Are You a “Scaredy Cat?” Pt. 1

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– ­By Thirumur David Kiran

 

A few months back, I reached a pretty alarming conclusion: I don’t like risks.

Scratch that…I hate risks!

In fact, I’ll say it again. I HATE RISKS!

I once maintained that “hate” was a very strong word and should only be used for things such as “crimes against humanity” or “cats” (yes, I am a dog person). Yet I came to see that for me, risks fall under this category as well. Do we not do everything in our power to avoid the things that we hate? If this is the criterion, then it is safe to say that I really do hate risks, for I do everything possible to avoid them.

I’ve not been a risk-taker in the slightest! I fear to take risks because of the logical danger that it holds:

  • I am scared of boats for fear of falling into the water and drowning.
  • I am scared of heights for fear that I might fall.
  • I am scared of trying new things for fear of failure.
  • I am scared of reaching out for fear of rejection.
  • In short, I am scared of taking risks for the fact that there is risk involved.

I guess that makes me a scaredy cat!—And I don’t even like cats! (Apologies to the cat lovers out there)

And I am not alone in this.

As soon as this realization set in, I determined to test it. I asked some hypothetical risk scenario-based questions to a group of students at one of my talks the next day. From the answers that I received from the 200 students in that room I realized that I was not alone in my fear of risks.

But that’s not all. Studies have shown that while the average adolescent may be psychologically predisposed to doing risky things, our desire for stability and safety and knowledge of responsibility kick in once we lose our pimples and our initial facial stubble. The average adult human is perfectly happy to go through life without ever having to take a risk.

In short, we are all scaredy cats as well!

But stop for a minute and think about a world without risks. It would be a world without adventure, a world without success, a world without progress, a world without growth, a world without fun, a world without—dare I say it—purpose.

The paradox of life is that, as much as we don’t like risks, taking risks is what brings about progress and growth in our lives. It is also risk that brings us adventure and joy. In fact, scientists have proven that risk-taking in small doses is almost universally beneficial for your brain and mental health.

Risk-taking causes real changes in the brain, which might account for why risk-takers quickly seem to become adrenaline addicts. Major risks release adrenaline, which can lead to a quick rush, and dopamine, which causes intense feelings of pleasure.

Novel experiences can help to ward off depression and reinvigorate a stale relationship. Risk-taking is often a necessary prerequisite for starting a new business or launching a new career, and the excitement associated with uncertainty can be a powerful antidote to boredom and even depression. Because dopamine produces a natural high, risk-taking behaviors can help you get a positive mood and a new perspective without the risks associated with drug use. [1]

Could that by why, at times when you are in a comfortable position in your life, that you feel a bit stagnant and perhaps a bit bored? I know this is the case for me.

Come to think of it, the few times in my life that I have encountered and faced risk, I will admit that it was not of my own choosing. Rather, I was thrown headlong into it—sometimes even literally!

  • I can remember the time that my father stayed back from a performing trip to another city with our show troupe and I was forced to emcee the performance before a huge crowd for the first time in my life.
  • I can remember the time that my performing arts mentor broke his leg a few days before a big birthday party for a prestigious client that we were organizing and I had to fill in as the host in his absence.
  • I can remember when I was a management understudy and my company was organizing a large nation-wide conference. My overseer—and the main manager of the event—pulled out abruptly due to personal reasons and I had to suddenly step up and manage the event without any prior experience.
  • I can remember the time that I was assigned to take a group of teenagers white-water rafting down the Kennebec River and I stood on the bank, white as a sheet and frozen with fear.
  • I can even remember that I had to be cornered for my first kiss…

And the list goes on and on! Yet, looking at these events now from the wonderful vantage point of hindsight, I see that through every enforced risk came incredible reward!

  • From my first kiss stemmed my first real relationship that taught me much about life and love.
  • From being tossed on stage—unprepared and frightened—stemmed a career in public speaking that I relish today.
  • From my first forced event as a host stemmed a foray in event management that led to the founding of two companies and also helped to kick off an event culture in that city that many people have benefitted from and are continuing to do so.
  • From my first stuttering experience at managing a nation-wide conference stemmed another dozen conferences in India and other parts of the world, enabling me to impact hundreds of lives.
  • From sitting paralyzed with fear in an air-filled raft in a foaming and churning river stemmed one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life!

