Defining Success

I was walking down the street in San Francisco the other day when I came to a depressing realization: I can’t define what success means to me.  It’s such a vague and nebulous term hijacked by motivational speakers and parents around the world.

So, of course, on the quest for some semblance of truth, I started asking…literally everyone I met that would humor me, how they define success.  The best “success construct” that I heard, came from my friend Kristen:  Success is a state, rather than a destination or point in life.  It’s a continuously evolving solution set that expands and contracts with time, and incorporates various ways to reach this state of being.

Which makes sense, because that’s how, grammatically, we define success.  She IS successful.  They ARE successful.  Successful, is an adjective describing a noun (i.e. you) and your way of being.

So if success is a way of being, how do you populate that solution set? And more importantly, how do you choose to be in that state? Meaning that you have to consciously make a choice, every day, to commit to doing activities that will get you into that state of being.  What are those choices you have to make on a daily basis to get you there?

I’m not entirely sure, but I do think my solution set encompasses a few things:

  • Something about personal growth.  I can’t stand it if I am not a better person than I was yesterday.
  • Something about Love:  Re-connecting with some of my favorite people in the world over the last two weeks has been amazing.  I think love in all it’s forms and definitions is important.  On some level, I feel like this is what it means to be human.
  • Something about financial well being: I like stuff, turns out. I’m still trying to figure out what, and how much. But something about having enough financial freedom to do what you want to do with your life. And buy the things you want too.
  • Something about living with integrity: I don’t want to do things I don’t agree with or believe in.
  • Something about fun: I think it’s incredibly easy to lose this, and entirely undervalued as we get older, but I don’t think life is worth living unless you are having fun.

And that’s all I’ve got so far. But I suppose it’s a start.

Perspective

I think I finally had an aha moment, a moment of clarity and realization.  The idea of “work- life balance” is a physical representation of a mental state. And that mental state relates to keeping life in perspective.

That’s the elusive word that I’ve been missing, that I think is the key to all keys, the meaning of how to be happy. It’s about perspective.  I talked about it before, but I forgot who, but someone (maybe my dad) was saying something about work, and balance, but really, it’s not about balance at all.  It’s about what’s inside your head, about having your life mentally balanced.  And by that, we mean, you have perspective.

Which now makes sense because people keep talking about this unicorn called work life balance.  And I’ve always held that it was slightly absurd, but I did believe there was some truth to it.  There was something there.  And that something is this idea that you always know that everything is going to be ok in the end.  And if it’s not ok, it’s probably not the end.  That, to me, is what perspective means.

If we always keep things in perspective, and nothing is too bad that we can’t come back from, and nothing is too devastating that we think there’s no point in moving on (note: there is ALWAYS a point in moving on) then we’ll be fine. Life will be fine.

In fact, if we get over ourselves and actually scale the to the top of the mountain and look down on this thing we call our lives, we’ll probably be quite impressed with it, devastations and all.

#TheDatingDiaries: Online Date (My Parents)

I think Indian parents have really figured out this whole online dating thing.  And by figured out, I mean providing their kids with the best chance of meeting the man/woman of his/her dreams.  Or at least their dreams.  Which, to be fair, who knows if those sets intersect at all with a union (oh man, MATH JOKE HOLY SHIT WHERE DID THAT COME FROM).

So here is how it works, for those of you who do not have Indian parents.  You guys are missing out.

I think I have a profile my parents created on this site and then on this site, because, well, lets face it.  If my parents get to pick, they’d like to play the “lets make a family tree and just make sure we are far enough to where genetics won’t mess their kids up but close enough to where we will be the same”.  Yay for homogeneity.  (That sounded sarcastic- I’m not sure yet which way that was supposed to go).

And then, my parents get emails from other parents who see my profile.  Now my parents have been a bit cagey about showing me said profile.  They claim that I don’t have a profile, which sort of doesn’t make sense because then how are all these dads and moms emailing them? I am trying to get to the bottom of this.  Because I have DEFINITELY seen guys profiles (that their parents created).  Lots of information that…I have no idea why it is relevant, but my parents seem to think is important.  Like what does the dad do.  And what is his star sign.  And what does his sister do. And what is his sisters education. And how many kids SHE has.  But hey, they’re dating my parents right now so I guess you have to put on lots of things I don’t understand.

