My discussions with people of my generation indicate that they believe this to be very low or ignorable. Joiner believes (and shows by statistics) that self harm is one of the most common causes of death. I believe that in India, (as in other places), people downplay this as they do Sexual Abuse. And we probably do that because we do not know how to handle both. As a matter of fact,both are increasing alarmingly.
Thomas Joiner, in this article, postulates a few reasons for suicide. Please do read the whole article. It is well written.
To summarise, “People will die by suicide when they have both the desire to die and the ability to die.” (quote by Joiner). The desire to die has two components: when I believe (a) I am alone and (b) I am a burden. This is shown by the following diagram:
The three conditions of suicide, when looked at separately, are conditions that we suffer each day. We repeatedly have
- feelings of loneliness,
- feeling of inadequacy and being a burden and
- suicidal feelings.
But only when the three come together that it becomes alarming.
It starts with loneliness and a need to belong. With the advent of facebook and social media, theoretically, it would imply that we have a lot of friends. “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are,” says John Cacioppo, a professor at the University of Chicago and the world’s foremost expert on loneliness. The more face time you have, the less the loneliness.
The second is the need to be useful and more importantly, the need to provide. With the growing unemployment, this is becoming important. For the younger generation, who have the need to provide for their parents, this can become deadly. Comparison with peers about salaries and savings coupled with low self-esteem can add fuel.
The third is the capability and the means. I will not dwell on this as it is too painful.
If you feel you need help, or someone around you needs help, please reach out. Other things that you can do:
- Create face time. If you need to talk to a counsellor please do so. Smile at friends and strangers. Make them feel that they belong.
- Learn additional skills that will help you get a job in a different career. I started as a software guy and ended as a teacher, and now a coach.
- Do not compare with others.Parents may talk about needing your support, but typically it is not financial support (most parents can fend for themselves), but they need emotional support. as do all of us.
Question: “What should I make my career in?“
Answer: “Follow your passion!“
Me: “What Crap!“
The suggestion made by most well-meaning ‘advisors’ is “Do what you love…“
There are abundant books and articles written around this theme. If you are a cook, start a restaurant. If you like watching films, become a film critic, even make films. If you like doing plinkity-plonk on a guitar or a keyboard, start a band. It you are creative, write a novel. If you like hiking, start an adventure sports academy.
Running a restaurant is a difficult business and requires cut-throat (maybe the chef’s knife will come in handy here!) business practices. Ever wondered why no one listens to your witty criticisms about the films, or reads your facebook updates about the film you saw last night? Managing an outbound sports program requires the ability (among other things) to handle a lot of logistical uncertainty including propitiating the weather-gods. Ever wondered about the average lifetime of such businesses? Ever considered that low barriers to entry means too much competition? And, believe me, doing your own thing is harder work (with longer hours) than your current job.
We will probably not be able to do what we love…because:
- If what we love is spending money (consumerism) then it seems crazy to earn money by spending money.
- If we love wasting time, we will not earn money doing that.
- We will also not have too many choices of a job.
- Being an entrepreneur requires a different set of guts (not the belly that most of us have because we love drinking beer).
- If your business is successful, others will follow.
- You may burn your bridges and not be able to return to a position of safety (your previous job).
By now you must be thinking, what has all this to do with the subject of this blog entry?
I will digress a bit into the debate about ‘love’ marriages versus ‘arranged’ marriages. Arranged marriages have been given a bum rap in recent times, but face it, most of the couples of our generation are happier, more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand each other, share issues and problems, fight and can live with our differences. Most of the couples in my children’s generation are quite the opposite. There are fewer permanent relationships.
Maybe we should just blame it on technology (internet) and the knowledge explosion. Maybe it has to do with more available choices.
But the point is, we fell in love after we got married, and we have remained married. And we are happy. Youthful passion may not endure, but love does.
Another interesting aspect of an arranged marriage is that families have to adjust. There is a lot of emotional investment and that creates a support system. Since our beliefs are based on our past experiences, and our future responses are based on our beliefs, it is highly possible that our backgrounds may determine how we deal with an uncertain future. The support system also gives us the courage to take risks.
Put it another way, the chances of success are higher as there is more background analysis, more emotional investment and a better support system.
So to return to the topic and drawing a parallel between successful marriages (with your spouse or with your career)
- A career should be like an arranged marriage, not a ‘love’ marriage based on youthful exuberance and passion.
