Lessons to learn from Lord Ganesha

As Ganesh Chaturthi sets in, we look into the lessons that Lord Ganesh represents.

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As Ganesh Chaturthi sets in, we are reminded about the auspiciousness that surrounds this festival, and the significance Lord Ganesha has in the day-to-day life. Lord Ganesha can also teach some life lessons that can well be applied into the professional space as well.

Listen more, listen well: Lord Ganesha with just his way of being teaches us the value of great listening skills. The elephantine ears represent the ability and keenness to listen to the nuances of what the other person has to say. Good listening skills ensure that we are paying attention, whether we are listening to a client, listening to a colleague in a meeting or listening to a friend. Paying attention, and listening for the sake of listening, and not merely for the sake of responding can lead to the other person feeling truly heard, and in turn lead to a fruitful collaboration.

Obstacles shall be removed: The dukh harta, sukh karta role of lord Ganesha is well-known. We can recall this in our own dealings. Any obstacle or road-block that we encounter in problem-solving or in a project, is an opportunity to work around the very obstacle or road-block. With a trust that any obstacle that we may come across will be removed, we can work on it or around it calmly. As Stoicism teachings often put it: ‘Obstacle is the Way’. The obstacle is the opportunity to work on something in a better way. It is the growth-mindset that we hear about all the time.

Wisdom and abundance: The famous lore about a young Ganesha and Kartikeya showcases the wisdom and a feeling of abundance that our modak-loving lord represents. When asked to make a round of the world by parents Shiva and Parvati, Kartikeya went for a round of the earth. Ganesha simply started to make rounds around his parents, saying that they are his world. This mindset not only represents wisdom, cleverness but also a sense of abundance, and feeling grateful and happy about what you have. No wonder Ganpati is also associated with his jolly nature!

Beginnings are sweet: The sweet modak which lord Ganesha loves, along with him being the God of beginnings is a reminder that beginning something is sweet enough. Rather than feeling daunted about starting a project from the scratch, or opening a new company, or adopting a new way of thinking, one would do well if one remembered that something well begun is a battle half won. Why think of it as a battle even? Why not think of it as being on our way to acquiring the sweet rewards of the modak?  

As Ganesh Chaturthi sets in, team UHR would like to wish everyone abundance of wisdom, sweetness, and success in all their endeavours. Here’s to auspicious beginnings, a wise journey and jolly results!

Lessons in Prioritising and Persistence

Seemingly obvious prioritising choices can take a backseat as our quest for something to ‘show’ takes the priority. Read on.

You have been asked to train a monkey to sing and dance on stage. We know, it is highly unlikely someone is ever going to ask you to do this, but let’s just pretend for a few minutes. Hypothetically.

What is the first thing that you will prioritise? Obviously, the monkey, right?

While this is an obvious answer, it could happen that you also want to make the stage look nice and spectacular. So, you spend some time building and decorating the stage. In fact, you spend a lot of time building and decorating the stage.

While building and decorating the stage seems like a silly thing to prioritise and you are pretty sure that the major chunk of energy and priority will go to the monkey to be trained, human nature suggests otherwise. Teaching a monkey how to sing and dance on a stage can teach us a lesson or two.

A common peculiarity seen in most of us is that we like to have something concrete. A tangible result is what we aim for. As this article which acted as an inspiration for our write-up points out, we like to have something to ‘show’. Building and decorating the stage is a much easier task than training a monkey to sing. It is also a result that will be visible more quickly; it will be more noticeable. It’s a faster to achieve job.

We often end up engaging in a similar error in prioritising our tasks. We also end up doing something similar to our larger goals and dreams. We want to have something concrete to show. Having something concrete to show is a practical strategy, of course. But we also want to have that concrete thing now. That is where we tend to lose focus from the bigger picture, and we end up over-prioritising things that can are easier to do and will take less time. When the audience comes, we want the monkey to be able to sing. A well-built and well-decorated stage makes no sense if there’s no performer there. A false sense of working hard might set in. Harder work is to wait for the results to show.

We will go back to training our monkey now. Training the monkey to sing and dance will be difficult. It will cost one patience. More time, more energy, more skills to be developed, more training required on our part. (I mean, most of us aren’t equipped with the skills to train animals, forget teaching them to sing and dance, right?)