Anyway, I digress.  Then comes the good bits.  The concierge service.  My parents basically filter out lots and lots of people.  You know how everyone hates online dating and is like UGH it’s a full time job? Well guess what, now my parents don’t have to take care of their kids, they get to filter through lots of potential husbands for me! YAY! (Again, I can’t tell if I’m sarcastic or not because, I mean, we’ve all been on online dating sites and the amount of people you have to actually respond to is ridiculous and I got carpel tunnel just from typing- ok that’s a lie but it was still a buttload of work I was not enjoying tremendously).

And THEN.  I get some people, which I then Google (of course).  And then I tell them what I think, and they respond to their parents and tell them to coordinate with me to actually meet in person.  It’s like swiping right and left on Tinder, except…verbally in the car with your parents.  Which sounds really strange I guess, but really, you’re playing hot or not with your friends, and I’m playing…hot or not plus Russian Roulette (sans loaded gun?) Something like that.  Haven’t worked out the analogy yet, but I feel like we’re onto some next level dating ish right here.

To be fair, I seriously can’t complain.  Yet.  Because I mean hey, if your parents want to online date MY parents, and then if THOSE dates work out then their kids can meet and then date in real life, who am I to stop (Tamil/Iyengar/Brahmin) love at work?

The jury is still out.  We shall see how what happens next.

Book Lists: Episode XII (Reading My Way Around the World Project)

Like I mentioned, I thought it would be great to learn about all the countries in the world.  Given that life is short, and I probably won’t get to go everywhere (and even if I did, I probably still wouldn’t be able to get as much out if it as I would like to) I thought oh hey, why don’t I read a book from/about every country in the world.  Apparently one woman has already done this (and wrote a book about it).  I tried reading that book, but…it wasn’t what I thought and incredibly dry.  I actually don’t know what I was expecting, probably just pissed that someone took my idea, kind of like Mark Zuckerberg inventing Facebook (not that I would have invented Facebook but still- I can’t get over the fact that while he was inventing Facebook, I was updating my Facebook profile. Ugh). ANYWAY. I figured I should start by writing down a list of countries from around the world.
One thing that is actually in contention, is surprisingly, the definition of the word country.  It’s actually quite loose, and incredibly undefined.  I decided to go with the broadest definition just so I could learn the most about the world.  So some of these aren’t exactly countries, but maybe just territories.  All together there are 257, which is…quite a bit.  Considering I only read 27 books last year, that means…kind of a lot of years.  So maybe I’ll start reading 1 book that encompasses a few countries, and there are a few countries I’ve already read about.  But we’ll see.
Anyway, here is the list!
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Book Lists: Episode XI (Year in Review: July 2014-July 2015)

I have decided that there are two ways you can intimately know a person.  Look through all of their bank statements (Which is what I was doing for NextDrop today, oh man, I know every detail about my company now for REAL) and look at what books they read.

I think you can also look at their playlist (AND top 25 most played songs) but mine would not be that revealing because, well, I just listen to Golden Oldies on Pandora now (it’s the BEST).  Also, the whole bank statement thing may be a bit creepy (Oh hey, I want to get to know you better, can I look through your bank statements? I know this is a first date, but really though, yes I’m serious).

Aaaaannnnd back to books.  Not that anyone wants to get to know me better or anything, but I like writing them down all in one place.  An interesting thing my grandpa’s girlfriend said today: back then she kept a journal on Word Perfect, and now Word Perfect DOES NOT EXIST (ok it does technically but it’s so hard to find someone that has it!).  She says if you want it to stick around write it down with pen and paper. Which I did this year.  In my notebook. And now, on to the interwebs.

Overall: 27 books in 12 months.  It’s about 2 books a month. But it’s pretty obvious the times I took vacation (all the books get done during those times!) How funny, right?

