Creating Your Next New Normal: A post-Covid dream: April 2020

When your biology is shocked, all your cells fight to reject the outside intervention and wants to go back to it’s previous “normalcy”; similarly, when your system is shocked, your mind searches for straws of normality, some semblance of sanity. Typically, you don’t get a chance to think about and plan for a new normal. You may want to continue doing the same as you did before and dealing with the crucial pain of loss.

Invariably, the new place you have arrived, is different than where you were before. Often, that requires us to re-write the rules or, at minimum, change some existing norms.

In today’s pandemic stricken world, we keep wondering what our future holds. Especially after such a “group shock” to our system; when will we hug our loved ones without fear of hurting them? When will be able to touch a guardrail without wondering who touched it before? When can we go to watch a movie at a theatre again?

I’ve been through 3 significant traumatic events in my life; I have learned that my loss is entirely personal, and very few people can understand or empathize the pain I may have endured. Similarly, every time, I have arrived at a new state of mind, it took adjustments, and there is a lingering feeling of loss; however, I have learned to make this new “normality” my only reality and moved forward to accept the new rules, norms and roles.

Losing my dad, at the age of eighteen, migrating to a new country/continent/culture, and much later in life, going through a divorce – each one these new circumstances have created a personal “new normal” for me. At least two of these three “incidences” were beyond my control and migration, can be argued on either side of the coin.
One afternoon I left home to go to a theatre lecture and came back to find my young Dad being hauled away in an ambulance and the next morning, he died, suddenly. My world was jarred and I had to grow up quickly, make decisions on my own and carve my own future. I realize that my Dad’s death has made me more resilient – while making me anxious about relationships. I have also become acutely aware of the shortness of life and have understood that the only connections that matter are your close family and a few friends.

Within three months of my father’s death, I took a long journey and arrived to go to college in the US; leaving a doting family, friends behind, I set out on a journey to define and find a new home. It took me almost twenty years, after living in 8 states, to finally land in Florida where I feel grounded again. Earning my own right to exist in this hyper-competitive world of my new homeland and constantly proving that I can do it, without known connections, is the true test of being an American.

A decade after arriving in the US, I met my princess and proposed to her on our second date. We married, had two lovely children, traveled the world and lived our idylic life on a beach town.  Some 15 years later, another tragedy struck our lives, as my “picture perfect” life was shattered by mental illness and our marriage fell apart. I learned to become a single dad; and to connect with the two most important people of my life. This very personal trauma, also taught me who my friends are, and who suddenly went on an offensive, religious rant to discard me or my children.

I have often said to friends, “Most people don’t get one dream in their life – and I’ve had the privilege of 3 dream jobs in my life” – the only dream job left is to be an “awesome dad” to my girls – and leave them with some amazing memories – something I don’t have a lot with my own father.

Each one of these incidences, death, divorce and migration, are traumatic. Each of them changed me in different ways. I can’t clearly remember who I was before or compare with, who I am today. All I can say is that I know trauma leaves us as a different person Expecting things to be like they were, is unrealistic.

What I discuss with Daiyaan and Shania today, is that we know that things are going to be different in a month, two months or six months from now. We know school for Shania and work for Daiyaan is going to take on different dimensions. We know sports or leisure will be different for all of us. So will our dream to travel; while our tourist souls crave another touch of Barcelona or Mykonos, at least for a few months, we don’t know how we will sit next to strangers on an airplane, or sleep in a hotel bed where someone else slept a few hours ago.

Preparing for the new normal is the key. Not in an intense way, where we hoard food, or toilet paper. But knowing that many of the things we are accustomed to doing – even simple things like hugging each other, will take on a different dimension. Doesn’t mean that we love each other any differently. Just our expression of love may have to morph a bit.

After a week or so, I stop by at Daiyaan’s home and she asks me to wash my hands and sit a table width away.  In the past, during such short visits, we may have been sitting next to each other, on her comfy sofa, watching an old episode of Friends; today, a socially distant interaction is all we feel appropriate.

