Surrender: Now, Here

jumping out of an airplaneRaised with western ideology, the concept of surrender is typically associated with defeat, giving up. In work or private life, the art of surrender, can have a different affect; a much deeper, reflective and calming outcome.

I am in a critical meeting with a group of people at work; there is round-robin criticism, about the things we coulda…shoulda…woulda….done.  Why customer pricing wasn’t adjusted, why raw materials were not purchased from different vendors – the list continues.

At some point, you have two options:

  • Raise your hand and say, STOP. Enough bullying. I did the best I could
  • Surrender…accept that, yes, we could have done more, but this is where we are nowI have practiced both; depending on the circumstances, both techniques work with different degrees of complexity.

In my previous blog, The Twisted World of Bullying, I have spoken about how to deal with a bully – how to deal with individuals that like to harass; in their mind, you are someone they can control. Today, I want to get your thoughts going on the act of sweet surrender.

First, realize, that we control very little. Everything and everybody changes, all the time. Dealing with this change takes dexterity and the ability of being in constant motion. Imagine biking… or swimming in a calm sea.

A few years ago, my life was going through an unprecedented amount of turmoil – the more I was trying to control the outcome, the more it was rupturing. Everyone goes through moments like these. As if, you are driving a car on ice, and the car just keeps spinning. At that moment, the rate of motion is very difficult to calculate. All you feel, is this spinning – almost in slow motion.

The best thing to do, when you know you have started to slide on ice, is to let go – is to surrender to the reality that you cannot control this anymore; you have to believe, gravity and friction will do their job and the car WILL inevitably come to a stop.

When you can look beyond the current moment and think of that future point – where the car will have stopped – and everything important is still ok – you will have surrendered.

This difficult act of just letting go – where all your training, resistance, and willpower has absolutely no impact – is something to be aware.

As an adult, you have likely experienced this emotion at some point in your life. It may have been during the illness or death of a loved one; or during the betrayal of a friendship or relationship; or even a natural or man-made calamity; e.g. an earthquake, mudslide, or even a terrorist attack.

As I get older, I am learning to accept that very little is within my span of control, which helps me to surrender completely. In recent turmoil or conflicts, I keep asking myself, have I done my best to resolve this issue; if the answer is positive, I realize that the Universe is telling me that it’s time to surrender.

Surrender is acceptance; acceptance of a reality that change is all-encompassing.

In a spiritual sense, it’s surrendering to God or Nature. You know everything will be ok; it will work out. At some point, you just have to let it go. Let the chips fall where they may. You will make the best of the hand that is being dealt to you.

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When Good Things Happen: November 9 2013

The last four weeks have been some of the most tumultuous times in my life.

After struggling for three years, with dissolving the institution of marriage, the divorce finalized.

I moved from one home to another.

I was offered another “once in a lifetime” chance to join a world-class team to take an organization from “good to great” – the kind of opportunity most people dream about.

Heading  into these four weeks, I was nervous, anxious, worried; I stayed up late thinking about all the possibilities of things going wrong. My analytical mind concocted up linear algorithms of disaster, trauma and tragedy!

Finally, the nail-biting stormy, triple effect night passed, and none of those disasters materialized; this morning, as the sunlight shines down from heaven, I feel stronger, motivated and relieved. The feeling isn’t euphoric – it’s just a “deep breath” moment.

When the lights come down from heaven

I have regained my confidence in the energy of the Universe; good things do happen, when you keep your intentions pure and clean and when you choose to do the right and beautiful thing.

Your expectations do become your experience.

All through my journey, I am grateful for the moral compass of my two beautiful daughters. Every decision I make, every step I take, I have made their safety and  well-being as the center-piece. This centering allows me to think clearly – even if my heart is wondering or my brain is analyzing and criticizing.

I am also grateful for a wonderful, supportive community of friends and family who watch me struggle – never interfering– but keep telling me over and over – “This too shall passyou are making the right decisions”.