And the list can go on and on… All this from risks that I was pushed into!

Now this makes me wonder, how many things have I missed from risks that I have avoided? How many opportunities have I passed up because they looked risky?

A toddler makes faces at the delicious food in front of them because it has green leafy “thingies” on it. They may stick their tongue out and squirm in their seats and profess that it is “the worst food in the world” and that they “know they don’t like it because they’ve never tried it.” But just as the child never knows what he is missing till he overcomes his fear of vegetables, we will never know the joy and success that we are missing until we overcome our fear of taking risks.

Next week, I am going to go a bit deeper into this subject and expose some negative mindsets that we take towards risk. And then I am going to give you solutions that can help you overcome them. I am trying a few of them myself, and I am seeing positive results already.

See you all next week!

 

[1] http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1869106,00.html

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Grow Anywhere!

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It’s amazing where you can find inspiration from if you are looking for it.

A few weeks ago, I was in Mumbai. My family used to live on Madh Island when I was a baby and so I took a ferry there on a Sunday evening track down my old living place. Although I couldn’t find it, I had the chance to watch the sun set on the beach. And since I’ve always loved beach sunsets, It was an opportunity not to be missed.

On this particular beach, there was no sand, only rocks. As I was walking towards the coastline, I noticed this small plant growing up between the cracks in the rocks. Here–in the most likely place where all conditions were against it–here was growth!

No matter what the condition are like around you, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do your best to grow into your potential. You are destined for great things!

Happiness Challenge

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Yesterday was the “International Day of Happiness” across the world.

From the time I was a kid, I’ve always believed that the best way to find happiness was to make someone else happy. And so I challenged myself to make someone else happy and see how that went. Here are a couple of the things that I did yesterday to spread happiness:

#1 = I paid for an old lady’s shopping as I was leaving the grocery store. I had some bonus in my shopping card and figured that she’d use it more. The look on her face when the cashier told her that her bill was already paid was priceless.

#2 = I sent a short email of appreciation to someone who I hand’t talked to in a while, but who I admired for what they were doing. They wrote me back after a couple of hours saying that they were having a rough day but my note made it a better one for them.

#3 = I spent an hour playing cards with my grandmother in the evening. She was thankful for the time and we both had fun together.

As you can see, I didn’t really do much, but what I did made three people’s days better. And in return, my day was made happier as well.

Random acts of kindness don’t need to take long, be expensive, or require a lot of prep. All it takes is a couple of minutes to make someone’s life happier. Trust me, your life will be happier in return!

“Reflecting on 2016” part 4: My Goals for 2017

(Note: For the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on 2016 and planning for 2017. Thank you for joining my thoughts and meditations. This is the final instalment. Hope you enjoy it!)

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Today is the final instalment of my reflecting on the year gone by and the year to come. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the journey with me so far and I pray that it has been a blessing to your life in some way. The things I’ve shared have been deep lessons that are very personal to me and it has taken a bit of courage to share them, as I generally tend to be a private person. But, as someone told me years ago when I was first starting out in my blogging, people want to see the real you. Everyone can relate to real stories of struggles, joys, and triumphs. And so I hope my time with you has helped you to not only know me better, but that it has encouraged you in some way.

Today, I am going to be tackling the final point of this series: my goals for 2017. This should be a fun one! Once again, this is in no particular order. Here I go:

 

– I want to take time to go through life slowly. I want to enjoy each and every minute of every day. I don’t want to be rushing down the street so fast that I can’t admire the sunset. I don’t want to be focusing so much on what I am going to say that I miss the beauty of listening to the person who I am communicating with. I don’t want to be so eager to reach somewhere that I miss the journey along the way. I don’t want to eat too quickly that I don’t savor the scent and the taste of the dish. I don’t want a day to go by where I don’t go slow at some point and just enjoy the simple joys of being alive.

– I want to be more grateful for each and every thing in my life–good or bad. I want to be able to go through life with a smile on my face and a praise on my lips. Sure, life plain sucks at times but it is also beautiful. I want to celebrate that.

– I want to show more love and care to the people around me. I want each person that interact with to feel genuine interest and care from me. I want every interaction that I have to have meaning and to leave someone feeling better. This, of course, will only happen if I am going slow enough to value these interactions and if I am living a life of positivity and gratefulness. It all ties in together.

