Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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Am I the best Dad? I think I am not!

Today, on Father’s Day, my daughter gave me a wonderful gift. Yes, every father has a day! I was glad, not because of the beautiful gift (see my article ‘Who hates gifts?’) but the effort my daughter took to grab extra pocket money from me to go to the nearby shop alone the other day telling that she needed to buy some stationery urgently. 

The question that I asked her looking at the gift and reading the words on it, irritated her a bit. Her elder brother also joined her in the displeasure on posing that to her. I had asked: ‘Am I the best Dad?’ They both joined together and attacked me for asking such a ‘stupid’ question. Though my son was angry with his sister for deliberately omitting his name in the greeting card, he supported his sister and was vehement that I shouldn’t have asked such a question to her when she took so much pain to get beautiful gifts to mark the occasion.

I clarified my statement with a supplementary one and that made them angry further. I told them that I didn’t think I am a great father.

Why I said that I am not the best?

How can I be the best dad, when I always put an inflexible cap on the expenditure for your birthday dress and never allowed to have a birthday party the way most of your friends had?

How can I be the best dad when I used to not support your case when there was a dispute with your mother over selection of an item during shopping? Being a minor you had to agree to the ‘wisdom’ of the old. (Read about my shopping skills here)

How can I be the best when I used to yell to wake you up when you sleep comfortably in your cozy bed in the morning?

How can I be the best when I used to force you to have vegetables and other dishes that you don’t like? (Despite me keep changing the food preferences: See my confusion here)

How can I be the best when I used to show a grumpy face to you after meeting your teachers? (Read  the domestic situation after every parents-teachers meet)

How can I be the best when I said you don’t require spectacles when you insisted on a pair because you can’t see the letters on the board and all your pretty classmates have them. (Read 'An eye-opening stray thoughts'

How can I be the best when I shouted at you for not making your bed and cleaning your room, even when there was a housekeeper to do that?

How can I be the best when I used to sit in judgment over you watching your favourite TV channels? (Read about this:  My son don't watch the news )

How can I be the best when I screamed at you when you raised your voice just like me, learning from me?

How can I be the best when I refused to budge your desire to have a better car? (See the arguments on the car here)

How can I be the best when I stopped you from sending you for your favourite games?    (See Why? )

How can I be the best when I used to tell you to interact with grand uncles and grand aunts instead of gluing to internet? ( See Go back to roots )

How can I be the best when I used to be very stringent regarding your extent of exposure in the social media? (See these:  10 unpleasant facts about Facebook.   Privacy in a snooping world. Your privacy at risk in Google)

Tell me, with all these unreasonable restrictions, am I a best Dad?

© Sibichen K Mathew    Views are personal      Comments welcome

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Are you suffering from advice overdose?

More than all vitamins, proteins and other nutrients, we are forced to consume loads of advice every day in life. Every other thing may be costly, scarce or out of reach; but not advice. There are many advisors all around. You started hearing them since the day you formed in your mother’s womb. I am sure you woke up abruptly from your sleep in the cozy cradle hearing the high sounding advice.  It continues all through your life - the worst would be the teenage years: Every uncle who comes home, every neighbor who monitors from her gate your entry and exit, and every stranger you see on the road end up advising you for no reason. Then it takes a dip and after a while starts pouring in once you are in the employable and marriageable age. Once you are settled, you take the baton and start advising others. It goes on.

Look who is talking??

I also sometimes get into an unnecessary and unwarranted advisory mood. Every New Year eve I resolve not to advise anyone that year. But I tend to get into an advising mode within hours. Why do I think that it is my responsibility to advise every person who spends a few minutes with me? It is absolutely foolish to believe that the other person sincerely adores the wisdom flowing from the other end! Why do I feel that it is my responsibility (who delegated that to me first of all??) to give suggestions regarding someone else’s future? Utter nonsense!!

