Baby steps to co-creating a symbiotic environment in my company

Our office meeting room was full to the brim (even overflowing) with eager individuals who wanted to learn something about how to speak powerfully to influence people at the very first talk program of Brown Bag Session. The day coincided with the birthday of the greatest enigma mankind has ever known, Nelson Mandela. Mandela, for me and for most of the world, is a source of great inspiration and admiration.

Let me talk about the first session in detail.

Borwn Bags

I circulated emails and reminders to each and every one of us in the company requesting them to attend the talk. Ours is a software company specializing in transaction banking and unfortunately I am not an engineer or a developer. Neither am I a business graduate. I am a Sociology major.

During the initial two months of joining F1Soft International, a feeling of being out of place crept inside me because neither IT nor banking was my cup of tea. Feelings of boredom, frustration and alienation gradually took over me in these two months so much so that I started dreading going to work. Seriously. The very thought of sitting in front of the computer or idling at my desk with nobody to talk to made me literally paranoid.

It was then that I felt there was a grave need for us to come together every once in a while and engage in co-creating behavior. What I felt was that we do not have human connection at the company. Everybody was working, yes, but then we worked as though we were mere machines toiling from early in the morning till late in the evening (sorry if I may sound rude to some).

There is this rule known as Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, which says 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes. In other words, no matter how much we work, only 20% of our effort is going to bring about 80% better results.

Having worked in the company for the last 5 months now, I felt a communication and networking gap among people in our company. Just as they say “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy,” we were literally turning dull.

This is how Brown Bag session came into existence. But I’m not the only one who had this idea. I expressed my desire to have informal interaction sessions in the company to two of my colleagues who fortunately had thought of having similar programs at work.

Bingo!

Brown bag
Rajesh Sharma ji from CashOnAd interacting with the participants

So we kicked off our first session on 18 July 2014. Yours truly conducted the session and talked about the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) section of the human brain which helps us make important decisions in life and differentiate right from wrong. The talk revolved around fear and how it blocks our PFC when we try to address a mass of people or attend a job interview as an interviewee.

Brown bag session
Suresh Gautam ji from CashOnAd giving his introduction

Well, to my utter happiness, the program received rave reviews and great comments from the participants. The program did help me boost my self-confidence. More than that, it worked as an ice-breaker and participants got an opportunity to get to know each other. (Remind you we have more than 100 employees).

I look forward to having similar sessions in the days to come so as to enhance a co-creating environment and symbiosis throughout the company. I’m sure my colleagues, friends and bosses will help me achieve that.

More Photos from the Session

Participants
My friends from F1Soft International Pvt. Ltd.

 

Brown bag

 

 

Ayushma speaking

 

Brown bag session participants

 

 

 

It’s not about Apes Vs. Humans

It is not a review of the movie, rather my recount of how I ended up watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and my feeling thereafter. Only heard of and not really watched its actual prequel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it is nothing short of an accident as to how I came to watch Dawn.

We were having our usual chit-chats at the office rooftop when my colleague Bipin mentioned Rise of the Planet of the Apes. His recount of the story, especially its climax where the protagonist Caesar, the vigorous leader of the Apes, develops the ability to speak, instilled in me an instant desire to watch the sequel. As a person who is filled with curiosity, I immediately rushed to my desk computer to go through the reviews of Dawn on the Internet. Having discovered that the movie received rave reviews from well-known sites such as Forbes and The Telegraph, I decided to go watch the movie at the nearest theatre.

[Related- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: 'Impressively un-stupid']

It would not be an exaggeration if I say that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the most outstanding and technically sound movies I have ever seen. Not really an out-and-out enthusiast of movies of this genre where they try to enforce the gun-control message, I developed a different feeling from the movie. Contrary to most reviews, I believe the basic message Dawn wants to put across is the fact that be it apes or humans, we are all part of the same planet and the survival of one is impossible without the help of that of the other and vice versa.

It is this symbiosis that would make our planet worth living ultimately. Peace and harmony seem to be the basic theme throughout the movie where Caesar and his band, and a human family, understand the value and power of togetherness and want to impart the same message to the rest of the planet inhabitants.

Dawn proves right the old adage, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Caesar lets go of the hand of Koba, one of the main characters who despises humans after having faced numerous harsh and life-threatening lab experiments at the hand of humans, stating that Koba is not an Ape because he shot someone of his own race and drove the entire Apes into a war against the humans who had managed to survive the devastating Simian virus unleashed a decade earlier.