  1. Elephant Catchers: Key Lessons For Breakthrough Growth: July 10, 2014
  2. The Dickens With Love, July 13, 2014
  3. #GirlBoss, July 18, 2014
  4. China Town Beat, August 12, 2014
  5. The Abbey, August 14, 2014
  6. Sushi For Beginners, August 18, 2014
  7. Thrive, August 19, 2014
  8. Living Non Violent Communication, August 19, 2014
  9. Mastery, October 20, 2014
  10. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Girl Tells You What She’s “Learned” (Audio Book), October 30, 2014
  11. Yes Please (Audio Book), November 20, 2014
  12.  How Google Works, November 25, 2014
  13. How To Win at the Sport of Business, November 24, 2015
  14. What The Most Successful People Do on Weekends, November 24, 2015
  15. What the Most Successful People Do before Breakfast, November 25, 2015
  16. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, January 5, 2015
  17. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail , January 7, 2015
  18. Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries From The Science of Exercise, January 7, 2015
  19. Spirit Junke: A Radical Guide to Self Love and Miracles, April 20, 2015
  20. The Mastery Manual, April 20, 2015
  21. My Life in Orange: Growing Up With The Guru, May 24, 2015
  22. Drinking, A Love Story, May 28, 2015
  23. Bad Feminist: Essays, June 12, 2015
  24. Life in Motion, an Unlikely Ballerina, June 15, 2015
  25. All the Light We Cannot See, June 19, 2015
  26. Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine (Audiobook), July 27, 2015
  27. Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers, and Rites of Passage (Audiobook), July 15,2015

Terrible reads: The most successful book series (#14,#15).  You know what most successful people do? Nothing spectacular, nothing we can’t find via Richard Branson’s tweets, and really nothing new.

Best Reads: Definitely depends on what you are interested in at the time, but I’d have to say the ones that I loved the most were Bad Feminist, #GirlBoss, How Google Works (yes, I am a nerd), and Spirit Junkie.

New book resolutions: I want to read 1 book from every country in the world.  I had the idea and then I found this woman that did it (and then wrote a book about it I think). She took it WAY seriously, and spent a lot of time researching the different countries, and I think she tried to read a book written by someone from that country.  I don’t think I’m going to be that picky, and I have a feeling most of mine will be non fiction, but that’s the plan.  At some point I need to write out all the countries, and see which countries I’ve already read about.  On the to do list.

#TheDatingDiaries: Why You Should Never Talk To Your Grandpa About A Boy You May Or May Not Like #Copenhagen

So I’m here, in Copenhagen, with my grandpa and his girlfriend.  And I thought oh hey, lets just make some interesting (yet polite) conversation today.  Boys are always a fun topic and older people LOVE giving advice about it, lets see where this goes. WORST IDEA EVER.

Me: So Grandpa, I think I like this boy and I don’t know if he likes me. Probably not. I don’t know. And I don’t know what I should do.

Grandpa: Oh interesting. Hmmm. So what are you going to do?

Me: Well that’s what I’m saying, I don’t know! He doesn’t live in my city and I have no idea if he likes me and I mean I don’t even KNOW if I like him and I don’t know if it’s worth finding out, maybe I should just let it go.

Grandpa: Hmmm. Well, You know marriage is a very serious thing. You shouldn’t enter into it lightly.

Me: Wait, WHAT?! Uhhhh that’s…uhhhh huh?

Grandpa: Yes, you know nowadays, young people and their ideas about marriage, they are so crazy! I have realized over the years that I have very conservative views about marriage.

Grandpa’s Girlfriend: Wait, WHAT?! What are you saying? YOU never got married. WE aren’t married! Are you calling me a SLUT?!

Me: Grandpa, I think what you mean is that maybe you…uhhh…I mean…you know…I don’t think you mean that…..

Grandpa’s Girlfriend: YEAH- WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

Grandpa: Well, you know. I mean, ok maybe I don’t have CONSERVATIVE views on marriage. But I’m saying maybe other people should do it. My life hasn’t been planned, it just…you know. It has gone. I never planned it.

Grandpa’s Girlfriend: BUT YOU’RE HAPPY WITH IT RIGHT?!