Unsolicited advices

The worst is the tendency to shower unsolicited advice on all and sundry. It could be a co-passenger or a person standing next to you in the queue to get a ticket or boarding pass. Or it could be the impatient one waiting along with you to get his hair cut on a Saturday morning. There are many categories of unsolicited advice givers.

source for image:
Advisor heroes

It is said that if someone is not good at doing something, he will be selected as a teacher to teach that subject. If he fails as a teacher, he will be given the role of a preacher. If he fails in that, they would make him an advisor. (I was given the designation ‘advisor’ in an organization, perhaps for my failure in the earlier roles!). We can tolerate occasional advisors but not the so called advisor heroes.  Who is an advisor hero? Advisor hero is the one who boastfully narrates how he has done differently in every occasion and got success. He would be categorical to project as one person who has never tasted failure because of his infinite wisdom and intelligence. The approach of this category of advisors is in contrast to those advisors who are honest enough to share their failures and suggest lessons from such experiences. Advisor heroes will create a sense of inferiority complex in the other persons rather than motivating them.

Advisor kings

The advisors under this category consider themselves generous kings. They give an impression that they are doing a great favour by giving unsolicited advice. They not only give advice but also go on telling others about the advice given to particular persons. They compromise on the trust and confidentiality to get cheap publicity and undue recognition.

Omniscient advisors

There is another unique breed of advisors who consider themselves expert in every subject under the sun. I had come across a young unmarried omniscient male advisor (not a medical practitioner) who can even give expert advice to married women on subjects such as menstrual problems, pregnancy care and breast feeding. Next moment he will be talking on how Reserve Bank Governor messed up the money market regulations. His shallowness doesn’t permit others to ask any questions to him. He would definitely run away to another place to shower his advice.

Advice and social media

From early morning to late night, one is bombarded with ‘words of wisdom’ forwarded by people. Many times, just into a few lines of that long text, we tend to worry why the sender himself never thought of following the advice in the first place. If someone posts an experience or a thought in social media, that does not necessarily mean that the person is trying to seek an advice. Sometimes we tend to give advice in the form of comments that may not be the intent of the post and the discussion might go into an altogether different direction.

Advising in front of others

Even a psychiatrist or a psychologist prefers giving advice in secret to the person who needs advice. But some passionate advisors will give advice in public to particular person. One could see in trains and in public places, the loud voice of advisors who generously wish that ‘let others also pick up a few drops of my valuable wisdom’. There are many amateur advisors who would like to advise the parents in the presence of children, wife in the presence of husband and vice versa, managers in the presence of their subordinates etc.

99% of advice are unproductive

Most of the psychologists and counsellors would become jobless if this truth is known to the entire world. Apart from those career, managerial or technical advice, most of the advice showered by the ‘advisors’ are aimed at changing the personality or behavioural pattern of another person. But it has been scientifically proved that substantial part of an individual's personality, character and behavioural traits are based on genetic factors and rest is through environmental factors. But the environmental factors have strong influences on a person only when she or he is a child of age 5 or less! That means, even parents, relatives, teachers, friends or social institutions cannot bring in any lasting change on a person at a later stage. They can only bring in incremental changes! (But in some cases, even a small change is a big relief for the community). Therefore, the energy and effort we take in actions aimed at drastically changing another person is unproductive because that can’t result in anything enduring. It is an irony that everyone is on a frantic mission to change the other person rather than trying to adjust to the predicaments they are in. Advice overdose will make the other person more defensive and make him escape from you. Ultimately the relationships get strained.

You will become a good listener when you put a halt to your advising temptation

This is indeed an information pushing world. Everyone receives huge gigabytes of information thrown on them from various online or offline sources and from different cross sections people. They want to instantly (many times without even reading) share them with other target groups. Even in private conversations, there would be a tendency to dominate the interaction by throwing the information and ideas to the other person rather than listening to her or him. There is a tendency to advice before even hearing the other person. When we control the temptation to advise the other person, we will become good listeners and will become more acceptable to others. People look for those who listen to them patiently rather than those who pour them with advice without understanding them.

Don’t give it FREE! Charge them if you can

If you are an expert (authenticated by community standards through degrees and recognition) and if you strongly feel that you have a better solution at hand (sometimes, degrees alone would not give you expertise), then share your knowledge with those who specifically ask for it and charge them adequately, unless there is a charitable cause or the person deserves a complimentary advice. Free advice is generally not acted upon as people may not value it. There are many free seekers of professional advice. They would go to many advisors at a time akin to a market survey. It is good; as long as they are ready to incur the costs. If we approach a professional advisor, we should be willing to adequately compensate him for the time devoted, even if he is a friend or a relative, unless that person refuses to take it.