- We can love what we do. Fall in love with your job, with what you have been given…like in an arranged marriage. Be more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand your colleagues and your boss, share issues and problems, fight and live with your differences.
- Do background checks on similar businesses, talking to people in the industry you want to be, researching the culture of the firm you plan to join makes the chances of loving your job better.
I am sure I am raising the hackles of a lot of persons right now. I would welcome your comments.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata
Please also see
If by Rudyard Kipling
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
When two persons enter into a relationship (be it professional or personal), the following interaction happens.
There are three distinct areas – the two persons having unique identities A, B and a third shared identity (C).
This is a very important concept – that the relationship is separate from the persons who create the relationship. Just as we invest in ourselves, we have to invest in the relationship also. A relationship is like a child born out of two persons coming together, and the child has a unique and distinct personality from the two parents. The way parents feed the child (emotionally and spiritually) determines how the child grows.
Characteristics of relationships
- We invest time in a relationship. Since time is limited, the amount of time spent eats into personal time and this creates issues. The time can be willingly given, or forcibly taken. The time spent is at the expense of other activities and these have repercussions. We believe that if time is being invested, it should be utilised well. If I perceive that the other person is physically present, but not emotionally there, I may feel the time to be wasted.
- We invest emotional content in a relationship. We create memories of good and bad times, we fight, make up and we spend quality time together. Each incident has an emotional content that either nurtures or detroys the relationship.
- We have multiple relationships at the same time. We have a professional relationship at work, a semi-professional one with colleagues, another set of relationships with friends, with parents and with our spouse. the limited time creates a continuous tussle for prioritisation.
- Each relationship has a purpose and fulfils some need. If the need is fulfilled or cannot being fulfilled, the relationship dies. Sometimes because of social pressure, we continue in a relationship for the sake of appearances. This happens professionally as well as personally.
- A relationship is of a finite duration. It may extend to the lifetime of one person, or for a smaller duration. Sometimes, one person leaves the relationship, due to death or change of priorities. Other times, needs change or are satisfied and there is no need for the relationship. Eventually when the relationship dies, we suffer a sense of loss. We retain the emotional content and remember the good times. All loss leads to a feeling of grief and we go through 5 stages of grief.
- The nature and the boundaries of a relationship changes. Specially when in love, we sometimes put all other relationships at low priority and invest everything in one relationship. This happens especially if we believe that this one relationship will fulfil all our needs. Sometimes we start changing the relationship and want more out of a relationship than what the other person wants to give. We start ignoring boundaries. We start taking the relationship for granted. We force things.
How to maintain a relationship
- Understand the finite nature and the changing nature of a relationship. A person with a negative mindset may conclude that there is no use of a relationship. A positive person would rather enjoy the relationship and the experience while it lasts. We also need to understand that the initial boundaries and the time spent on a relationship will change. We should be prepared for it, and deal with it. See my blog entry on Acceptance and Resigation.
- A smart investment manager creates a portfolio of low-yield stocks that have guaranteed returns as well as instruments giving high returns but having more risk. He actively looks at the value of the portfolio and juggles his investments to match his objectives. He spreads his risk and monitors daily. A bad manager will have a large dependency on one stock, and may not actively monitor, taking his portfolio for granted. Similarly, we need to understand that different needs are satisfied by different relationships and depending on one relationship to satisfy all needs can create serious damage and is high risk.
- A relationship is not the person. We may respect the person, and we need to respect ourselves, and not blame the success or failure of the relationship on the persons creating the relationship. A relationship has a life of its own, different from the life of the persons involved. You cannot, individually, take the blame not the credit for the relationship.
Few of us are natural networkers. We all know the important of networking, but invariably, we postpone it for tomorrow, because shy folks like us do not like to meet with people and make inane conversation.
It is easy to believe that social networking or internet based networking (read Facebook) is a better option. However, Facebook based networking focuses on broad-based and shallow relationships, whereas true networking requires deeper relationships.
People do things for others if they believe in the relationship. No amount of ‘likes’ and status updates (which I believe borders on voyeurism) substitute for face-to-face or at least voice-based and meaningful communication.
Meaningful communication requires
- one-to-one interaction
- where both parties are speaking (bidirectional)
and which leaves both parties happy and satisfied.
Status updates do not satisfy either of the above criteria and therefore does not help in networking.