Just before the three events took place, I went away to Key West for two days and just walked the streets or sat by the pool trying to re-focus my energy. When quandary overwhelmed me, I called a friend asking for his guidance – specially on this emerging new role; his answer was clear, “Dude, you have trained yourself for this role all your life – why are you thinking so much? Do you think Shania will be happy if you aren’t happy? “  It gave me the clarity of thought at that moment to stop being a worrier!

I remember the evening before the court proceedings, I texted a few friends about being a nervous wreck; they left their work early, and met up for a glass of wine and helped me divert my attention to other things in life.

I Skyped my sister on weekends and unburdened my emerging feelings and anxiety. She patiently listened and encouraged me to keep moving forward and staying focused on the day after – the day when all this drama will be over.

At the end of the day, as I look out to what the Universe has gifted me; my health, my two awesome daughters,  wonderful – supportive friends and family and a truly wonderful career that has availed me possibilities to learn, grow, travel and work with some amazingly talented people. I have re-connected with my spiritual side and found peace in boating, writing, reading, wine and food.

I have so many things to be grateful for.

I watch the Atlantic this morning – the surf on the azure blue sea and wonder about the changing scenery – the clouds appear and disappear in a moment’s notice; as if the sea and the sky are teaching me that same lesson.

Good things do happen, when there are good intentions.

The skies do clear up and the ocean does regain its blue; just have to keep believing in the immense possibilities of the future.

This Rain Too Shall Pass: October 19 2013

I stand on the upper deck of a massive ship – as if the rain can’t touch me. There is a subtle moon hovering over the ocean.  A short distance away, I can see the dark clouds and the halo of the rain approaching, as we move forward in the dark watersRain_ot_ocean_beach

I can smell the rain from far away; I sense it’s velocity from a mile away.

At times, in life, we are anticipating this momentary, yet tumultuous change; we can feel it coming. Like a slow motion movie, it’s happening right in front of us. We wait,  paralyzed by the motion and unable to change the outcome.

Maybe it’s a loved-one suffering illness – maybe it’s watching the break-up of a relationship – maybe it’s the dissolution of an institution that you have served for many years; maybe it’s just a dogma or an illusion, that’s crumbling in front of our eyes.

Like many, I experience multitudes of change and am just the spectator of this change. I sit here, thinking and worrying, how I can affect this change – how I can come out better or stronger, after the change – how I can make the outcome different from what I foresee. I search my mind for strategies and paths forward.

Often, life doesn’t follow a strategic plan. It just takes over like a un-forecasted storm.

Sometimes, you just have to let that change happen and not try to hold on to what was true in the past. Whether it’s a job, a belief, or a relationship – you have to let the change take place on its own motion.

I am learning to take deep breaths as the change moves toward me. I am learning to tell myself that there isn’t much I can (or should) do, to affect the upcoming tumult.

I am scared of that period of uncertainty, which comes right after the change – when things are vulnerable and in a flux – when boundaries are not set and we wonder what’s going to happen to us, if things don’t settle down. I feel insecure and want to run back to the past.

A good friend reminds me: This Too Shall Pass.

When you have experienced massive changes, like migration from one part of the world to another, or dealt with major corporate upheaval, what you have developed, is a strong intuition to foresee change – to understand the nature of change, and most importantly, the learning that, the easiest path forward is to just embrace the change – versus resisting it.

I remember, when I first came to go college in the US, I experienced a similar loss of environment;  my father had died recently, I had left my loving family behind and adventured out to a foreign land where the sounds and smells were completely different where I grew up.  Change was all around me, engulfing me, overwhelming me;  I managed to learn and grow with that change; eventually, I embraced it and became one with it.

It’s only when I let go and not try to impact the change, that I gave myself the permission to be free.