The problem for the writers and bloggers

For a priest, a preacher or a teacher, unsolicited advice are part of their mission and they don’t have a choice. They are very much in the profession of advising. But even in such cases, too much of unsolicited advising would be counterproductive.

Writers of fiction can survive without giving any advice. Stories, paintings, poems and cartoons need not contain a ‘moral of the story’ or a ‘piece of wisdom’. But for writers of non-fiction and bloggers of social causes in particular, there is a necessity to take the writing to a logical conclusion. And conclusions invariably contain as few suggestions as well. Therefore my blogs also turn into an advisory mode at the end because analysis of a subject without conclusion and suggestion is not appropriate when dealing with non-fiction themes.

Let us stop the temptation of giving unsolicited advice.  But let us always be willing to share our thoughts if the other person is sincerely wishing that from us.  

© Sibichen K Mathew                                  Views are personal. Comments welcome


Deepak Justin: Training minds with indomitable spirit

This young man who always clad in designer headscarf is not an ordinary showman, though one would tend to infer that from one glance. Look at him more closely; you will find in the twinkling of his eyes the power to radically transform you. Listen to him keenly; you will get elated to a stage where you start loving your life and people around you. Move with him in close proximity, you find the simplicity, humility and compassion overflowing from the persona that would reverberate on you instantly. He is Deepak Justin, the trainer, the speaker, the thinker, the short film maker and an amazing human being.

His friends and fans affectionately call him DJ. His trainees compete to take selfies with him. What is the magic behind this charismatic personality? If I need to express it in a few words, I would say ‘A man who can lift the spirit of others with his own indomitable inner convictions’. No wonder he has trained more than 1,00,000 people in the last 15 years. More than 50 multinational companies have chartered him for training their executives and managers not only in soft skills but also in ideas and philosophies that can make them socially conscious individuals.

It is not the titles that indicate his outstanding academic achievements in Management or Public Relations that are widely noted. He is popularly known as "The Silver Tongued Orator”, "The International Poet of Merit", "The Toastmasters International District 92 Champion for 2016 and 2018". He has the potential to get conferred on him many more such titles in the near future.

Vedavathi DYR was born dwarf, grew up to be 3 ft 9 inches and she move around in her crutches since she has a damaged spinal cord and problematic back. Without availing reservation, she became an officer in a nationalized bank. She volunteered with St Vincent De Paul, an organization which works for the poor, to uplift the people who are socially and economically weaker. She had one more dream: To become an effective speaker. She was fortunate to meet Deepak Justin. He along with his friend Vinay Kamath, made her a versatile speaker in no time. There are many such examples where the silver tongued orator created golds out of raw metals. People who thought that they can never speak for an audience got transformed themselves to be effective communicators on and outside the stage. DJ says: “Dreams are a reality, because so many of my dreams have come true”. From where he gets the power? DJ often delves into his life and meditates on the inside for a significant insight.

Whether public speaking is a domain reserved only for those who are products of English medium convent schools? Can our less privileged students in government schools trained to be good speakers? Two NGOs, ‘Dream a Dream’ and ‘Ashwin Foundation’ coordinated with Deepak Justin a few years back to train the bright and hardworking students who were from the lower economic background in a government school. He narrated about the experience in following words: ‘There is a butterfly waiting in every cocoon. It was a gratifying experience to see the metamorphosis in them’.

DJ can deliver a motivational talk for hours based on just one scene from a movie. In a leadership training program he imparted a series of life lessons from a scene in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. He says, ‘I fall in love with the audience whenever I speak’. He likes to read biographies of successful people. He found that they became successful because they faced challenges and hardships. They faced discouragements – from friends and relatives, who thought that their ideas were insane. But they endured and listened only to their ‘inner soul’ and ‘inner voice’.

He shared once with his friends this incredible experience of meeting and interacting with an amazing lady from France named Madame Marie Jeanne Schmidt. She had lost her sense of vision since 40 years. ‘She wakes up every morning, goes to online prayer center to pray for the needy, the sick, the destitute and the deprived all over the world. She told me: “Even if a World War III broke out, I would know how to brace it”. When I told her, “ Marie, you have a wonderful smile”, she smiled and said, “I would never know, because it is more than 40 years since I have seen my own face” ‘. This is very relevant to a world where people go on a beautifying spree spending huge sums of money to make their appearances artificially attractive!