There will be normalcy again;  I am confident. I will hug my daughter freely one day.

For now, the little girl I brought back from the hospital, some twenty five years ago, sits across from me and tells me about the sushi burrito she ordered via Delivery Dudes or how delighted she is with her Shipt groceries and that she needs to return to a Zoom conference call in the next thirty minutes!

A post pandemic friends Wine Social

My Best Is Yet to Come: Nov 16 2019

I just came back from an amazing vacation with my sister and her husband; they were traveling for work and I accompanied them to Israel, specifically, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Maybe it’s because everyone had scared me about airport security, or maybe my knowledge base of this particular country was limited, or a combination of both – had created very low anticipation for this journey.

Islamic section in Jerusalem
Christian Quarters
Visiting the Wailing Wall on Sabbath

For six days, I had one of my best life vacations! The town of Jerusalem, steeped in the history of 4000+ years of monotheistic religions, was gritty and experiential. On the other hand, Tel Aviv with a young, crisp, artsy, foodie modernity, as if a crafted Malibu experience with a generous dose of  culture and ethnic flair, made it all very heady.

During a sunny Segway mobile adventure of the Tel Aviv coastline, I realized something crucial that sometimes I don’t often give attention: while this is truly an amazing time in my life, The Best of My Life is Yet to Arrive.

The world around me is changing and all my experiences from the past, I believe, have prepared me for this journey – to embrace the change and become a part of it.

Couple of  weeks ago, I attended two back-to-back conferences, SOCAP (Social Capital) in San Francisco and Capital Days in Miami. Young entrepreneurs, from all over the US (and some from overseas) are changing how capital is being deployed and used for the good. Major institutional investors, pension funds and large bureaucratic corporations (that have become so big that they can neither innovate nor create an incubation experience) are taking notice and trying to join this wave. Women and minority entrepreneurs (mostly millennials) are playing a significantly large role in this change.

My interactions with a dozen entrepreneurs over the last two weeks describes how the concept of “tech” is changing. Technology is at the center of all new moves, and to say that this particular startup is “tech”, and that startup is not tech is, no longer valid. Similarly The tech Mecca of San Francisco and Boston are shifting to other smaller metropolis’s like Denver, Austin, Atlanta, and Miami and even smaller cities like Charlotte or Nashville. This is a true game changer for what work means for us and our next generations. I know I want to participate in and contribute to this change, in some form, as I move forward.

On a personal front, 2019 has been a reinvention year for me and my family. We uprooted from Boston and settled back in Florida, to be close as a family unit. Consolidating two households into one, and finding a challenging school that suits Shania’s future growth, has also been a big focus, as she readies for high school. Daiyaan’s stepping into true adulthood (and taking on debt) to buy a home has also been an awesome experience. Cleaning up from the past, we have finally sold our maternal home in Bangladesh. I ended a four-year personal relationship which probably should’ve ended two years ago. Many of these steps were not just necessary, but the natural progression in starting a new chapter in my life.

Bali Swing Jan 2019
Aruba Spring Break March 2019

Sailing in Maine June 2019

I had the most amazing vacations this year. Starting in Bali in January, Aruba in March with Friends, NYC in May with my sister, solo week in beautiful Maine in June, Istanbul in July with Shania, Sonoma for a couple of days in October and capping it all with the dream vacation to Israel last week. During all of all these trips, I have loved, laughed, learned and truly lived.

Sunset and Tea on the Bosphorous Jul 2019

This year I have finally started to feel centered, doing more of the things I love, with people I love. Most of my life, I have tried to meet others expectations, or some societal standard of doing this or that. David Brooks in his new book, “The Second Mountain: The Quest For a Moral Life (Random House, 2019)”, talks about being useful and purposeful. Finally, I feel I am starting to live a life that is more of what I believe in. I am privileged to have two beautiful souls on my journey, who understand my need and love me unconditionally. They give me purpose every day. As they grow older, I am re-defining and re-shaping my own future as well. It’s not just about providing a livelihood, or paying bills anymore. It’s about doing more of what I love, and being useful.