– I also want to focus on my health this year. It’s been something I’ve let slide over the past few years and I can’t afford to let it slide any further. This year, I am going to focus on making myself better.

– I also want to get one of my books published this year. It’s been a goal for a few years now, but this year I will do my utmost to make it a reality.

– My final goal for 2017 is to not be afraid to step out and challenge myself to claim opportunities when they arise. I will be writing more about this in the next few weeks–please do join me for that–but I want to begin by setting the premise for a year of stepping out. I have always been a cautious person (more about this in my next blog post). I’ve let countless opportunities go by me because I deliberated them for too long. This year, I want to have the courage to chase things that I’ve been afraid to chase before. I want to look back at the end of 2017 with satisfaction and not with regret. Regret comes from knowing that we could have done something but we didn’t, or could have done something differently. This year, I want to my best to avoid that by taking chances as they come. As Celine Dion once said, “What do you say to taking chances?” This year, I want my response to be: “Amen and bring it on!”

 

Happy New Year to you all!!!

 

“Reflecting on 2016” part 3: My Top Lessons Learned

(Note: For the next few days, I’ll be reflecting on 2016 and planning for 2017. You are welcome to join my thoughts and meditations. Have fun getting to know the “real me.”)

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Today I continue my reflecting on the year gone by. Today I want to talk about my lessons. Yesterday, I spoke about my disappointments. It was those disappointments that taught me the crucial lessons that I am going to share with you below. Often, we feel that it’s a bad thing to have disappointments now and then. But they are perfect springboards for lessons that can define our lives and help us on the road to success. So here are my lessons. Once again, these are in no particular order.

– I learned that sometimes things don’t always work out the way we planned. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and our meticulous planning, there are things outside of our control that come in the way of our plans. That’s just the way that life is. Although it’s frustrating, it helps to accept that some things are not going to pan out the way you thought. That doesn’t mean that you give up on them or “let them go” because they were “not meant to be.” Rather, it just means finding another way to go at them again. But I don’t have to feel bad because plans changed and things fell through. These obstacles are a part of life. Time to figure out how to overcome them.

– I’ve also learned that I need to be more realistic with my time and my planning. I tend to give myself less time in a particular endeavour than is necessary. Some things just take time to work out and I have to be prepared for that. A quote that I read last year that has become kind of like a mantra for me is this: “We overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years.” Maybe I didn’t get through that project this year. That doesn’t mean that I won’t see the results down the line. Don’t give up on something just because it takes time to see the result.

– I’ve also learned that I need to savor life along the way. I’ve learnt that life goes by too fast. I met my one-year-old niece last year in January and she was crawling and cooing about. I met her again in October and she was running around and talking up a storm. Amazing how much she’d changed in a short period of time! It’s more noticeable with babies, but each of us go through similar changes each year. Think about it. Your family has changed in January 2016. The environment has changed. Society has changed. The world has changed. Your friends have changed. YOU have changed. Your job may have changed. The things you did for fun this year are probably not going to be repeated again. Question is, did you stop to savor those changes along the way? That was my question to myself this New Year’s Eve. Did I enjoy each moment of the vacation with my family, or was I busy checking my phone because of important work waiting for me at home? Did I stop to hang out with my brother when he wanted to watch a movie and chill or was I busy trying to complete a rough draft of a training module. Did I stop to listen to the parrots chattering in the mango tree outside my house or did I close the window because it disturbed my conference call? Our family vacation was the first one together after nine years. Who knows when we’ll meet next? My brother has now moved to Spain to pursue a career in sports. Who knows when we’ll get the chance to hang out again? The mango tree outside our house was struck by lightening and collapsed during a storm. Now there are no more chattering parrots. It’s about time I learn not to be too busy making a life that I have no time to live.

– I’ve also learned the power of gratitude and of being grateful for everything that life sends my way. I may not have a perfect life, but I am blessed! That is good enough for me.

– I’ve also learned that everything I’ve “learned” this year I have spoken about or written about before or coached someone into. That in itself is a lesson for me. Sometimes, we need to stop and see whether we are “practising what we preach” and “living our sermons.” Knowing something, agreeing with something, and even teaching something isn’t a substitute for LIVING something. As a man that I’ve admired all my life once told me “Before you can pour out, you have to pour in.” I’ve got to take my own medicine once in a while and learn to live the things that I promote. Then my words become more than book knowledge, because I am living it through my own experiences.