Anyone who sees Deepak would be very inquisitive to know why he is always clad in a stylish and colourful headscarf. Celebrities like to have their own unique signature attire. My first question to him when we had a long conversation was on this. He said: ‘I suffer from a disorder called Trigeminal Neuralgia. Triggers cause the trigeminal nerve to get excited and bring shooting pain to the face. The pain is so unbearable at times that it is called the "Suicide Disease" and people give up. Unfortunately there is no cure for the same. I have tried it all for the past 4 years.  I wear the headscarf to avert some of the triggers like the air conditioner, wind blowing into my hair etc.’ What a sweet smile he has on his face when he shared this! He started an online support group for those suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia and related disorders that cause excruciating pain.

What is the healing take of DJ on the pain some of us experience due to ailments?

‘The pain teaches valuable lessons. Pain can make you either stronger or stranger depending on how you respond to it. Pain can make you a Riddler or a Raider in the Ark of Life. Pain can give you a sleepless night or an awakening of dawn depending on what you learn from it’.

I asked a few more questions on who he is, what he does and what he feels. Let us hear his responses:

How do you convert the adversities you faced in your life to your strengths?
I believe in the credo that "In the midst of every adversity lies an equivalent or a greater opportunity"
Challenge is only an opportunity that we did not ask for. So I accept challenges and work on them consciously. I model the best in the craft. I read a lot. As a skill based trainer myself, I consciously put an effort to see what areas of my life need to change to overcome the adversity. If skills are required then I acquire the skills; if knowledge is required then I acquire the same. If a change of attitude is required then I work towards the same.

What were the key inspirations for you in life? What way they made a difference in your life?
As Tennyson says in Ulysses, "I am a part of all that I met".
I draw inspiration from people, from movies, from books, from real life heroes and above all the infinite force from the heavens above, whose grace alone is sufficient at most times

After crossing the levels at Club, Area, Division and District, you are all set to compete with other Toastmasters in the world championship of public speaking. What are the attributes of a good public speaker?
A good speaker in public is a good thinker in private. There are two ways to nurture that. Attract good thoughts by reading or listening to good thinkers. Secondly develop a discipline of articulating those thoughts into capsules that make it easily palatable for the audience.

What are the common mistakes you see in bad speech deliveries?
i) No preparation/rehearsals
ii) Lack of substance (or worse content that everyone knows). Ignorance of communication basics leaves alone the application of the same.

What are the unique habits you follow that can be inspirational for others?
I remain inspired always. I stay positive. I attract positive thoughts. I try and see good in people and try to spread smiles wherever I go.

You are a successful corporate trainer. What makes you very popular among the corporates? How do you enjoy the engagement with them?
I truly care for my participants. I reach out to them both at their personal and professional level. Participants find me affable.
I inspire them to go for their impossible dreams. I make my programs as interesting and as entertaining too in a world that is straitjacketing itself into boring routines

What soft skills you consider important for the present day employees and managers?
Lower level employees need functional and technical skills besides basic interpersonal skills.Middle to senior level employees need more people skills, communication and networking skills.Senior most executives need visionary skills.

Do you have any regrets?
All the chances that I did not take are my regrets

Any advice to youngsters?
Only advice is to be young forever. And to be young, continue to have the same enthusiasm, energy, curiosity, exploring mind, tender heart, lofty dreams and risk taking ability forever.

Deepak, wife Maya and baby Arian

What is your favourite game, food, prayer habits, film or book.....
Prayer - I commence every task with a prayer. I believe that more things are possible through prayer than what the world dreams of.
Film - I am huge movie buff. I watch at least 3 movies per week. So the list of favorite films is too exhaustive. Someday would like to make a full length feature film too
Book - My second best companion. My favorite book is The Holy Bible. It is the best work of literature, poetry, motivation, prophecy, history and above all reinforcement of goodness and kindness.

Persons like DJ can motivate us to excel amidst all adversities. But he asks us whether we really need someone to motivate us? ‘If we don’t keep ourselves inspired, encouraged, uplifted, joyful, connected and cognizant, who will?’ 

Yes, we need to listen to the inner voice and inner soul more often!

                  © Sibichen K Mathew                Views are personal. Comments welcome

Want to read about more such great persons? Read following articles

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