My two amazing daughters!

Whether I live one more day, or another hundred years, it doesn’t matter. I know that every day going forward will be different, experiential and something I believe in.

I am confident that my best days are yet to come.

Sand on the Soles of my Shoes: July 21 2019

We watch this amazing Atlantic sunrise this morning. The breeze is perfect. Florida has beautiful summers.

As we wash our feet at the beachside shower, I notice sand stuck on my feet; I do my best to rinse my feet. As I enter my Q5, the freshly shampooed carpets import a dusting of that sand.

I have a feeling, it will irk me when, the next day, that sand attaches itself so callously to my shoes, with some sort of a romantic vision of changing Italian leather.

Like a small blemish, on perfect skin.

Deep Breath.

It’s all in my twisted thinking.

My daughters openly protest my OCD habits of cleanliness and organization. When I unload the dishwasher, the glasses need to be lined up in a particular manner. And absolutely no transparent objects (like drinking water glasses) can be in the same area with translucent (ceramic coffee) cups or bowls!

For years, I have told myself that things “out of place”, give me anxiety and I don’t correct it. I try not to modulate this expectation and just surrender. In this constantly changing and chaotic world, I organize, whatever I can organize.

This morning though, after sharing that magnificent ocean sunrise with Shania, I look at that sand and encourage my mind to think a little differently; I ask myself how often, and how many people get to do what I do? How often do they soothe their souls with the lapping of waves on their feet. How often do they get to sip their favorite latte, while listening to their favorite tunes, with someone they love! Today is a special day in my life.

I need to let the sand linger on my feet, for as long as I can.

When tomorrow that hard pair of dress shoes pick up some of that sand, its actually a good thing! It’s a reminder of a softer time in my life, when there was a perfect moment of alignment.

I want more blemishes like this on my skin.

Love the beach with my Shania

Everything Will Change In A Year: April 20, 2019

I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”

Last Weekend, April 13, A beautiful day in Ogunquit, ME

As I look back a year, with or without the help of social media, so many things have changed, for me. Especially, in the lives of my children. But also, in my own life.

Last Spring, I was a pensive from the roller-coaster feeling from my constantly changing role at work; I was also in pendulum motion, from my home that I love, in Florida, to the cold of Boston. I had a feeling that this Boston chapter of my life, has to come to a close soon. And, by Fall, my role ended; allowing me to seek what I have wanted all along.

This Spring, I am ready to move to Florida, permanently.

Some things have become more certain, and other, more dispensable things, people or feelings, have dissipated. There is no lingering nostalgia about losing these feelings, which didn’t serve me.

My children have made tremendous strides in a year.

After a re-defining 2018, Daiyaan graduated college in 2018 and found her professional footing, bought her “dream” Jeep (that she has named Natasha, after the singer Natasha Bedingfeld) and now wants to buy her first home this Summer/Fall. She is starting to put down her own roots, in a place she loves. She has chosen a healthy lifestyle of balance. She took her first ever solo trip, and conquered Puerto Rico; she has grown up.

Last Spring, Shania, competed to become her Middle School Vice President and won! She has switched from softball to golf and today, loves basketball as her main school sports; instead of acting in plays, now she is co-directing, for the second year, a school play! She was accepted to attend the prestigious Dana Hall school in Wellesley, MA, but instead, is heading to be with family and joining the pre-law program at her new choice school in Florida.

As their lives unfold, and I see these two beautiful women take their next steps, I enjoy listening to their musings, and life interactions. The new friends they make, and the relationships those fray over time. I tell them my stories, from that particular time in my life that maybe relevant to their experience.

