relationship, even if we get the desired outcome. But is it worth it? And at what cost? It is very important to recognize when we are driven by our ego, and then STOP.

What if we are right?
Even if we strongly believe that what we are saying is right, we should not hurt the other person’s ego by trying to prove him wrong, or acting in an aggressive and rude manner. What one ego is saying can never be countered by the ego of another, but the other person can always be brought to reason by being compassionate and patient. The point I am trying to make is that if we realize that the conversation is driven by ego, we should allow the other person to get away with it, in the better interests of the relationship. Sooner or later, that person will realize it too.

Materialistic Things are Important too
All this is not to suggest that we should stop using our brain to design and manufacture new machines, factories, industries, ideas and services. All these materialistic things have been the greatest achievement of human beings. In the last two centuries, first with the industrial revolution (factories, cars, electricity, assembly lines) and the progress in science we made with that, and now with the knowledge revolution (computers, internet, globalization) we have totally changed the quality of human life on earth. So while materialistic things must be the output of our ever growing and creative mind, but they are only created to serve us and make our lives better, not the other way round.

In conclusion, love for others creates happiness for us and for others too. It’s easy to believe that money and things bring happiness, but they don’t. Happiness is a habit, and not an outcome of something. It is therefore much wiser to love people and use things, than to love things and use people.

Let go of the need to be right

If I have to pick up one thing I learned in the last few years which has made the most impact on me, I would not hesitate to say it has been the way I see and judge things to be right and wrong. We all have a strong sense of righteousness about certain matters in our life. It could be related to how we live our lives, or how we run our business or something else. It could be in matters as big as relationships and business, and as small as being a vegetarian or speaking the truth. Letting go of my perception of what I thought was right (and wrong) in this world has been the best thing I have done (and have to do every single day).

There is no right or wrong
When a child is born, there is no right or wrong for her. But as she grows up in this world, based on her parents, surroundings, culture, religion and numerous other factors she begins to develop a sense of right and wrong. Everything she does has to conform to these norms and she starts to despise everyone who doesn’t conform to those standards. This is very evident when people of different religions clash with each other, or people from different cultures find it difficult to stay and work together. Only if they realized that they are doing exactly the same as the other side, the only thing difference is their view of what is right and what is not? And that if they had been born and brought up in the opposite side, they would have turned out exactly as the person on the other side.

Your beliefs are not you
As a child grows up, he begins to associate himself with thoughts such as his gender, his possessions, nationality, race, religion, and later on, education and profession. We also associate ourselves with roles such as son, a brother, a parent, a friend and so on. There are many other such things which give identity to each one of us as we grow up. But the biggest problem arises when we start identifying ourselves with these labels. We are not our gender, nationality, religion or the different roles we play. We relate all these to ourselves by using words like ‘I, me, mine‘, but what is very important to realize here is that all these are just labels and not the real us. A child doesn’t have any such labels, and see how happy we are as children. But as we grow, we start associating ourselves with these labels and they become a part of us. What if one were to loose his nationality, religion, job, education? How would one react? People would go crazy because the things they have worked so hard to identify themselves with during their life has suddenly disappeared. Because they mistake these labels to be themselves rather than just what they are – ‘labels’.

Choose being kind over being right, and you'll be right every time. - Richard Carlson

Choose being kind over being right, and you'll be right every time. - Richard Carlson

Is being righteous wrong?
As I am advocating the need to let go of certain ideas about what is right and wrong, having such beliefs is not ‘wrong‘ in itself. What is important is to see them for what actually are, just our beliefs and not mistake them with ourselves? It is our ego (which is very very unconscious in nature) that makes us identify ourselves with things and beliefs. Once we see these beliefs as just beliefs, we can free ourselves from this trap. When this reality hits upon us, we may even laugh in disbelief. Because due to this illusion of mixing our beliefs with ourselves, men have fought wars, killed each other and continue to do so.

Nobody ever achieved anything by being right
So the next time you feel the urge to prove someone wrong and want to take pride in being ‘right‘, just realize that your ego is owning you in such moments. Once you are present to this, the ego loses its hold over you and you will feel free and light. It is the same reason that sometimes the poorest of people seem really happy (because they don’t have anything left to identify themselves with). It is also the same reason some people reach great heights after hitting bottom, when they are taken away of their so-called possessions and realize the futility of all of them in the first place.

