29 Jun 2015

Why Smart People Play Their Cards Close to their Chests

Smart and successful people have been playing their cards close to their chests (and breasts) since centuries. Why? I’ll tell you why. But first, let’s talk about some incidents.

Something was nagging me. I discussed the case with a friend. I was just looking for someone to hear me out. I had barely spoken for half a minute when he interrupted, “See, I don’t know much about this, but here’s my advice.” “I don’t want it!”, I wanted to scream. Apparently I didn’t, and my face didn’t betray my mood either, because he carried on talking while I dreamt about visiting Iceland.

Another time, I wanted to try something adventurous. I shared my thoughts with someone I know - I want to call her a friend but the incident left me wondering. “Bad, bad idea! You’re bat shit crazy!”, she disapproved. Discouraged and feeling rather low, I proceeded regardless, expecting little from it. The response, however, was the opposite. It was better than what I expected even before speaking to her.

On both instances, when I got something off my chest, I wished I had shut my mouth instead. And these aren’t isolated cases (how I wish!). They frequently occur in daily life. I’ve suggested some brilliant ideas in my previous companies (yeah, I’m bragging) only to get responses drier than a dead leaf. And when I tried to justify the ideas, or push them forth with conviction, people said that I was being defensive. Maybe I was. Who am I, the Dalai Lama to nonchalantly smile while people trounce my ideas and thoughts?

I’ll bet my life’s savings on you having experienced similar emotions too. Many times…

playing cards close to chest

So, why do most people either pull you down or start giving you unsolicited advice, despite meaning well? It’s the feeling of self-importance. People like to plug themselves into every damn conversation and situation. “What would I have done in such a case?”, they think. And they respond without considering that your and their circumstances are different, or that you didn’t ask for their advice. And in case you did ask, they either believe that you will fail or are gripped by sheer jealousy because maybe… just maybe… you may succeed.

“People love you when you’re average. It makes them comfortable. But when you pursue greatness, it makes people uncomfortable. Be prepared to lose some people on your journey”, said Tony A. Gaskins Jr. So damn true. Now you get why people who achieve more often speak little in public?

People who speak less don’t have highly classified, CIA-type plans. Instead, they share those with a few trusted people. This eliminates the pretentious concept of ‘democracy’ where many people state unwelcome opinions and nothing is achieved. Instead, the smart folk put their plans into action, and when those yield good results, the world commends them saying that it knew that they always had it in them. MS Dhoni and Narendra Modi come to mind.

But the discomfort caused by people telling them what to do is not the only reason smart people play their cards close to their chest. Here’s one instance when I shot myself in the foot by being too honest.

I shared a unique thought on a topic for an assignment during college with a friend. He went on to tell the teacher the idea, as if it was his all along. So he created a good impression in her mind (in those days that was important to us), while I was left introducing my forehead to the wall repeatedly.

You get the drift. And again, I’ll bet my life’s savings.

The world has enough people who will take whatever you say or do and twist it to benefit themselves. It is also full of people who will support you in your pursuits and stand by your side rather than ‘advice’ you on what to do at every step. It’s important to find the latter and only have those people surround you. In this amazing infographic, James Altucher states that most successful artists, businesspeople, performers and the likes have surrounded themselves with people who have supported them in their ventures - something that played an indispensable role in them achieving success.

So think before you speak. Take your time before opening up to someone and sharing your beliefs and secrets with them. Be decisive with what you share. Test the waters before you dive into it headlong. Share your deepest thoughts and concerns with a select few who encourage you to do what you intend to. And until you find such people, be tenacious and silent. It not only saves you emotional distress of but also makes you resolute. People may call you stubborn and rude, but you can simply shrug and walk away, knowing that these are the very people who will suck up to you when you succeed.

I can count the number of people I trust on the fingertips of one hand. What about you? Whom do you trust? And why? I would love to hear from you.

10 Jun 2015

Even The Myanmar Attack Can’t Make Us Less Indian

I’m happy. In a hitherto unheard instance, the Indian Army entered Myanmar and avenged the loss of their brothers. Army officials stated that about 100 insurgents were killed and there has been no counter from them so far. Neither the media nor the terrorists’ intelligence sources saw this coming. The operation was covert, carried out in cooperation with the Myanmar government, and has made us Indians feel proud and secure. A lot of credit for this goes to Narendra Modi’s foreign visit policy.

Apparently I am not alone. Millions of other Indians are happy too. Twitter and WhatsApp are filled with updates on how proud the army has made us feel. Some friends and I were discussing this on a WhatsApp group. And then, one of them wrote “Myanmar is okay, Pakistan is different. It’s like the difference between nuke and a hand grenade.” In short, he implied that the army will only have proved its mettle if it attacks Pakistan.

myanmar attack Indian army

At first, I was livid. I seethed for about an hour. Then, my anger turned to pity. It reminded me of my younger days. Once I had scored 60 out of 75 in Algebra. Just once! I was so happy that I mentally was announcing it to the world from atop Mount Everest. Mom, however, thought differently. “Good”, she said “but what was the highest score?” Experience had taught me that when it came to studies, every time my mother said “good”, it was followed with a “but”. And my mom wasn’t the only person, was she? No. Indian parents have a reputation to uphold, and by not doing this, they are probably letting themselves down. 

It’s not just Indian parents who indulge in comparison. This sort of behavior and thinking reflects an Indian resident’s lifestyle. Indians are unhappier than Pakistanis. Can you believe that! We’re more frustrated than Pakistan, though everything we have is a hundred-fold more than them.

I think that globalization has made us Indians take what we have for granted. Nothing is enough, and that’s why Amazon’s Aur dikhao (show me more) resonates so much with us. The outburst of things to possess has driven us insane. If we don’t have more than the person beside us, we have failed (or so we are made to believe). We have become slaves to the media. Traits like appreciation, gratitude and contentment are just good for talks in a satsangh: ironic, considering that our scriptures teach more contentment and less desire. It reflects even in our conversations. Talk to someone about something you did or intend on doing, and they instantly plug themselves into the conversation. Comparisons begin, advice is doled out without asking, you’re often made aware of ‘how wrong’ you are… it’s all about how you stack up against them.

It’s time to evolve beyond the conventional mindset that has been a part of us for decades. Stop comparing events and people. Appreciate unconditionally, and be happy for what you have. Silently thank God (or your stars, if you are an atheist) for small things that you are fortunate to receive. And quit saying that your life is f*cked and you don’t have anything to be thankful for. If you can read this post, it alone means that you are more fortunate than 75 percent of the world’s population. If you earn 5 figures monthly, you are more fortunate than 90 percent of India’s population. If you have an iPhone, you are more fortunate than me ;)

Practicing appreciation is not difficult. This is not about appreciating the Indian army or the Modi government (though you should). Appreciate small things that people do, or their feelings when they share some thoughts with you. Quit undermining someone’s accomplishments by comparing them with yours. Be grateful for family and friends, learn to live with less, and witness your own life become happier. And since you influence those closest to you, you will spread happiness in their lives too. Now isn’t that something worth living for!
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