Resolutions VS Goals

The start of the New Year is when most people make their Resolutions for the upcoming year. Lose weight. Eat better. Exercise. Save more. Etc.

Also most people, abandon their resolutions, two weeks into the month of January. That initial fire doesn’t last very long. What happens? For some, the inertia of their situation eventually takes over. For others, it is too hard to create a new habit.

Perhaps, people should think about it as a Goal, instead of a resolution, and apply the SMART elements.

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time bound

While this may require a lot more thought and planning up front, it will also increase the chances of success.

Good luck until 2019, only another 364 days to go!


The Tillerson Tragedy

How does a person rise to the top of a large company and then behave like Tillerson in this article? How does one become a CEO while being so tone deaf? How does one lose all ability when moving from a company to government?

Tillerson rose through all those different levels, to become CEO of Exxon for 10 years. Almost surely, every time, he had to have been selected over another person, because of his personal characteristics, or the business results he delivered. How could he such a poor manager at State? How could he not realize the impact of his actions or non actions? Could Exxon have been making an error, every time, by continuing to promote Tillerson?

Humans are truly unknowable if they are able to behave like this. Human processes are so error prone, if they could deliver this result.

What a sad state of affairs! For Tillerson to go down in history as the worst US Secretary of State. For his tenure to be an unmitigated disaster. All citizens of the USA, and people of the world deserve better!



The Meaning of Family

Luxury Restaurant Tableware

“Slow day today?” I asked the attendant who had just refilled my glass of water.

“So far, but it will get busy very soon,” he replied.

I was sitting in an Indian restaurant, in a nondescript strip mall. The restaurant was tastefully decorated with photographs and fabrics, a cut above the standard Indian images of the Taj Mahal. There was just one more table occupied by another guest, from the more than a dozen tables in the restaurant.

“The food is really good,” I complimented him.

“Thank you,” he replied, “That is really meaningful to hear. This is my restaurant and I’m proud of it.”

“How long has it been open?” I asked

“Just six months,” he replied, “And I am learning something everyday.”

“Your first restaurant…?” My question hung in the air.

“Yes,” he responded, “I graduated six months ago with a BS, but rather than a job, I always wanted to start a restaurant. When I told my parents, they supported me and provided the financing for this restaurant. My parents are partners with me in this restaurant.”

“Wow, that is great!” I exclaimed, “It must be wonderful to have such supportive parents!”

“You don’t know the least of it,” he said. “Earlier this afternoon, my Dad called to check and see how things were going, and I told him that my two attendants had called in sick. Without saying anything else, my Dad and Mom came over. That’s my Dad at the filling water for the other guest. That’s my Mom, cleaning the tables over there.” He gestured to the older Indian gentleman and lady that were absorbed in their work in another part of the restaurant. I had noticed them earlier, but had not paid them any special attention.

“Well, enjoy your food,” he said, and walked away to greet another couple that had just entered the restaurant.

I sat there, ate my food, and thought about families. Parents buying into their child’s dream, financially. Pitching in to help without making a fuss, yet doing so from the background, not trying to steal the limelight, nor talk up their son. Demonstrating by deed, more meaningful than any words, what support, love, trust, and belief, truly mean. Families can be so powerful in shaping our world.

What To Do When Feeling Stuck?

The feeling of being stuck, with no escape

Stuck, with no escape

photo credit: Pozzo di San Patrizio via photopin (license)

Just over the last few weeks, in several conversations, the same theme has emerged:

“I feel I did the wrong course. What I want to do is different from what I’ve studied.”

“I have anxiety and I cannot sleep. I wish things were different.”

“I am in this job, and cannot quit. Because how do I find something comparable?”

” I wish I could lose 50 pounds. But it is so hard to lose weight.”

These are the times when we find ourselves “stuck”, when change is hard and feels impossible. We wish we were somewhere else, a different place, a different time, in a different relationship, a different body. That we had done something different in the past, so we wouldn’t be here today. That only if we could make someone do what we want them to do, our life would be so much better. That only if we had something – a new status, a new possession, a new development in a relationship, a new job, we would feel OK.

That the present moment is not OK.

I am familiar with these feelings. I have struggled too with this thinking. The feeling of being wronged, being misunderstood, being in a place where I don’t want to be, or think I deserve to be.

My words below are the opposite of a recommendation for passivity. Instead they are a clarion call for action with compassion and courage, for beginning, and beginning again and again, not giving up.

Imagine, yourself, “stuck.”

Recognize you are suffering. That you are worthy of compassion, sympathy, love and caring, just like you would help a friend who came to you with such a problem.

Accept the situation you are in. The present cannot be any different, because we can’t go back and change the past.

The future, however, doesn’t have to be the same as the present. That, you, yourself, decide your destiny. Change lies in your hards, and you need the courage to start and move, even if it seems impossible.

Most importantly, to make a change, even if it is a small beginning. To be consistent with this change, even if you fail and have to start again. The biggest danger is to stop because you did not see any results. Your responsibility is just for action, without negativity or blame for failing, with kindness and compassion for yourself.

Don’t let others get you down with criticism or find fault in your progress. You have the responsibility to act, no matter what.

Finally, every day is a new start, a new opportunity. Make the most of it. Just begin again.



Show Up and Own It

Ergs ready for competition

Getting Ready for the Peninsula Indoor Rowing Championship


The Peninsula Indoor Rowing Championship took place last weekend at Canada College. All the prep work was done by parents and rowers from Stanford Rowing Center on Saturday, Feb 6.