So the next time you are caught in a clash of opinions, remember that these are only opinions and the unconscious ego at play. People don’t defend their opinions, they defend their identities. Sometimes, it means to take a step backwards, saying sorry even when you are not at fault, because you can see the bigger things at play (the fight of egos). Seeing people separate from their egos and built-up identities can free us from this trap of proving ourselves right and we can move on to more productive things in life.

Startups – The how and why to fighting and winning against stronger opponents?

I was never among the physically stronger kids during my childhood. And since fist-fights among kids are not uncommon, I had to devise other ways to tackle my opponents rather than relying on only my physical strengths. At times you get beaten up, but since you know you can’t overpower someone you start hitting the areas where they might be most vulnerable. Sometime you just wait and pass time while your opponent gets tired before you take your shot.

Starting and running a start-up is also the same, in many ways. Being matched up against competitors many times your size and weight, and that too in a market which is not always ‘fair‘, to put it gently. But as in my childhood, being placed against a bigger opponent can have its benefits too. You learn persistence and resourcefulness irrespective of your current situation. These challenges are what makes a startup interesting, and those who drive the thrill out of overcoming these challenges are the right people for a startup.

Why would anyone do that?
You can ask that why would anyone want to fight against a tougher and stronger opponent? Why would anyone want to do something where the chances of success are only minimal? Yes, it doesn’t make sense. This ‘WHY‘ is very difficult to explain in words, but those who do it know the answer somewhere inside. Maybe it is the same reason people cheer the underdog team when they win against a stronger opposition in sports? Maybe it is the same reason that we draw hope from those who fight against the norms for something they truly believe in? Despite of all the fears and challenges. Despite of the very minimal chance of success.

Coming back to entrepreneurship, maybe it is just in some people’s blood (as they say entrepreneurs are born and not made). But whatever it is, the likes of Steve Jobs, Lance Armstrong, Bill Gates and Anna Hazare felt it and at many different times, each one of us have also felt it. When we believe in something for which we are ready to put a lot at stake, we all become entrepreneurs in a way. Whether it is fighting for a cause, running a business, or expanding the boundaries of human performance!!

How would anyone do that?
– Perseverance and Resilience
When you win against a stronger opponent, you become more confident and fearless. But when you lose, you start working on your weaknesses and try to make use of the resources you have. You very well know you can’t afford and have all the resources your competitors have, so you try to make the best out of what you have. And by doing so, you develop such a wonderful skill which even your big competitors doesn’t have – the ability to survive tough times with resilience.

Mark Twain said it very rightly so

Mark Twain said it very rightly so

– Iterate
In the startup world, as George Patton said “A good plan today is better than the perfect plan tomorrow”, it is very important to act on incomplete information and in a world where uncertainty looms large. If you are doing something worthwhile, then you have to constantly go into uncharted territory, try new ideas, fail, then start again, and then fail again. And so on. As you have to expand yourself so much and step out of your comfort zone in doing so, you also have a steep learning curve.

– Use your ego, but with feet on the ground
Ego is not always bad. Doing a startup is basically believing in yourself when no-one else does, and when even you have your doubts. It is about the confidence that “I can do it, I will do it, even if I don’t have the resources or skills to do it“. It takes a man with ego to go up and stand against the world. But at the same time, you need to stay realistic and know your limitations. A healthy ego is not only required but also necessary to constantly expand yourself and to keep fighting every day, even after facing many defeats. A healthy ego doesn’t stop you from getting back up knowing you might get beaten again.

– Getting things done, despite of a hundred things which need your attention
Startups aren’t for everyone. In a startup you always have thousands of things to do, and you don’t have anybody to delegate to. You will have to do all kinds of things which are normally reserved for ‘other‘ people in a normal job. In short, there are no boundaries of work. You might be planning, designing, coding, doing marketing and sales calls, all in a day. What becomes most important in a startup is to get a task done, irrespective of whether it is above or below your pay scale, irrespective of whether you have done it before or not, irrespective of whether you know how to do it or not. If a client is visiting and your office is a mess, the first person who picks a broom to clean up is the best fit for that startup.

