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.

The Most Difficult Answer: December 2011

Most people don’t realize that saying NO is the most difficult answer one has to deliver at any time.

Whether it’s to a child who wants to watch her favorite TV show during your particular sports broadcast, or as an executive of a company, saying “NO” to a particular (capital, acquisition or human resource) request, all NOs require, raising our blood pressure, feeling guilty, being upset and possibly sulking for hours after you have delivered the negative answer.

Why is saying NO so difficult? I thought two-year olds learn to say NO very early in their lives!

I believe it has something to do with our innate desire to be liked, loved, accepted.

I have a friend, who is so petrified to say NO, he avoids any commitment, sidestepping every answer; “Join us for dinner?” – the answer is, “I will try my best”.

In Arabic, there is the classic phrase, “Inshallah” (God Willing). During my decade of dealings in the Middle East, when a customer or a sales rep says that Inshallah the purchase order will arrive soon – you understand the low probability. They just don’t want to “insult” you with a NO – and resort to putting everything in the invisible hands of forces up there! – I am glad that my Western friends haven’t made many Arab friends to pick up this magical NO phrase!

Similarly, In Bangla, there is a clear phrase, “Shobi Allahr (or Bhogobaner) Iccha” (Everything is God’s Will). The phrase is usually accompanied by a circular hand-wringing and looking up at the sky!  I have heard stories of future father-in-laws using this phrase to deny the proposals of potential suitors for their daughter; instead of saying a direct NO, use this as a graceful Exit Strategy!

My sixteen-year old will sometimes ask for something that I just cannot bring her, immediately. I have a tried a few different tactics (without saying NO) with mixed success.

First, I try to rationalize, and negotiate; well, we can by the new Wii, if you are willing to come up with half the funds! Or, you can sleep over at your friend’s house, if you finish the essay that’s due next Wednesday. Inside, I am praying , that she can’t pull off a miracle and there just isn’t enough time or resources to complete my unreasonable request.

Similarly, at work, when someone comes requesting for more human resources for their team, I typically connect it with increased revenues. Show me the money, baby! If you can bring an incremental revenue base, it’s very easy to say YES!

It amazes me most, when executives will bring proposals that (they know) don’t pass muster – but they do so, just to hear that NO (from a higher authority) and then relay it back to their teams that “senior management” refused to invest in their idea! This way, they don’t have to say NO to their teams!! Come on, let’s grow up – my six-year old has better sense than that!

I have noticed that some days are just NO saying days; at the end, refusing to budge from positions, or denying requests for investment capital – my shoulders hurt – I am so tired that I have a hard time keeping my eyes open.

Recently, during a personal calamity, I was bombarded by “well-wishers” to do something that they firmly believed was in my best interest ! I could’ve taken the path of least resistance and succumbed to their urgings; but, it was eating away at my core to have to say NO to so many people! One stressful evening, I had to put an end to a twenty-two text conversation by telling someone to just stop harassing me!

Wouldn’t it be easy, if we could just say YES to all requests and could smile and agree to everything!

Saying YES, is easy and smooth like water. It flows without friction and heals cracked openings – soothing over hurt and pain.

But as an adult, a parent, a leader, or a just as a rational human being – we have to learn to say NO. I have a firm belief, most “normal” human beings don’t like to use the word NO; they have to say it to protect their own interests.

The important skill, I believe, is to learn how to turn the decision back to the requestor – by asking something back in return that is may even be bigger than the request they are making. At that point, the requester understands that there is absolutely no way to accomplish this mammoth task without changing course on their own.  So teach them how to process a “NO” more.

In our lives, the more we say YES, we are better off; let’s try to find ways to say NO less. The only way to make that happen is to teach others to say the NO first – that way the question/request doesnt even appear in-front of you!