– I’ve also learned that it is never too late to start again. And that is my goal for 2017…which I am going to talk about tomorrow! See you there!

 

“Reflecting on 2016” part 2 = My Biggest Disappointments

“Reflecting on 2016” part 2: Biggest Disappointments:

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(Note: For the next few days, I’ll be reflecting on 2016 and planning for 2017. You are welcome to join my thoughts and meditations. Have fun getting to know the “real me.”)

I had a few reservations about posting this section, because I am not someone who likes to focus too much on the negative. I tend to look for the positive in each thing that I come across, so I was hesitant to post something that had a negative focus. But life has its ups and downs and the way that one generally learns from life is through the “downs.” So in order for me to clearly define and express my lessons for 2017, I need to outline the disappointments of 2016 that lead me to learn them. Once again, these are in no particular order.

– One big disappointment for me was that a few of my speaking tours failed to materialise. At the beginning of the year, I had engagements in South America and the UK. At the end of the year, both had failed to materialise. I had turned down other offers because I was focusing on those and ended up missing out. In other words, I had kept all my eggs in one basket and that basket fell off my bicycle.

– Another disappointment for me was that I didn’t complete the writing of my book. I was hoping to have it done in time for a Jan 2017 release, but I didn’t allocate enough time and focus to it as I needed. I underestimated the time needed and overestimated what I could accomplish in that time.

– Another disappointment for me was that I failed to give enough focus to my health through the year. I put a lot of effort into my projects and my seminars and my talks and my events, but I often let my health get crowded out of my schedule. While I was accumulating experience and success, I was also accumulating kilos and health issues. I now am ahead in my career life, but also behind on my health life and it’s already costing me. In the words of a teacher that I admire so much, “This I ought to have done while not leaving the other undone.”

– Another disappointment–and I think that this was my biggest disappointment of the year–was the fact that I went through it so fast. My mind tends to work in boxes. I can define my year by projects and events. I know in Jan this thing happens, in Feb these two things happen, in March is this event, etc. My problem last year was that I went from project to project, from event to event, from month to month. All my focus was consumed by the current project and when it was done, my focus was immediately taken up by the next one. While the work was important, I realised that during that time I forgot to live. I had forgotten to enjoy life. I had forgotten to take time with my family. I had forgotten to be present at each moment. I took a sort of pride in being busy, not realising what I was losing in my busyness.

That’s the summary of my disappointments in 2016. Join me soon to hear about my lessons that I learnt that I’m going to apply to 2017.

 

Reflecting on 2016, Part 1 = Best Memories

(Note: For the next few days, I’ll be reflecting on 2016 and planning for 2017. You are welcome to join my thoughts and meditations.)

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Reflecting on 2016 part 1: Best Moments:

2016 definitely had some amazing moments. It was a different kind of year for me, and yet it was also filled with many moments that made it wonderful. I’m going to list them (in no particular order).

– My family had a reunion this year for the first time in nine years. We’ve met up in stages along the way, but this was the first time in nine years that our entire family was together–that’s two parents, nine siblings, two in-laws, and two grandkids. It really was an awesome time.

– I performed my first wedding this year. I’ve been a wedding planner for many of my friends, but in Jan 2016 I was given the opportunity to officiate the wedding of two dear friends of mine. One more item off the bucket list!

– Speaking of bucket lists, my dad and I were able to cross another item off it in December when we traced my father’s ancestral roots back to the ancient village of Thirumur where my dad’s family lineage went back over 2000 years.

– I did a speaking tour of Nepal for the first time. I’ve always wanted to visit that country but never had the opportunity to until November of 2016. I spent one of the best weeks of my year in that beautiful country surrounded by amazing people.

– I was able to spend 30 days on a road trip across the country to deliver Christmas gifts to 1250 elderly people in nine different cities. It was a trip filled with adventures–including a drive through a cyclone. It was also a trip filled with amazing, heartwarming memories. Definitely one of the highlights of my year.

– My brother Peter got admission into a sports academy in Spain to pursue his life-long dream of being a professional basketball player. At the same time, my brother Kiran got a sports scholarship to play basketball for one of the best high schools in the country.

– Launched the “Be Your Own Hero” events that I hope will change the lives of many across the world in the coming years.