Again, something difficult often requires more time and effort, but just because a concrete result isn’t there yet, doesn’t mean that there is no result in progress. Learning something difficult, prioritising something difficult could mean that we may not have much or anything to show for some time. Skills take time to develop. Behind one single achievement, there could be months and years of work. A performance might be fun and enjoyable to everyone else, but the one who has trained and the one who has been trained have put in immense work, invisible to everyone else.

So, the next time you want to think about your priorities, think if you need to focus on training the monkey or decorating the stage. The next time you feel frustrated in a project, think if you are frustrated because you haven’t found something concrete, or frustrated about the time it is taking to ‘show’ something. It takes both, prioritising and persistence.

A Guide to Switching Careers Midway

Changing careers once you are not a fresher anymore can be challenging. However, it’s also something that is quite doable. As the world changes around us, it is possible that we may reach a realisation that we want to try a different adventure now. Or we may find our true calling much later in our careers. As daunting as it sounds, people have done it and they have done it successfully!

So, what are some things to keep in mind if you are someone planning on a mid-way career change? What can you do and (avoid doing) when you send out your resumes and appear for interviews for ‘new’ careers?

Highlight your experience:

Yes, even if you feel it is not ‘relevant’ enough. We have written about this in our article about making your ‘irrelevant’ experience ‘relevant’. Any experience, in any field brings with it certain wisdom, interpersonal skills, tenacity and high problem-solving skills. And not to forget a wide network!

Highlight these through your experience, so no matter how different your ‘older’ field might be, you can assure the hiring managers that there are enough soft-skills you have accumulated over time to bring enough value to the table.

Show that you have been learning:

Show that you are eager to learn, and have been upskilling. Make sure you have learnt enough about the major waves of change that may have been happening in your ‘new’ field over the years. Make sure you have a decent idea of any new software, programs, tools that are being used, and mention that in your resume.

You can also attach examples of your personal projects relevant to the new field that you may have been undertaking.

Show how you have been using skills relevant to the new field in your old field already:

 This is especially helpful when posed with questions such as ‘Have you ever done something like this before?’ It is one thing to have the soft-skills, but more urgent skills and competencies may evoke some scepticism from hiring managers and recruiters. How does one overcome that? Hiring managers and recruiters have a major responsibility to hire the right person, so it is quite natural that they may be sceptical about a candidate with little ‘actual’ experience in the field.

Showing that one has been using the same or similar skills and competencies just in a different setting, using relevant keywords from the job description, and showing one has been upskilling is the key to help the hiring managers and recruiters overcome their scepticism.

However, don’t brag too much!

An experienced candidate would be a great fit to the team if they will:

  • Offer inspiration
  • Wisdom of experience
  • Be a strong anchor to the team

However, the candidate who thinks he or she is better than everyone, especially everyone younger to them, and loudly claims to do so might not be very good for the team morale. Someone who doesn’t believe in mutual respect and doesn’t see their new colleagues as equal sources of learning and shows rigidity of values and perspective is likely to bog the team down.

It’s best to take the attitude of wisdom and humility in equal measures.

Don’t ask for the moon:

When we talk about wisdom and humility, it also means that the candidate understands the reality of the situation and negotiate according to that. New career means the salary range might be lower compared to your overall experience. The priority should be to listen to that calling and finding the readiness for the new challenge. Of course, money does matter, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that governs the decisions.

Changing careers is a leap of faith which requires the right kind of attitude. An attitude that shows humility, a willingness to learn, and confidence in one’s value, capabilities and wisdom anchored to reality. Showing that one has been constantly learning, and using a similar skill-set in a different setting, and has accumulated great wisdom and network can help one to make that transition smoothly, and nail that interview for the ‘new’ career.

A Little Stress can make you More Productive

Most of the times we are told about stress and its downfalls. By now we know the kind of risks and diseases that a chronically stressed lifestyle can lead to, thanks to the tons of coverage about how stress is bad. But what if stress could be used in a good way? What if we told you that there’s a good kind of stress too. Read on.

Psychology calls it the ‘eustress’. Eustress is the kind of a positive stress one feels and something that can propel us to do a job well. How does the good kind of stress help us?