The wind becomes stronger and I feel the intensity all around me.  It starts with a few large drops and quickly turns into a downpour as I hold on to the wood railing to balance my step; I feel the piercing of the rain on my face and my clothes, as it zips by – touching all over, all encompassing, not waiting, not really caring how I feel. I try to open my eyes but all I see is a glassy glare around me. It’s only when I completely surrender, does my anxiety dissipate.

I know I am standing here, in this sudden rain, for a reason. And the rain doesn’t wash away that reason.

The quick rain passes in a few minutes; but in person, it feels like a long period. You realize you are drenched. But there is a freshness about in the air. I survived the change – I made it through this unpredicted storm. I feel stronger now, than I was a few minutes ago.

Making Way For Tomorrow: Need For Closure and Cleansing: September 2013

People walking away from each other

In my first Sociology class about death and dying, I learned the saying, Funerals Are For the Living – Not for the Dead!

Always wondered why, after a death, there is the need for a funeral and other commemorative occasions that make us celebrate and mourn at the same time.

After my father’s funeral, some 28 years ago, I started to realize why thousands of people needed to say goodbye to him.  My mother howled and my Dadi (paternal grandmother) remained stoic; everyone consoled themselves in their own way.

In addition to the (sometimes) traumatic end of life, there are other endings, that break our hearts and help shape us as people.

In 2009, I wrote an essay Difficulty with Endings about impending changes in my life; both at work and personal life, there are endings that are often traumatic and sad. How we handle these endings, with peace and our heads held up high, is critical to our psyche and how we move forward from that point onward.

I have worked with several folks, who have recently gone through organizational re-structuring or downsizing at blue-chip corporations. Often, these people have worked with these companies for years and never worked anywhere else. This corporate decision, to move them out, is sometimes devastating to them.

Having personally experienced similar changes in my own life, I feel that there is a need to cleanse and provide closure to parting-of-the-ways, to provide an appropriate stepping stone to the future.

Without the right closure or time to heal/cleanse, we often carry around the burden of fear and anger, that eventually affects us from moving forward.

After my last role ended, I quickly cleaned out the closet of all their logo shirts, baseball caps and other memorabilia. I wrote a blog essay (Once In A Lifetime) about my positive experience and then thanked all those who helped me during my tenure. These cleansing steps allowed me to move forward in my thinking about where I want my career to go in the future.

While easier done at the professional organization, on the personal level there is sometimes envy, anger, rage and many other negative sentiments involved in a break-up. Still, if both parties respect each other and care about each other’s well-being, they are more likely to part ways with mature acceptance.

In personal relationship matters, closure is best when agreed by both parties, to remain civil and supportive to each other – irrespective if your relationship is for 6 months or 16 years.  This requires maturity by both parties to agree on a framework for both sides to come to closure and cleanse.

When I talk to senior executives who are in career transition mode, often I see anger and hurt emotions that cloud their judgment – eventually manifesting in their poisoned speech. I have always advised them to keep their head-up high and not say a word bad about their previous employers. The same holds in personal life; anything bad you say about your partner or spouse reflects poorly on you and your judgment in that relationship.

Similarly, the process of cleansing is just as important to close out a chapter. A friend recently told me that his 6 year relationship broke up a year ago and he hasn’t met someone he likes or is cautious about the next step. We discuss his past and eventually found that he continues to hold a box full of stuff that they had collected together, and that he kept the box in his closet, as memento from the past. Last weekend, after our conversation, he texted me that he had finally thrown everything out in a garbage bag and wants to make a fresh start in his life. He needed to close that chapter out and cleanse. He is now ready to move forward.

I met one individual recently, who had worked at a major corporation for 23 years. When she got her “transition package”, she told me this is the best thing that could’ve happened to her. She said, that she had never had the opportunity to think about her career and has been pulled from job to job. All she wants to do now is work for a non-profit and be happy with what she does!

Not all endings are always that happy. But an end, typically, leads to the opening of new doors and windows of opportunities. Sooner we can bring closure and cleanse our own minds about it, it is more likely that we will move forward quickly and make the rest of our lives more pleasant and happy!