Even though I was raised as a teenager in a different continent, in a completely different era, with no electronic gadgets, or Google, to help answer my questions, the struggles of all awkward teenagers, or young people defining their dreams, are still the same.

Whether you are 13, 23 or 52, Constantly, we search for belonging, love and certainty; it’s tough to accept that none of these feelings are constant, and just to maintain an equilibrium, is a lot of work!

This morning, five of my close friends (same age group), are in deep pain: one from a broken hip (from a fall), another from domestic abuse, and one more, with cancer. Two of my best childhood friends lost their mothers in the last weeks – I knew these loving moms – I have eaten meals with them at their dining tables; having lost my own mom a few years ago, I know that big hole in their hearts are not healing soon.

I pray that my friends have the courage and support to bear the pain they are feeling today. When you experience pain, the depth, the excruciating nature of it, numbs us. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make you feel differently.

Like last year, I know with certainty, this year, there will be those moments of joy, and sadness. You know there will be a Spring of hope, and the still of Summer.

I know, that whatever incremental, or disruptive changes we are experiencing, pain or happiness, it too shall pass.

It fatigues me to think that, the pain and frustration of the political turmoil we experience today in the US (and resultantly, the world) will only sharpen in the next twelve months.

In my adult life, I have seen and experienced progress, and I don’t give up hope, but I choose to take a long view on history. While things are not perfect, I see progress in health, well-being and innumerable sources of joy.

This weekend, in my little microcosm, I am again, taking a good look at everything and everyone around me.

Acknowledging and accepting that change is continuous and constant – I will do my best to appreciate all those gifts that I have in my life today. I am grateful to the Universe for the love, beauty, health and contentment that I am experiencing today.

I know, everything will change in a year.

Hanging out with Daiyaan and Shania @Portsmouth, NH

Serendipity, Happenstance and Toast with Guacamole

I do believe in serendipity and happenstance.

And I believe that things happen for a reason. At that happening moment, often, we don’t realize what that reason maybe; over time, we understand why this just needed to happen.

Also, I see, that the series of experiences I have had, were just preparing me for this moment of time.  

Today, I closed on my first holiday-home (and possible final home) in Oakland Park, Florida. For seven months, I have been following the construction of this home; cinderblock by cinderblock, windows, doors, electric wires and tile work. As if, I am preparing for a child to be born. 

When you talk about serendipity or happenstance, on this same date, I arrived in the US, some 32 years ago. Maybe the date is just a coincidence.  

I started my new life in this new country, bursting with desire and ambition. Even after so many years, my heart and mind are just as excited by possibilities of love, friendship, a great meal, or a bottle of wine.  

This morning, Shania, my twelve year old and I drive to sign the paperwork at the closing office; all the way, I keep thinking of the first home I bought on Merrimack Lane in Toledo, some 24 years ago. I remember the night before the closing of my first home; my mom and I kept talking about the concept of buying a “home”. She was worried that if I bought a home in the US, I would never return to Bangladesh. She was right.  

She sat with me through the signing of papers, insurance and documents. At the end she asked me, “Bujhcho, shobkichu?” (Did you understand everything?)  

Today, my strong Shania sits with me, quietly, for more than hour, while we go through some 30 signatures, deeds, titles, insurance….all of it. Later, she acknowledges, it was really boring, but she didn’t bring her headphones to the closing because she thought it was impolite. I am grateful she is here; I believe she is here for a reason more than, just that I asked her to be there. Just like my mother, twenty-four years ago, she is is providing me strength and support to nurture my dreams along.  

We get home and Daiyaan arrives; we unpack boxes and put things away. We are sleeping on air mattresses tonight, just like camping. Sheets are unfolded. New dishes are put in the new dishwasher; new towels are hung up. All to the girls’ favorite music – dancing, joyful and bright.  