This article from inc.com talks about networking for introverts. Lisa Petrilli, author of “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” tells you how to:
- Network on your own terms
- Be comfortable
- Leverage your skills as an introvert
Adding to the tips in the article, you need to do the following:
- Create a 30 second brief about yourself, describing yourself, your background and your future direction (where / what do you want to go / do and why). This helps a person remember you and also how he can help you
- Find out what the other person wants to do in life. Get into specifics. This shows interest and it will help you look for real options to help the other person. If you can’t think of anything, offer to connect him to others who can help him
- Networking is not about selfishness. People sense selfishness and avoid creating a relationship. Give first before taking, or at least prove that you understand that you have to settle your debts of favours done
- Do not badger people unnecessarily, chasing after them. Your introvertism is an advantage here.
When we did manual labour and did not have labour-saving devices, we worked from morning to night creating the same output that we can now deliver in a fraction of that time. By manual labour, I do not mean physical labour, it could also be accounting, computing, research, even reading (dare I call it studying?)…
There was an element of Zen mindfulness (being fully in the present), as mistakes would require a great deal of redoing.
Think about writing a letter. An MS Word document can be automatically spell-checked and mistakes can be corrected. No one would know and appreciate, by looking at the final document, how much labour has gone into it. Compare that to the pain of writing a letter by hand, and the final sense of accomplishment we had of finishing a product that was created with minimal corrections. We were more aware of ourselves, what we were doing, what the world around us was doing, and we appreciated the fruits of our labour.
Consider food. Our moms take time to cook and be mindful of the final product with all its nuances of taste as determined by the preferences of the family members. When we eat, we are mindful of that love and we appreciate the subtlety. Compare that to a fast food, even instant noodles, which we mindlessly eat in front of the TV. We are, in general, no longer aware of, let alone appreciate, what we eat. No wonder, we need to go to a five-star restaurant to appreciate food, maybe because we pay so much for it that we have to extract all we can from the meagre morsel. The five-star chef put salt and pepper in front of you, which our moms never needed to. Maybe the love compensates.
This is the virtue of ‘Karma-yoga’ or the sense of fulfilment that comes out of mindfully executing work. Some persons do ‘Jnana- yoga’ where the sense of fulfilment comes from mindfully thinking about knowledge, its acquisition, its uses and its relevance. It is a desire of most young adults to move from ‘Karma-yoga’ (execution) to ‘Jnana-yoga’ (strategy). Often, they wish to skip the execution part.
With the advent of technology and labour-saving devices, the mind has become free. We no longer need to focus on the job at hand, because much of what our mind would earlier do has now been programmed into the device. Therefore the mind is unoccupied and looks for other ways to occupy itself. Instead of evolving from Karma Yoga to Jnana Yoga, taking time to ponder over various short term and long term strategies, we tend to keep the mind busy by entertainment.
Entertainment is a funny thing (no pun intended). Our mind gets used to a novelty and then craves newer and better sources. The need to keep the mind occupied and the addiction to entertainment leads to a craving for more time to get entertained. This creates a need to obtain more labour saving – or shall we say, time saving devices – faster and stronger cars and machines. This creates a vicious cycle of dependency. Entertainment devices is not just about TVs and such electronics, it also about ambience – from lazy-boys (the uber-comfortable armchairs) to sound-proof rooms.
If we look at peer comparisons about our possessions, it is primarily about the labour saving devices or entertainment devices or the means to purchase them. It is rarely about knowledge – when was the last time someone said, “I have a better dictionary than yours,” it was more like, “I can afford a more expensive dictionary than yours!”
These devices leads to less physical activity and a lazy mindset. This leads to lifestyle diseases. We compensate by buying faster and stronger gym equipment and devices for injecting chemicals and measuring bodily functions. We create a dependency on these chemicals and measuring devices. Because these chemicals help alleviate our problems, we are free to revert to our craving for entertainment.
Would it be fair to say, therefore, that technology has actually helped in reducing awareness of our actions and their consequences; which, in turn, has led to lifestyle diseases – a contamination of the purpose of life itself?
The use of the word buttering implies that we are falsely praising a person. A few people (with very low self esteem) may enjoy being buttered, but others do not.
Consider this. We do not like criticism from anyone – except from those we respect and when we know the persons have a genuine interest in their hearts for me. However, we like praise from anyone. Sometimes, we wish that people notice our work and achievements and talk about it.