Ending on a High Note: April 2012

Recently at customer service trainings, we discuss that, even the most irate customer maybe converted into your loyal proponents, if one works hard at having a good “final” experience with the people or the brand; It maybe an airline that loses your baggage, but treats you with respect and delivers it promptly upon receipt; it maybe the hotel that messes up your reservation, but upgrades you to a better room and gives you free breakfast! In both examples, one leaves feeling treated with respect and eventually forgives the mistakes.

Almost two years ago, I wrote about, both personally and professionally, how we often have  Difficulty with Endings  – but now I am even more convinced that life is a better experience if we let some things end – and end gracefully – on a high note.

I remember, a few years ago, when I was taking on a new role, my predecessor was having a really tough time letting go; we met at dinner the first time and he kept his arms folded all through, accusing others for the upcoming change.

Recently my teenager told me about one of her best friends, and how she has changed, and cannot be friends with this other girl who she was really close to, two summers away. This other friend, however, is having a very difficult time letting the friendship go.

Sometimes we forget that, other than biological relationships, or personally owned businesses – almost everything else, has a termination possibility. It maybe a role in an organization or a long-term relationship; in either case, the ending itself, need not be difficult. It is only as tragic, as we make it.

In many cases, an ending also means a new beginning – a renaissance of sorts – to start with new possibilities and opportunities.

Just like customers at an organization, many of us will only remember the last experience we have with someone. Sometimes it’s the last hug we give someone – at other times it’s just a strong hand-shake or a smile that says, thank you.

Ending on a high note, in a role in an organization, or in personal life, has many positive outcomes. I remember recently, ending a professional role; after my boss broke the news that my role was being re-organized,  I thanked my him for giving me the opportunity to learn with him for several years and have the privilege of serving with such a distinguished team. I truly had a great time working there, and carry on some amazing memories.

I have maintained tremendous relationships with many of my former bosses and colleagues, because, I have always tried to leave a role on the highest tempo! I know, going forward, that particular moment is something they are likely to remember for a very long time.

Whether in personal or professional roles, finding the right tempo and balance, when an ending happens, is tough; however, if we keep the long-term perspective in view, we realize that our lives, and experiences, are not a still photograph – its more like a multi-color series of videos all coming together masterfully. One must prepare themselves for endings – and more importantly, when that end happens, embrace it with grace and dignity.

Those who carry bitterness within themselves, or blame others for their own misery, carry a heavy burden of anxiety and worry. Life’s too short to carry such a burden. That burden eventually shapes our personality and changes our outlook to bitterness. If you read about Richard Nixon or watch the movie about him, you will see how his bitterness affected our nation’s political psyche, for a long time.

Gibran said eloquently in The Prophet, “If you love something, set it free if it comes back, it’s yours; if not, it was never meant to be.” Whether it’s work, or life, it’s all about letting things go – most things do come to and end; Let the end come to all of us in peace.

The Lining of Silver: April 15, 2011

 

Accidents happen. Failure overcomes us. Tragedy churns our life into shreds of unnoticeable scrap. Still, at the end of the day, there’s always a Silver Lining. It’s called hope. Hope that shows us the light to something different. It may or not be bigger and better than what one possesses. But, the hope, gives you a light – a path to follow on your next journey.

Recently at work, we sold a multi-million dollar project to a multi-billion dollar international customer – the product not having been tested and approved fully. A large team of engineers and planners worked relentlessly to make the technology work. We had plans B, C, D through Z ready to launch, if the current action item lists didn’t work. The risk of failure was not acceptable.

After more than six months of gut wrenching decision-making, finally the project worked. While every day of the past six months, the team felt as if we were in a cesspool of sticky mud – unable to rescue ourselves, eventually things improved – and the project delivered on it’s expectations. All along the journey, there was a team of people, who didn’t believe that this project could be accomplished. Every excuse in the world was in front of us, why things would not work. The true heroes were a handful of people who persisted that the changes would work and we would overcome the obstacles.