In the evening, my friends Toby and Ray, bring champagne. We toast in our new glasses, nibble on tapas, listen to good music and break out into utter goofiness. I feel like I have been designing and planning for this day, all my life.  

The goal tomorrow is to make breakfast for my girls, at our new home.  

Multi-grain bread with Guacamole, sunny-side up eggs on toast, and a sprinkling of Sriracha. Orange juice, hot tea or coffee.  

This is a great day for my family. 32 years from landing in this beautiful place, to 24 years from learning to buy a new home, I am here today because I have been preparing for this day. This is no coincidence. This was meant to be; Guacamole toast for my princesses, and a hot cup of red-rose tea for me.  

Our First Drinks at our New Home

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.

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.

Hole in the Water: Dispensability in an Ever Changing World

During my first job as a Manufacturing Engineer for a small company in Ohio, one of the plant foremen taught me a great lesson. One day, I accompanied him to the attic of the plant to find a cataloged tool; I asked him how we would find these tools the day he retired. He brought a glass of water and asked me to stick my finger in it; in a few seconds he asked me to remove the finger from the glass. He then asked if I saw a hole in the water; “if you didn’t leave a hole in the water, you are dispensable!” said Al, roaring with laughter.

This lesson has had a great impact in the way I have made decisions in the course of both my personal and professional life. While we would all like to believe that we are somehow indispensible at work, with friends, or even with family, at the end of the day, we are all replaceable, in one form or another. Someone will take our place one day, just like the water that moves into the hole in the glass!  

Some twenty five years ago, the day I lay my father down in his grave, I thought that that there would be such a void in our lives that we may never be able to move forward. But our lives did move forward; on that day, my mother single handedly assumed the dual role of a father and a mother and raised both me and my sister. Yes, it’s been tough at times, and yes, we still miss his presence in our lives; but our worlds kept on moving.  

Having held at least nine different roles in the last 18 years of my career, it has not escaped me that at the workplace this transition happens even faster. I have noticed highly successful leaders move on from their roles and, in relatively short time, are replaced by new leaders and the organization moves ahead.  

Instead of feeling conflicted about this conundrum, maybe the lesson is to actually strive for quick dispensability; as parents, this means helping our children to quickly become independent and to acknowledge our role change from “I tell, you listen” mode, to more a balanced, caring-sharing, friendship; at the workplace, maybe we need to strive for rapid obsolescence and eventual re-invention of our own roles.  

For young leaders, the first step towards becoming dispensable is striving for transparency of all our actions and sharing information generously. There was a time when managers considered “Information as a source of power”. In today’s wired world, where one may Google or Wiki just about everything, we should instead use the mantra of “no-holds-barred” information sharing. We have to passionately adapt to the role of a teacher in all our work activities.’  

 One of my favorite past times is watching the waves of the blue Atlantic constantly lapping away on the beaches of Lighthouse Point. When you watch the nimble motion of these wonderfully dynamic waves, one has to wonder if life is meant to be more like the ocean: dynamic and constantly in motion. If you notice carefully, new sand arrives at every moment and the ocean washes away old sand in a zest to re-cycle it back to some other coast on another day. The ocean re-invents itself with the changing weather and helps the coast re-invigorate it’s boundaries.  

Just like the lesson from the foreman from my first job, maybe the lesson is to constantly re-invent ourselves and to develop processes, institutions and leaders who survive fine without us – just like the ocean: innumerable, constant, high and low, in rain or shine.  

The Blue Ocean at Lighthouse Point


Difficulty with Endings: October 2009

At every step of life, and almost at every school learn many ways to start new things… a new adventure, a new relationship, a new business; very few, if any, has taught us to understand, when an end is near and how to call it quits, gracefully.
It has always amazed me to think why we have such difficulty with endings; it could be our Abrahamic faith views life very discretely, with a distinct beginning and an end, and therefore, why worry about this unpleasant ending scenario? Or, simply, it could be the western inclination of our values that views ending and death as a failure of some sorts, thereby negating any need for training to gracefully and meaningfully, close a chapter in our lives or its enterprises.