Grandpa: Of course! Of course I’m happy. I’m just saying maybe Anu, you should get married.  It’s a good thing. Even if I never did it.

Grandpa’s Girlfriend: Ok yes, I can agree with that. I married once, after I broke up with your grandfather, but maybe it was a bit hasty. It didn’t work out. You should definitely take it slow.

Me: uhhhh…..yes?

So I have to mention that my grandpa has a hearing aid that doesn’t really work all the time, in his defense.

That was an interesting breakfast.

My Grandpa And His Girlfriend

I’m currently in Copenhagen visiting my grandpa (ok not really my grandpa but my grandmother’s brother) and his girlfriend.  It’s so interesting because they decided never to get married, and they’ve had a really interesting (and long) history together.  I don’t know all the particulars, but…all I know now is that they are adorable.

They weren’t always so adorable though.  When my grandpa got his heart attack about a year ago, I dropped him off in Copenhagen with his (ex) girlfriend (then). When they were together they fought like an old married couple, (except they were never married) so they basically got all the downsides of marriage without ever really taking the plunge.  It looked like a bad situation and I was worried.  I think they had been broken up officially for over 20 years at that point, and it looked like they had good reasons why.

But now, a year later, they got back together and now they are the cutest things ever.  They go for walks together, they make food together, and they joke about being old people.

It’s funny, because it sort of restores my faith in this thing we call love.  It’s what Aziz Ansari talks about in his book, Modern Romance, as companionate love.  With all the divorce going on in this world, it’s so nice to see two people, at the tail end of their lives, committing to this new form of life.  It may not be what we young people think of as love, but for them, it really works.

And honestly, being here with the two of them, it’s one of the most beautiful love stories I have heard of- spanning generations, and maybe not coming to the fairy tale ending we all think of in princess stories ( I doubt they will ever get married at this point) but it is a happy ending nonetheless because I think they are both better people because of it.  And live happier, more fulfilled lives.

Karma

To be honest, I never liked what I heard or read about karma before, because it sounded like a lot of scare tactics to try and scare people into “being good”.  Which, ever since I was a kid, never made sense to me. Because if my parents are right, and God is love, then why the heck is all this fear around this concept? So essentially I just stopped listening to whatever people would say and that was that.  At a high level, the idea of karma made sense to me, but I didn’t like the way anyone explained it- it just put me off all together.

But I finally heard a definition I like, or at least an interpretation I like, in Anita Moorjani’s book, Dying To Be Me.  Well, she kind of talked about her thoughts on the topic, which made me come to my own definition of it.  I think Karma is just the sum of all the things your soul needs to learn.  I do believe we are all here on this earth to learn different things, and that’s the whole reason karma exists- it’s not good or bad, it’s just simply, this is what my soul needs to learn in this life.

I also think there are things that help the soul learn, and things that move the soul towards what it needs to be doing and there are things that move the soul away from what it needs to be doing.  I feel like that is what people currently term “good” karma and “bad” karma.  I don’t think it’s an absolute at all, because in other realms I don’t think judgement exists, it’s a completely human term that helps us…I don’t actually know yet, but I don’t think it’s quite productive.  And for everyone it’s different.  But if the goal of soul realization has to do with love and compassion, then things moving towards that would be something we should probably strive for and things moving away from that are things that aren’t so great.

But I think the kicker is that we shouldn’t do anything based on fear, whatever it is.  Intention is important. Because at the end of the day, we’re going to learn what we need to learn, in whatever shape or form that is.  Which is pretty neat, actually.  It may take the form of crazy things, it may take the form of normal things, but I don’t think I’d like to use the term “good” karma or “bad” karma, just…stuff I need to learn to reach a higher state of consciousness.  

That is all. 

My Greatest Anxieties

So recently, I’ve sort of decided that the regular stuff, like having enough food to eat, shelter, clothing, etc…will sort itself out.  Yes money has always been an issue and is slightly worrisome especially working at a startup, but I’ve actually realized it tends to work itself out.  I mean it’s not like I’m going to be driving a Beamer anytime soon, but then again, I’m fine by that too.  Point is, general day to day things, I feel like they’re going to be fine.