Gives the Push:

The good kind of stress can push us out of procrastination. Often, we do really good work around deadlines because the push of the stress makes us come up with really good workable ideas. We may wonder why we do our best work when there’s an outside pressure and the reason is that the outside pressure works as the ‘good stress’ that makes us get up and do the work needed. Say for example, a little nervousness, just a little, can lead to a good meeting as the nervousness will ensure we try our best, instead of taking it lightly and not giving our best. 

Being stress-free all the time can lead to stagnation:

While we are encouraged to live in a stress-free state and chronic stress should definitely be avoided, living on the other spectrum of absolutely no stress is not only unrealistic but also not very feasible. Some ‘tension’ is a good thing. Feeling a sense of lack, or feeling a sense that there is more to be achieved is a good thing. It ensures we don’t remain stagnant and continue to find ways to move forward. Or think of it this way: things that are just lying around, not looked after, not stressed after gather up dust. That little stress is needed to brush up the dust.

The little inkling of stress that we are not living up to certain expectations, whether our own or someone else’s ensures we assess our situation and options. If the little stress compels us to invest in a side business, or that little tension that we may fall behind lets us undertake upskilling tasks, then that little stress, the little tension is a good thing, isn’t it?

Being stressed means that we care:

And caring about something is a great quality to have. Again, only if we care about something, whether it is our finances, our career, our family or our personal growth, will we be stressed out about it, and we will take steps to make things better. Or else, it leads to, as we mentioned before, stagnation. The opposite of care is apathy, and apathy not only leads to insensitivity towards our fellow human beings but also a sense of pessimism. ‘Why bother about things, they have always been like this’ isn’t an attitude that can lead to progress, industriousness and the urge to make things better in our own way.

Being stressed is a sign that we care, and instead of running away from the stress, or sweeping it under the carpet all the time, it might lead to something good. Whether it’s a push to come up with great ideas, or the push to change one’s life for the better, one step at a time.

Don’t give up just yet!

If you grew up in a world that didn’t have computers and much modern technology all the time, you probably found many different ways to pass time. One of those would be solving a Rubik’s cube. Solving a Rubik’s Cube can be frustrating, before it gets rewarding. It can test your patience before it can give you a reason to rejoice.

A similar thing can happen beyond a simple game of Rubik’s cube. Things can get worse before they get better. We are often very close to giving up on something and then suddenly, just as we loosen the grip, it all falls into place. Before giving up on anything, it might do us good to keep this in mind: we might be very close to a breakthrough without realising it, even though nothing seems to be working in our favour in that moment.

In addition to the situations when we have been persistently trying hard at something for some time, things can also feel like they are going worse before they get better in scenarios such as changes in operations, management, strategies, and anything new that is implemented. We might feel like the change is not working so far, and hence it must be time to give up on the change and call it a failure.

What can we do to ensure we don’t give up too early?

Be okay with the discomfort of the process: Many of us give up on projects and things when we encounter the discomfort or perception of failure. We might see no results as we pitch in to that client day after day, or we see no results as we continue on a new project, and that absence of an external cue of success can be uncomfortable. The lesson here is to remember that process takes time. We might not realise it, but that client might get impressed by our persistence, and finally agree to our request. Or it takes one tiny breakthrough, built upon the foundations of our earlier hard work on a project, to turn things around. The key is to embrace the discomfort that comes with the process of doing something and not seeing immediate results.

Embrace the journey: It is often an overwhelming focus on the end result that makes us impatient and oversensitive to setbacks. Solving a Rubik’s cube might not be as frustrating if we actually focus on solving it, instead of thinking what a great achievement it would be if we solved it. Embracing the chaos that comes with starting anything new will make us more prepared to deal with the chaos, instead of focusing on negative thinking patterns such as ‘I should never have started this/we should never have decided to introduce this xyz strategy’. Taking it one step at a time, learning from each step, and being curious where our next step takes us and teaches us would be a better mindset to have than being in a rush to get to the end of the task.

Whether ongoing or new tasks or ideas, things might get worse before they get better, because it is after all a process. Processes are rarely smooth, and processes are often rollercoasters with their thrills, drops and highs, disappointments, lessons and tiny achievements before we can end up on the finish line, and look back at the wonderful journey we have had. Don’t give up just yet!