Portraying a derelict downtown of San Francisco, the movie will be a treat to those looking for the importance of the role of diplomacy, law, leadership and deterrence in the survival and propagation of life on our dear planet. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not about Apes vs. humans; rather it is about the importance of co-creating harmonious relationships among the planet inhabitants.

 

Vipasanna- Glad that I visited you

Vipasanna meditation
Friends I made at Vipasanna Center, Shivapuri, Kathmandu, Nepal

“I want to get out of here”.

These were the very words that hovered over my mind constantly for the first three days of the Vipasanna meditation. I could feel severe pain on my right shoulder blade while sitting even in the most comfortable position (for Vipasanna one does not need to be in a certain standardized posture. Any posture that is comfortable to you, you can assume that posture).

As the almost horrifying three days subsided, we entered into the real Vipasanna where we had to concentrate on our bodily sensations, be aware of them but not react to them at all. And as we used to be in the process of feeling the sensations in our body, the meditation would be punctuated by sudden (for me it was always alarming) chanting of mantras (in Pali language) by Sri Satya Narayan Goenka.

Goenka
Satya Narayan Goenka, Burmese-Indian teacher of Vipasanna meditation

Sunyagar

As days passed by, I thought I was the only one who was sent to Sunyagar (meditation in complete isolation) one day for my own imagined reasons. I had this feeling that perhaps it was my waywardness, or not practicing Arya Maun (Noble Silence) and simply laughing or smiling at my co-Sadhikas orSadhaks. I thought I was being sent to solitary confinement and remembered Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years. To my utter amusement, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who was put in Sunyagar. It is their ritual there at Vipasanna that people are sent to these cells for an hour or two to meditate in complete isolation and pitch darkness. For me, it was far from complete isolation. I mean, who could be in peace and not have horrific imaginations when put in a dark cell not even 8 sq. feet!

My genuine feelings

Sitting down for hours at a stretch in meditation was the most painful experience for me. We could barely change our positions or posture, close our eyes and meditate. For the most part, my mind (a monkey mind) wandered far and wide rather than being aware of my bodily sensation at the current point of time.

Anyway, Vipasanna did teach me a lot of things and helped me re-discover things that I used to hold in my sub-conscious mind.

The fact that Vipasanna follows the rule of nature inspired me a lot. I, too, am a person who regards nature as the supreme “commander” (for lack of a better word) and Dharma is simply following the rules of nature and nothing more or less than that. So, the ten days at the center reinforced the beliefs already existing in me, gave me a new vantage point to look at life and transform myself into an entirely different personality. It taught me even-mindedness both in pain and in gain.

 Vipasanna, to my humble opinion, is something which every individual should do at least once in her or his lifetime. It’s definitely a unique experience, if not a life-challenging one.

Sab ka mangal, mangal, mangal ho! (I wish only the best for all)

Train your brain toward positivity

The feeling of positivity in the present is the key to happiness says positive psychologist and CEO of Think Good, Shawn Achor. Happiness is not so about being successful as it is about improving or enhancing positivity in the present. Known as Happiness Advantage, this helps us to see the world through a positive lens.

Try out the 21-day activity as presented in this Harvard Business Review (HBR) article as Shawn spells out the ways we can actually train our brain for 21 days in a row to think positive for the rest of our lives.

Prepare your brain for the worst- Half the battle is won

What do you do when you have to face a difficult situation or ask your boss for a raise?

Well for me whenever I have to face a difficult situation or a tough person, I look into the mirror and smile several times. This prepares me to handle the situation or the person in question somewhat easily. Smile is an evolutionary contagious behavior. The reason I like to spend maybe hours before the mirror smiling is because it relaxes my mind and diverts it from thinking all the bizarre things that it can conjure up if I didn’t.

smile
Smile and the world smiles with you

There is a term that psychologists call “impact bias“. This is our tendency to “overestimate the hedonic impact of future events”. We draw a mental picture of a future event and that picture is usually either dramatically happy or utterly unpleasant. Then when the event actually takes place we normally fail in such occasions because we are blinded by our prejudice.

Now why does this happen? Let me mention to you a little about our brain.