I’ve moved on to different anxieties, which currently include the fact that no matter what I do, I can’t shake the fact that I’m not satisfied with myself.  Let me rephrase that: I choose not to be happy with myself.  I choose to be unsatisfied with most things about myself, which then makes me think that other people have this same perception about me.  The dangerous part about this, I’ve realized recently, is that it changes the way you interact with other people.  

Lets pretend you are completely satisfied with yourself: you know you’re not perfect but you’re pretty happy with who you are and where you’re at.  Someone says something to you- it can be as simple as telling you about their day.  If you have no real agenda except listening to what they’re saying (because hey, you’re pretty happy and content right now, bring it on world) you’re probably going to react in the appropriate way to what they’re saying.  Because you’re not viewing it through any lens other than…I’m just listening to what you’re saying.

For Example

Person 1: “Hey Anu, how’s it going? Oh man I went for this amazing run today- it was so great! I haven’t run like that in ages”

In My Head: Oh wow, that sounds so cool! I am so happy for her- she sounds so excited!

Anu: “Wow, that is amazing! Where did you run? How far did you go? I’m so excited for you- it sounds like you’re really getting into it!”

Person 1: “Totally! I feel so good about it, I forgot how much I love it, I just ran around the block a few times but it was so beautiful and I forgot how much I loved the morning when nobody was there.  Oh hey, you should come next time, it would be fun!”

In my head: Now that she mentions it, yeah, I HAVE been looking to start running with a buddy…what a pleasant coincidence!

Anu: “Oh man that would be rad! Lets do it! SO COOL!”

Now lets pretend you’re NOT completely satisfied with yourself- how does that change things? It means that whatever you hear, no matter what it is, will be warped by your perception of it.  Lets say someone is really just talking about what they did today.  Immediately, because you’re not satisfied with yourself, you start thinking about that persons day in relation to you, and if it’s really bad, you may ASSUME he or she is actually TAKING A JAB AT YOU.  Which, when I write that out, sounds absolutely crazy, but I realize that totally happens to me sometimes. It’s so embarrassing but also incredibly true.  

For example:

Person 1: “Hey Anu, how’s it going? Oh man I went for this amazing run today- it was so great! I haven’t run like that in ages”

In my head: Oh my god, I don’t exercise, I’m so fat, and now everyone knows I’m fat and everyone is getting thinner while I’m getting fatter and I can’t help it because I have work and I have all these other obligations and WHERE CAN I MAKE TIME TO EXERCISE OH GOD STOP MAKING ME FEEL LIKE SHIT JESUS

Anu: “Oh man, I wish I could run like that, it sounds amazing. I used to run and now I can’t and now I’m fat and terrible and I hate everything.”

Person 1: “oh. no…uhhh….ok yeah…I mean no…I mean…Ok I just remembered I have to do this thing so I’ll talk to you later ok bye.”

Isn’t it INSANE how your own head screws with you like that.  Man. It be crazy up in there.

The Future of Happiness

So this morning me and my roommate were talking about happiness, because that’s usually the sort of ish we like to discuss at 8:00am.  But I think we decided it has a lot to do with perspective. Looking at the big picture and see how far you’ve come in life.  Because otherwise you’re just thinking about how you’re not as good as you could be, which will always be true, but is also quite untrue, or at least really unproductive to obsess over.  I mean really though, what’s the point of thinking about all the ways in which you suck? Ok I can see how that would be productive for some time, but I feel like there needs to be this switch, maybe an automatic sensor, that switches over from the whole this is all the ways in which you can be better, to all the ways in which you’ve really come far in life and really you should be happy.

You know what the sad bit of it is? That I’m terrified that if I am not obsessing over how much I suck, I will start being happy and then I’ll stop caring that I can get better at things and then I’ll never get better at anything and then….I’ll stop being…successful? But you know what? How do we define success anyway? I’m tired of the conventional definition.  I think from henceforth, I am going to define success as being happy.  Which means that I am currently failing miserably. Ok ok ok not failing miserably, but I’m not acing this ish yet.

That’s right, more studying and practicing to do y’all.