So if I am giving positive strokes to my boss for all the good things he has done, or the effort he is putting in, I am simply acknowledging his work. Similarly if I refrain from criticising; and, in fact, support his work with additional data or timely support, then it is not false. I am talking about fetching tea and coffee, polishing his shoes and acting as if he is God, but a genuine appreciation and support goes a long way in creating rapport.
People crave recognition and empathy and providing that makes a person positively predisposed to you. It is not possible to consistently deliver results (due to no fault of ours, but accidents happen) and this positive disposition helps during those times.
Today, a close friend of mine expressed anguish at the following incident.
Yesterday, he learnt of the death of his sister’s father-in-law. He was close to the deceased gentleman and they had spent many moments together solving crosswords and discussing other similar mysteries of life. He went over to his sister’s house and started helping with the arrangements for the funeral – ambulance, priest, death certificate, calling friends and relatives…
Meanwhile, he received phone calls from his workplace and from other persons who had professional things to discuss with him. With each person, he started his conversation by stating that he was in the midst of funeral arrangements of a close relative. Almost all persons, after saying something like, “Oh I see…,” carried on regardless, stating their case and discussing whatever they had called up for.
My friend, being the polite gentleman he is, discussed their case with them.
Subsequently, he expressed his wonder and bewilderment that, apart from one person, no one commiserated with him or showed any sensitivity towards the occasion or his emotions.
We see similar parallels in our life. I too am guilty of the same. I sometimes ask the other person whether it is a good time to talk. But other times, because I need the counterparty’s help or advice, I plough on regardless. I sometimes think that I will not take much time, but lose the sense of time when immersed into the details of my problem.
It may be difficult but do consider that over the last 24 hours, you may have superimposed your will on others, who have been polite enough not to tell you to “take a long jump off a short pier”.
It is very difficult to share our feelings.
We have been taught and conditioned to “keep a stiff upper lip” or as the Greek philosophers said – be a stoic. Sometimes we are afraid to share our feelings – people may think we are weak, or cry-babies. There may also be retaliation, or someone may exploit our weakness.
Bottling up our feelings leads to a venting – not gradually – but explosively, impacting a lot of people around us.
A part of emotional intelligence is to learn that speaking about your feelings can be as effective as acting out our feelings, without the negativity. For example, telling a child, “I am angry” may be effective enough, without shouting or slapping him. Tell a professor that you understand that he is irritated may be better than arguing with him.
Before the internet happened, sharing our feelings was one-to-one. You could call someone and talk, or you could write a letter. This meant that our support circle would be limited in scope and in the promptness of response. Till that time, we would feel that we were alone and without support.
With the ‘Net, the ability to broadcast our feelings and to get instant support has improved. Needless to say, it has its drawbacks – people can misuse it. If you are venting against a person, that person can retaliate and so on. But if you share your feelings, without relating the instance, you may get a lot of positive support that helps you feel that you have a lot of support and people understand how you feel.
A support circle helps. To that extent, blogging can help. The following article mentions the same point.
I know that I am supposed to do a particular activity like an assignment, or study a book or write letters. But I tend to postpone these indefinitely, citing various excuses.
Charles Handy talks about 3 things that are required in the motivational calculus.
- I should know my needs. These can be the need for security, for money, food, clothing and shelter, or need for companionship, or need for approval, or a need to fulfill my debt to various people.
- I should know the result of which activity would satisfy these all or some of these needs.
- I should have the energy or the resources (money, time etc.) to spend on those activities.
The above are multiplicative. That is, if any of the three is not there, I would not be motivated.
If I do not know my needs, then no activity would motivate me.
If I do not have the energy or the resources, then I cannot finish the activity satisfactorily.
If I do not know how to satisfy my needs, then I will not be motivated.
Therefore, I have to link the activity (that I dislike) to a need. For example, if I fear that I will fail a course, and therefore have a need to pass it and get rid of my fear, I can link an assignment to that need. If I need the approval of my colleagues, and the distasteful activity will satisfy that need, then I will try to do the activity.
Whether I finish the activity or not is based on the resources at hand. If I do not have the time, or I delayed it so much that I cannot possibly finish, then I am not motivated to do the activity, even if I know that the activity will satisfy a need.
The same principle holds good for motivating others. If I do not know the needs of another person, I cannot offer him an activity, the result of which would satisfy the needs.
If I do know his needs and I can link it to an activity that I want him to do, and I provide him with the means and resources (including training) to do that activity, the person will be motivated.
Remove any of the three (needs, activity or resources) and there will be no motivation.