A task list was circulated by the coach, and parents and rowers signed up for different tasks – loading the ergs, unloading and arranging the ergs, testing the ergs, etc. However, no one was directly in charge to issue orders and allocate work.

With this uncertainty on what to do next, some parents and rowers jumped right in and started doing something, even if they didn’t know exactly what to do. They saw someone working and said, “Can I give you a hand with what you are doing?” Other parents and rowers stood around, averted their eyes, and checked their phones.

Why would someone volunteer and show up at an event, and then not be fully engaged in the work? In no particular order, here is my effort to understand this behavior. I thought about this as I drove home after the prep work was completed:

  1. They didn’t really want to do work, but wanted to say that they had volunteered. They wanted to be seen as a volunteer.
  2. There was something more important going on in their life at that time – school, family, work, etc., but since they had committed to showing up, they did so. But their mind was elsewhere.
  3. They didn’t feel comfortable breaking the ice and introducing themselves to someone they didn’t know. Or asking a more experienced person what to do. Because of social anxiety, they retreated to their phones.
  4. The tasks they wanted to do were already being done by other parents/rowers. They didn’t want to do open tasks, and no one was there to tell them what to do.

Nonetheless, all the work got done on Saturday. Sunday was again managed by volunteers, and it was a spectacularly successful event, on-time and well organized.

To organize and run a successful event, doesn’t require everyone to be 100% committed. Even varying levels of engagement are enough, as long as a core group is fully engaged.

But it sure is more fun, if you Show Up and Own It!









A Small Beginning

A game in progress


When starting something new, I hear so many voices in my head:

  1. Will I fail?
  2. Will it be hard?
  3. What if I do it wrong?
  4. What if it is not good enough?
  5. And the big one – What will others think?

It has taken me a long time, and I am still a work in progress, but I have developed an approach for such questions.

The approach is to start with a small beginning and think of it as a game.

A game has goals, rules and feedback, which can also be applied to a task in our lives. But a game downplays and sidesteps questions like those above. In a game, if you fall over, you get another chance. If you die, you get a new life. If you hit an obstacle, you get another attempt. Because dealing with failure is built into the mental framework of the game, I find that I can sidestep the critical mind that raises questions.

This is similar to meditation. During meditation the instruction is let your thoughts arise and pass without any judgment. Similarly, a game calls for no judgment as you play. Without any judgment, everything becomes easier.

Still a work in progress, but with a new and hopeful approach.


Habit vs. To-do

A human being sitting in Meditation


For a long time, I struggled with creating a meditation habit. I would meditate consecutively for a week, at different times during the day. Then I’d miss a day of meditation due to a change in my routine. Perhaps it was a late evening, or travel, or a day that wasn’t great. The one day missed would turn into two, and then three, and I’d struggle to create a chain of days meditated.

I had read that 21 days was a myth, and that creating a habit takes much longer. I had also read about the parts of a habit – the cue, reward, routine. I also knew all the benefits of meditation. Despite knowing all this intellectually, I still struggled with the practice of meditating daily.

On some days, I would meditate in the morning, just after I woke up. On other days, I would meditate before going to bed. I had set a reminder alarm, yet I would ignore the notification when it popped up on my phone.

If I missed my morning slot, I would run through my other daily activities, and then try to check off my daily meditation at the end of the day, before going to bed. There were days when I was so tired that sitting was easy to skip. On other days, if I didn’t have the 20 minutes I thought I “should” sit for, I would convince myself that I should miss it, since I wasn’t doing it right. It was a daily struggle.

Then I read a post (perhaps here – I don’t remember), that helped me make sense of my struggle. Instead of a creating a habit with an automatic trigger, I had put meditation on my daily to-do list – as in I have to meditate sometime today. As the day went on, my desire to sit was overcome by the daily schedule, or by tiredness, and it didn’t happen.

But by not seeing meditation as a to-do daily list item, instead as a commitment to a habit, meant I had a different sense of urgency when the notification appeared on my phone. I knew I had to drop everything and do it right now. A small tweak in thinking, but it had a big impact on me.

So – 25 consecutive days and counting…..



Why Emptiness And Form

Enso: A circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.


Why Emptiness and Form

The words from the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra have been sufficiently meaningful to me that I named my blog after it.

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness;

emptiness does not differ from form.

That which is form is emptiness;

that which is emptiness, form.

The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses,

Emptiness does not differ from form, the physical self. Emptiness also does not differ from feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness, the creations of our mind.

If we had the benefit of a longer time scale, we would be able to see the cumulative effect of changes taking place in a physical object. For example, even a rock changes over a million years. Similarly, we cannot stop the changing thoughts and feelings going through our minds.

Once we get beyond the names and labels we apply to objects, thoughts, feelings, actions, and even consciousness, we realize that these possess an intrinsic quality that is insubstantial yet real, common and interconnected with everything, and is permanent, unchanging and formless. We suffer when we cling to labels, resist change and loss, and lose sight of of this underlying interconnectedness and permanence of all things.

Losing sight of relationship between emptiness and form, is like forgetting that we have a set of glasses on our face. The glasses are always there. We don’t have to put them on to see through them. We practice deeply to realize that we are wearing these glasses, so we don’t forget that we have them. But there is nothing to attain, since these glasses are always there, and anything we see can only be seen through these glasses.

Practice deeply with nothing to attain.