It’s during these times, you see the character of your team and how they react to the level of uncertainty.

Similarly, during a recent personal calamity, a group of my friends and family kept advising me to abandon ship and move forward from my predicament. Then there were those, who advised me to hold steady and move forward within my current trajectory.

The only thing that keeps one going, in a difficult circumstance, is that silver lining – that hope, that things will get better – and the world will move forward. Maybe the topography of the world, as we know it, has changed, but still reason to look forward to a tomorrow – a better tomorrow.

This has to be the indomitable human spirit.

If you remember the Gulf Oil Spill about a year ago – or the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, you see examples of human perseverance to look forward and search for a silver lining that life has to move forward.

In our personal life-journeys, hope is all we have.

It would be very difficult to get out of bed every day, if we only pondered the disease, war or accidents that happen around us.

Instead, if we look at the smiles of our five-year olds when they splash around the pool – or beautiful, loving eyes of our fifteen year olds – and see the opportunities that God gives us every day –one must be grateful – one has to reach for that silver lining that makes life worth living.

Adjusting to A New Normal: March 20 2011

Sometimes, things just change. No notice, no reason.

9/11 changed our lives forever; it changed the way we travel, the way we think about business risk, the way we feel when we stand atop a sky scraper and look out at airplanes. It even changed the way we react when we hear of another Muslim/Arabic name when it shows up on the news, related or not.

That’s just the way life is. When things are going “good” – something will change the direction. Since 9/11, frequent travelers like myself, have adjusted to the way we travel – with or without luggage – how we carry liquids in our bags – or even, what we decide to eat or drink as we head out to the airport. Over time I have accepted that, it’s the new normal.

Recently, when the congresswoman Gabriel Gifford was shot, I felt really bad for her and her family. However, there is a part of me that was a relieved that the shooter didn’t have an Arabic name. There’s a part of me that just automatically cringes every time I hear an Arabic named in the media. I believe, this is the New Normal, after 9/11. After ten-years, it’s still tough to get adjusted to this New Normal.

Change is difficult to get used to. Business philosophers write numerous books on change, and how to deal with it, every year. However, at the end of the day, it’s really tough, when you are going through that particular change.

It maybe a job change, a life change – or a rule change that creates all sorts of negative emotions in our hearts and minds. I read in the book Sway (Ori and Rom Braffman, 2010), that the most rational beings (like a perfectionist pilot), can demonstrate the most irrational behavior (like trying to take off a Jumbo jet in the middle of a weather event), because some rule has changed (about the way he is judged on overtime hours). In broad view, it makes no sense. However, these irrational fears or negative emotions, can take over our minds and make us do some unusual things.

During a recent series work of negotiations, on a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, the other party kept changing the rules on the negotiations every few days. It’s easy to get frustrated, while trying to change the dynamic in the negotiation. However, it’s important, in all aspects of life and work, to keep the long-view in mind. Once you keep the long-term context – it becomes easier to keep focused on what needs to be accomplished.

Having suffered through through illness, death, heartbreak and other personal difficulty, I can attest that it’s more difficult to keep oneself focused on what’s right for the long term, when the change has an impact on your personal life.

Emotions sway us even more widely, when the issue is personal; the external environment influences us more deeply. Friends and family feel obliged to give you advice on what to do.

At the end of the day though, one has to stay focused on the long term – what’s important in our lives. In our life-journey, we have to first accept that we have been dealt with this challenging New Normal.

We have to stop blaming others or the external environment; once that acceptance is there, we have to recognize that only we have the ability to adjust and change the outcome. The world can advise from the sidelines – but at the end of the day, they are just spectators – you are the only one playing the game. If you win, it’s your victory – if you lose, it’s your loss.

Someone sent me a text recently, Life’s like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you will find next; keeping that in mind, we must learn to discern carefully – make our own choices – and not try to engulf everything with speed.

Time heals, and we adjust and learn to live with that New Normal.