In the end, I think it is the fighting that matters and not the winning. It is the daily grind you go through which is the most important part, even more than actually beating a stronger opponent. As it has been told by many great leaders – “The journey is more important than the destination”. I will end with a quote by Marian Wright Edelman
“You’re not obligated to win. You’re obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day.”

The Ego. Is it good or bad? And how much should you have?

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine and during our conversation, he said something strange which made me realize something. He told me “Have some ego. Earlier you used to have a lot of ego, but now you don’t seem to have any. Get some of it back.” I laughed at this remark but it made me think later on. Is ego only bad, or does it do any good too? Should we not have it, even a little bit of it?

Ego is normally treated as something negative, something which is not good, something which we should not have. People will always be ready to explain how ego can hurt you. Ego is generally considered the opposite of humility. As humility is good, ego must be bad. In this article I will try to put some focus on why a little ego might be a good thing…

So what is this thing called the Ego? Ego literally means a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-worth. Now that doesn’t feel like something bad. Self esteem means taking pride in yourself. By this logic, a healthy ego should be a must for everybody, but then why does everybody seems to be having so much contempt for ego. I have personally believed in living life in a way which most people not. I like doing things differently, even if it means going against the norms. I feel alive by defying logic. You can say I have an ego. And yes, by that logic, I have. And I am glad for it!!

A quote from The Fountainhead

A quote from The Fountainhead

Doing anything new, like starting a business, or going against the norm, is directly proportional to how confident you are of yourselves and your abilities. Any of these activities is a proof of a presence of ego. But is there anything wrong in this? For me, it makes me work harder and smarter to compete and prove the naysayers wrong, and it feels damn good when that happens 🙂

While one can say that ego as mentioned above lead to good things, it is also to be remembered that ego is the main reason of over-confidence and arrogance. As long as you are in control of your ego, it will work for you. But as soon as your ego starts controlling you, it will hurt you. When ego controls you, it can make the truth look false and the false look true. In television debates, you can see ego controlling people as the focus shifts on their individualities rather than the topic of debate.

When you are overwhelmed by your ego, you will say words you will regret, take actions you will repent later on, and hurt the people you love most. Your inflated ego can also make people loose trust and respect for you. It might get so bad that people roll their eyes when you enter a room. And if we think, we can all recall such people in our lives. A big ego only does one thing. It makes a big FOOL out of you. And most of us won’t even be aware of it when that happens. :-/

So where is this leading? The ego is both good and bad, in different ways. As human beings, I think we all have egos. It is very much a part of our existence. But what matters is how we handle it? You can say it is a tool, which we can use to your advantage, but if it goes out of control, it will come back and hurt us. I have always believed that too much of anything is bad, and ego also falls in that generalization.

So what should we do, as human beings? How do we know how much is enough, or where to draw the line? I think that we should always stand true to our convictions, but also be willing to listen to others and consider that we might be wrong. If you find reason in someone else’s argument, it is only wise to change your viewpoint rather than taking pride in shoving your point down someone else’s throat. Ego is good when you state your point strongly, but bad when you are not even open to views and opinions from the opposite side. There is a wonderful quote by Deepak Chopra to sum it up –

“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.”

Changing sides again, if we look back in history, every great achievement by mankind has been achieved by people who the world have termed as egoists. How do you think the world would have responded to the man who said the earth was not flat (at one time ships used to go till a certain distance in the oceans before turning back so that they don’t fall off)? How do you think the world responded to the man who said the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way round? There have been many such men in history who were the first to travel on the path that they did. They were the artists, scientists or the inventors. The only thing they had in common was a strong conviction in their beliefs even when the whole world ridiculed them. Where do you think this courage or strength came from? It came from their strong sense of self, and their thinking, feelings and actions can all be attributed to their ego.

When a child his born, the only weapon he has is his brain. Through the use of this brain, man has created everything we see around now. Nothing was ever gifted to us. Someone created the airplane, the car, electricity, internet, etc and these men created the future in which we are living now. In other words, the whole gist of this article is that man should be wise enough to listen to advice from others, but at the same time have a strong conviction about where he is going. It is accepted that it is good to agree with others, but all the great creators disagreed. Every man has a right to his ego, but should never let himself become an object of that same ego. I know there is a thin line between the two cases, and trying to define it might lead to a never ending debate, so I rest my case here.

Have a little EGO, but not too much 🙂