It Doesn’t Matter Where You Start; Great Journeys Have Humble Beginnings

How are you today? I hope you’ve been well. Today I wanted to share some wisdom I recieved that helped me respect the idea that small, consistent changes are often prerequisites for big change.

There’s a popular Taoist quote that is often misattributed to Confucious: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I recently learned that this version was a mistranslation of the original Chinese text. There was no symbol or character that represented “one” or “single” to signify the step (and of course they didn’t use miles as a measurement of distance then). A much better interpretation is the following: “The small piece of ground beneath your feet is the starting point for a long journey.” Epic adventures begin from the point on the ground where you stand. Seeds become trees, water vapors become torrential rains and great journeys have humble beginnings; most great things are a result of many small actions over a period of time.

If there are changes you’d like to make in your life, try not to underestimate the smaller actions. Many people might think it’s pointless, or a waste of time, but many of them lack foresight and humility for real change. Try not to be fooled by the words of nearsighted people when your goals are much bigger. Persist and win.

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Travelling with Minimal (Emotional) Luggage

I’ve learned that packing lightly when travelling is important because carrying too much weight can quickly become exhausting. Travelling can be nerve-wracking if we think about everything that can go wrong: being away from the familiar and transplanting ourselves into new locations and cultures can be stressful. But stressing about the future robs us of our current peace, and carrying the weight of future anxieties will exhaust us today. We should learn to travel with fewer fears in our life, otherwise it will become exhausting for us to carry them into everything we do.

Second-Generation Identity Crisis

This week is a celebration for many Indians around the world: the celebration of the festival known as Ganesh Chaturthi (Birthday of Ganesha). While Diwali is probably one of the most well-known Indian celebrations, I didn’t realize how many additional holidays there were until I became older. Since I wasn’t raised in a Hindu household (or any traditional religion for that matter), I didn’t truly understand their respective cultural significance. This led to one of the most difficult things I struggled with growing up — being genetically Indian, but culturally American.

Having a hyphen in both my first name (Jay-Ram) and my culture (Indian-American), my identity was rejected by most orthodox Indian people and families as being uncultured – they would scoff at me for knowing very little of my heritage. On the other hand, I didn’t know enough about American culture to understand certain social norms to fit in. I was too uncultured for one group, yet too foreign for another. In school, whenever a friend or teacher would ask me a question about Indian culture, it saddened me that I couldn’t offer them any information of value; I would often know as little as they did about the culture.

Little did I know then, there was an entire generation of second-generation immigrants struggling to find their own identities. This would prove to be an impossible task because there wasn’t an identity existed for us then– we had to create and synthesize our own culture from our own experiences. Additionally, if they weren’t second-generation immigrants themselves, many of our friends and teachers were a part of this cultural shift and new paradigm. Today, we are the majority. Our culture today is big on acceptance, because we know how it feels not to belong. We have gone through the struggle of being rejected and laughed at, while trying to create an identity for ourselves – we try to accept the people around us because some of us are still trying to accept ourselves.

It’s such an interesting feeling when two separate cultures feel foreign yet familiar at the same time. I can eat rice and lentils with my hands in the morning, and animal-style fries from In & Out with a fork in the evening — and I wouldn’t miss a beat travelling between these cultural dimensions. This practice of crossing cultures has become second nature to many of us because we through the struggle of adjusting and synthesizing a new culture. Holidays like today help give me context as to the person I’ve become and why it’s important to accept our past to create the path forward. Ganesha is known as the destroyers of obstacles and bringer of prosperity, and these are both things I wish for you on your journey of self-creation.

Let Yourself Fail (Sometimes)

Here’s an interesting idea, especially for those of us who are good at many things — a jack of all trades, but master of none — mastery requires giving up things we are good at so that we can focus on becoming the best at one of those things. This is the first step in cultivating your passion.

The primary fear holding most people back is often, “How do I know I’m picking the right thing?” The truth is that this often doesn’t matter, and is actually a hidden fear of rejection. Most people cannot imagine investing so much time and energy into something, only for it to possibly be failure and rejected by society. However this fear is exactly why many people do not succeed at mastering something — they tie their self worth to their results, and let their failures define them. But failure is not final unless you stop trying; failure is not apart from success, but rather is a part of success.

Before beginning any project, consider fully (all of your choices) and then act decisively (pick one). Decide under which circumstances you’ll give up. Then, do not quit until you achieve your desired outcome. There will be times where you’ll feel like your work is meaningless and opinions insignificant, but plowing through this self-doubt is the necessary process of growth and success. Those of us willing to put their soul into the furnace, can forge their spirit into the ultimate weapon. Being good at many things is fun and safe, but mastering something is risky yet necessary for fulfillment.

Let Them Be Free

It’s important to let that person go, so that you can continue to grow.

Okay so when I said this, did someone come to mind? And if so, why haven’t you let them go yet? Let’s talk about this.

Letting someone go is less about feeling bad about abandoning them, and more about having faith in their ability to thrive. They might feel pain initially, but this is necessary for growth — if you truly care about them, set them free. I’ve been really fortunate to meet many good people in my life, but I’ve learned that many of them were not meant to stay in it. It takes time to get to know someone, but once we spend the time to know them, does that mean we are obligated to continue being available to them?

I failed to realize that many people, like myself, are also in the process of growing; they might not be growing at the same pace, or to the same size of our ambitions — but that is alright. Eventually, we have to come to the realization that we are just different people. But what’s not okay is if you deny your own identity and do the disservice to yourself by keeping those around that hold you back. Stop cutting your branches just because someone else feels insecure in your shadows, and instead leave to a different garden so that you both of you can find your own sunlight and continue to grow.