The Homo sapiens Brain

prefrontal lobe
The Human Brain

Our brain is 3 times bigger than that of the Homo habilis, the earliest of our ancestors who lived from approximately 2.33 to 1.44 million years ago and also the first to be found associated with stone tools. Our brain has not only grown bigger in the course of time but we have also developed what scientists call the pre-frontal cortex found in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is also known as the “experience simulator” which means we sort of get a taste of the event before it actually happens.

By default we are programmed to have a biased point of view of our future events.

Let’s say for example you have to go take a class for graduate students on a subject you are not an expert in. You cannot get good sleep because at the back of your mind you still feel edgy and nervous. This is where your experience simulator has already come into play. You experience yourself standing before an unusually big room full of students. The eager faces of the students seated before you make you more nervous and before you can speak you run out of the class.

Although you may not flee from the class when you actually face them, you will definitely not do well in the lecture.

Instead if you went to the class with the thought that although this is a subject I am not that knowledgeable in, if you had prepared your mind for this, you would have been in a much better position and would had the opportunity to save your face.

So the next time you have to take a class or ask your boss for a raise, just remember to ask your brain to think positive and keep calm. Ask your brain to conjure up good thoughts which in turn will reflect in your actions.

If you feel good from the inside, the battle is half won.

Pigeons- A sight of beauty and loyalty

They are called homing pigeons because of the fact that pigeons always return to their loft after an event or race. The reason I dedicate this post to pigeons is because of the fact that my father, a pigeon fancier, has raised over 100 generations of pigeons over the period of 3 decades. We have all kinds of pigeons from the racing pigeon, roller pigeon to the tipplers at home. Buwa (as I call my father) is more of a sporty nature who likes to gauge the flight of these navigators than raising fancy pigeons which are simply not made for flying.

Pigeon-post
Pigeons perching on a machaan or post my buwa made for them

I have been fascinated by these gentle birds ever since my childhood days (and still am). At first I would be a bit scared to hold them in my hands but with practice and closely watching my father handle these pigeons, I was finally able to let go of the fear and set them free to tour the sky. In my experience it is therapeutic to watch these birds fly high above independently in the clear blue.

Watching these docile birds closely, I can observe that they are very low-maintenance. A predator-safe, protected enclosure, food, water, grit, greens and companionship is all they ask for. Buwa, in the span of 3 decades, has been providing our pigeons all this. However, it is sad to see them fall prey to eagles and hawks while they are in flight even despite all these precautions.

I have fond memories with my pigeons and wish to have much more with these gentle creatures in the days to come. Nothing can compare to feeling of warmth that these kind birds generate in me.

Pigeons- masters of the leisure arts

Pigeons
Pigeons are masters of the leisure arts

In addition to their innate honesty, pigeons are masters of the leisure arts. They can spend hours at a stretch sunbathing, napping, flirting or nest-sitting. What amazes me the most is how they stand on one foot while they snooze away!

There are very few animals and birds which are loyal to the core. Like dogs who are man’s loyal companions, pigeons too exhibit similar trait. And what navigational skills they have. No wonder that pigeons were used as messengers in China and elsewhere when telegraph or modern means of communication were not invented.

Vertigo- A  killer

There are several other dangers that surround pigeons. We have seen our lovely pigeons die as a result of ‘vertigo’. Vertigo literally means the state of feeling dizzy when one climbs a high building or a mountain and looks down at the ground. In the case of pigeons, vertigo is similar to having a dizzying sensation followed by the involuntary swinging of the head and falling dead on the ground. Although most of our pigeons have succumbed to death due to this sudden epidemic in the past; we are happy now that none of them have vertigo because it is a sign of a really serious liver derangement.

I leave you with an image of the article my father wrote on pigeons in Himal magazine some years ago. Click here for the image.

Learning in mother tongue- Is it viable?

Children taught in mother tongue
Children will learn and grow effectively when taught in their mother tongue

In a special talk on Ted.com, an advocate for Arabic language, Suzanne Talhouk, spoke about the grave need for people across the world to preserve their mother tongues. She says that for one to master any other language one must be a master of her or his own mother tongue first. Because that is from where most expressions come.

This piqued my interest. We have more than 92 different mother tongues in Nepal. The country’s richness in ethnicity and languages poses its own problems.

Let’s first look at some of the perks of learning in one’s mother tongue. Continue reading