Whatever it maybe, such fear of endings leaves us completely unprepared to diagnose when things are getting close to end and thereby paralyzing us with fear of calling it quits even though, in our hearts, we may know that such a venture or a relationship maybe untenable in the long run.

In my leadership roles, I have known people whose current role was about to end very soon; the only person who seems oblivious to this fact is the incumbent in the role. It is not his fault; he walks around the office with a bullseye on his back without anyone ever telling him that it doesn’t matter how hard he tries, this role is not going to continue for long.

Similarly, a pet project, that may have run its course, often needs to be cut-off before they become gargantuan in size and drain the organization both financially and emotionally.

I know the leader of a company who had a pet project that was not supported by many of his business leaders. The leader personally championed the project and poured millions into it. At the end, the project cost a lot more and never really delivered on its promised results. The leader lost his job as a consequence of such a large undertaking, during a transitional time in the marketplace. More importantly, no one in the organization had the “heart” to tell him that this project was headed downhill and could eventually lead to his downfall.

Both professionally and personally, it is very important to let our instincts guide us; if one is not enjoying something, work or personal, it’s probably not working right. By no means, this means that if you had a bad day at work, you should go and quit (I know some people who are prone to do that too); but if you have had a bad year at work, you should clearly question yourself and have the discussion with your peers and boss about what’s wrong with this situation. If you don’t, they will most likely bring this to your attention, soon. It is very likely, that they are not thinking about the same things and once they decide to talk to you, it’s already too late for you;  at that point, you have very little control on the outcome.

In one of my business roles, I had one of the best jobs of growing a business, both globally and organically through new products and “white space” entries. Over five years, I enjoyed considerable success in this role of moving the organization forward, and in return, building wonderful relationships with one of the most talented group of people I have ever worked with.

There came a time though, that I realized, I had accomplished what I came for couldn’t see a “next step”; As realization set in, I actually decided that I need to create options for myself. This was a really sad moment because I had a hard time separating my emotions from what was practical and necessary. However, once I crossed that bridge, I went and talked to people and within a very reasonable time frame, had three wonderful opportunities pop up that met both my personal and professional needs.

Lesson learned, at this juncture, was that it’s very important for one to create options. This allows one to look at things objectively. You may never exercise the option, but the fact that you have them, allows you both flexibility and provides mental leverage. Without well planned options, one is likely to feel trapped and unable to think objectively about how to get out of such a mental barrier.

Why do things change and why do good things come to an end? Why can’t we just “keep the good times rollin’”?

Of course, we wish that all good things keep going forever; however, every fun party has to end at some point; things change; people change; the environment around us changes constantly. Sometimes, things we did in an early stage of our careers (or relationships) were fine for that time frame. As people (and environments) change, we are sometimes unable to identify and adapt to these changes or our expectations may change, all of which lead to disappointments. Our children grow up and have different expectations from the world than we did.

One of the very powerful questions I have found helping me in changing situations (both personal and professional) is: knowing what I know today, would I start this (particular project)? If the answer is negative, I try to re-evaluate the strategy or seek alternatives to improve the scenario.

By no means am recommending that one abandons their responsibilities, but I think it is critical to evaluate alternatives and seek balance.While there are many things beyond our control, I also believe in the power of perseverance and effort to “right wrongs”. We owe it to ourselves, and those who care for us, to make things right. One always has choices; make it work right, or get out of it.

At the end of the day, we have one life to live. Life’s too short to live miserably, have meaningless conversations or do things you detest in the first place.

When you decide to do the right thing, and end this journey, let’s do it with grace, dignity and holding our head held high. Not everyone will be happy with our decision;  however, in the long run it will be the best for us and those we love.

Even if we don’t have a choice about whether we will live long, we do have a choice to live Big!