Grief Awareness Day

Most people have a unique gift of being able to feel if someone is emotionally unwell. Sometimes, we’ll have a conversation with a friend or colleague and something will seem off. We’ll ask if everything is okay, but even if they say that they’re fine, their non-verbal cues seem to say otherwise; maybe the very opposite of “fine.” The polite thing to do is respect their words and believe them, since there is not much we can do at this point. But perhaps they have a personal reason for doing this; maybe they’re just trying to hold it together and get through the day. Maybe unpacking emotional troubles would destabilize or paralyze their emotional state. In that moment, we can give them a gift that they can choose to accept — a gift that they can take home to help unpack the emotional luggage they’ve been carrying around for so long: the gift of kindness. I’ve learned that I cannot show someone how to fix their problems, but I can give them space and positivity — they themselves are the ones best equipped to handle their problems; all they need is a clear head, love and time to change the story they’ve been telling themselves.

The Ascent

I decided to start documenting my journey of becoming a respected author, while things are still new, and I’m figuring out things. I want to be able to remember the beginning of the process, before the “likes” and popularity, so that I can remember the most important part of the journey, and share this with others.

It’s been roughly three months since I began writing every single day, with the purpose of becoming a better writer on my Instagram. I also started to read and write more so that I can have a better understanding of both the topic I wish to speak about (increasing the belief in oneself to do great things by recognizing negative patterns through self-awareness) and writing structure in general. I’m also still trying to figure out my demographic, but I think I’ll be able to narrow it down with more writing. I’ll have to give up podcasting daily so that I’ll have more time to write, and ramp up my audiobook intake.

It was also my first day at my new job today. It felt nice, and I met lots of good people. But at the end of the day, this job is just a tool for my writing and podcast. It’s important to always remember why we do what we do.

Float like a Butterfly

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of our time, but his opponents extended far beyond the boxing ring. We too can be the champions of the battles we fight each day if we are adaptable and courageous.

Being a black Muslim in the 1970’s produced its own challenges in the forms of racism and Islamophobia. One of the characteristics that made Ali so remarkable was his ability to stand firm in his beliefs, regardless of who was opposing him. If you look up any video today, you’ll see ferocious confidence in his self-expression.

Being unique today requires tremendous courage to challenge the status quo. Heroes are scarce in our generation because most of us have been taught to limit our critical thinking for a paycheck; by fitting into society like a standardized cog in a machine. Ali found courage within himself and became an individual. You can also cultivate this courage for self-expression.

In nature, a butterfly is able to float because it is light, agile and curious. On the other hand, a bumble bee has similar capabilities but different mindset: workers that’ll defend the queen and hive with their sting. Humans however are not restricted to any particular pattern, because self awareness allow us to change our perspective when presented with new information.

When Muhammad Ali’s saying, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was also a comment on how humans can adapt their nature. We can be light on our feet and observe like a butterfly, but change and strike with purpose like a bee. We are not restricted to nature’s patterns, but to recognize and change them requires self-awareness and that courage deep inside you. Adapt, and you will overcome anything.

The right team for the right job

If your goal is to build a bridge, then following the advice of a demolitions expert and buying dynamite make no sense. But most of us do this in our lives every day: we take actions opposite of our goals and end up frustrated.

Demolition experts are the negative people in your life. They’ve relentlessly practiced how to locate and identify even the smallest faults and weaknesses to destroy the greatest structures. The reason negative people seldom live positive lives is because they focus on failures their entire life — so they rationalize any risks to avoid taking them. They can easily demolish the foundation of your courage with their years of practice.

On the other hand, an expert bridge builder focuses on strengths, and what materials go well together for a strong structure. His mission is to connect people, and this goal far outweighs any short-term fear of failure. His team and tools are also much different than a demolition expert: one carries dynamite and a wrecking ball machine, and the other employs construction workers and engineers.

Depending on what we are trying to accomplish, we need the right team. Whether you’re trying to build bridges or destroy them, you’ll be able to achieve your goal more efficiently with a team on the same mission as you.

Generosity Comes From Abundance

[Today’s podcast was about generosity. You can check it out here]

In college, one of my colleagues was notorious for forgetting his pencil. It was very clear in the way he dressed, his mismatching socks, and disheveled hair that his goal was to do the bare minimum in class to get participation. And usually he would ask me for pencils, since he knew I kept an ungodly amount of pens and pencils in my backpack.

I think it’s interesting to note our respective attitudes in this scenario regarding pencils. If I really just wanted to be prepared, I would keep only a few extra pencils. Not twenty. But in past experiences, I’d personally been in embarrassing situations where no one was willing to give me a pencil. So, out of this fear, I kept many pens and pencils.

So he would ask, and I would give. But I started to notice that when my pencil stash would run low, I was more hesitant to give him a pencil. In fact, sometimes I would lie that I didn’t have an extra, so that my own anxiety could be quelled. Needless to say, neither of us were happy in this situation.

I had developed a relationship with my irrational fear of pencils, and my colleague developed an unspoken trust with me of providing. The more pencils I had, the more comfortable I was with giving him a pencil. But as that stash dwindled, so did our weird relationship. Basically, the less I had, the less willing I was to give him a pencil.

Eventually, he moved to another part of the class where he continued his cycle of “pen-handling.” I thought I was being generous, but in reality I felt bad for him. We aren’t able to freely give if we think we don’t have enough.

You know at least one person in your own life who has shied away from donating because they say they don’t have enough. They usually say things like, “Once I become rich, then I’ll have extra money to donate!” But riches come from an abundant mindset. Let me ask you this: how will you ever become rich, if you operate from a poor and lacking mindset?