Category Archives: Notes on Life

Are you lying your way through life?

There are those amongst us who are dying a little every day. I don’t know them when I see them but I do know it is a very large number. They are those men and women who are living their lives as lies – they let their dreams fall by the way side as they began to work for large corporates, for paid vacations, for stability. They gave up on their teenage dreams because they fell in love and decided to start a family.

It is so ironic, is it not, that you fall in love with someone because of the dreams they dream, because of the incredible life they see for themselves and yet, as soon as you decide to get together, you almost force the person to give up on that dream because it does not put food on the table each night. It is such a sad story, the story of so many many young couples, who today spend their lives waiting for the next holiday, the next big car, the next new gadget.

All of this because they are quietly dying inside. Of course, you will never know that when you meet them, they seem so happy, so perfect, with their jet-setting lives, you wonder what could possibly be wrong with such people. Yet pick up the papers and you will see, the star couple that till a few weeks ago was being celebrated as the perfect pair are now applying for divorce.

Leading CEOs and their illustrious wives are being accused of murder of their children… seriously, are these signs of a happy, balanced society? Personally, I think not. I believe somewhere in the race to get ahead, to look eternally young, to have the better phone and laptop, to have more followers than all your friends on twitter, you have built yourself a castle of lies and are now stuck inside it.

At this point, I am reminded of a serial I caught bits of recently: on Escobar, the Cuban druglord of the eighties. There is the part where he is on the run and he reaches his father’s home in an unheard of village. His father lets him stay out of courtesy, and there is a scene where Escobar tries to convince his father that he has become a great man. To which his father says, he is ashamed of him, of what he has become.

That is such a truth, it hit me straight in the heart. See, we go from day to day, moving around in our worlds, where we are all heroes to someone. Even Escobar for all his wrongdoings, had fans and people who swore allegiance to him till their last breath.

But this is a make-believe world, that we have created for ourselves. Our social media persona, our blogs, our instagram accounts – through each of these we choose what part of our personalities we want to show the world. The lives that we are living today are uni-dimensional, and so completely out of balance. Every aspect that we share about ourselves, our lunches and dinners with family and friends, the foods we make in our kitchens, the private moments we share with our children… it is all captured with the selfish objective of uploading the images on to the social media.

And those of us who do it regularly have figured out what gets the likes and what does not. To me, we are all constantly manipulating the outside world, put things out that we know others will like, these to me are half-truths. When I see pictures of lunches and dinners with family and friends on public media, I cannot help but wonder how such a private moment of caring justifies being shared with the world. Why? Why would anyone do that? Except to tell others that they hung out with so and so if that person is important, or just to get people to say, Oh Wow!

I have yet to see a negative comment on personal pictures shared, for the simple reason that what happens in your personal life, unless it is an achievement of some kind, does not really matter to the world outside. But uploading these images and getting people to put some silly meaningless comments, I feel one is trivializing the moment and the event. But then that is my perspective, and I come from a world where I had just a handful of friends who knew just some of my secrets.

May be my point of view varies because putting your life out there in the public domain to me appears crass. Most of my social media accounts do not even have my photo in the profile, as I find it embarrassing – I do. I come from the time when you let your actions speak louder than words, and today times have changed.

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Today, you can get shouting from rooftops, long before you have taken even a single step towards your goal. It is called ‘market testing’. And depending on how convincing your spiel is, you are sure to get a few likes, followers, some thumsup and such. I hope one of these days you will begin to realize that this false world is what is killing you. You may have a 1000 fans and yet not one of them may know your deep dark secret. You may have a hundred followers, but nobody you can pick up the phone and chat with when you are feeling low. So what are these people really worth to your real life?

I think those of us who gave up our dreams long ago and now look to this new world to give us acceptance, we absolutely need to figure this out. What are these fans, followers and comments really worth? Are we using these new counts to hide our own deficiencies? Are the happy pictures a cover up for the sadness the world feels inside? Is social media a true mirror of our society or is it just a mirage? Only time will tell.

~ bharti athray

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BEING IN THE NOW

The night was still young, the errant crackers from somewhere faraway still continued to burst in the Diwali sky. I looked at my watch: 2.25 am. I had overhead someone earlier in the evening mention that 10.30 pm was the curfew time for crackers this year. Obviously the message had not gotten around enough.

I sat in the dark of my bedroom, my little boy fast asleep behind me. I sat at the edge of the bed, looking through the glass window and the iron railings beyond it. The fireworks would light up the dark sky and then within seconds it would be dark again. I sat listening to my son’s breath, sometimes light, something a little drawn. The smoke of the crackers had given him a congestion.

As I listened, I slowly began to notice another sound of breathing. I dared not move, because I was afraid I would lose it. As I focused, I realized it was my breath, gently going in and coming out. I sat still, this was one of the few moments I was in the ‘Now’. I wanted it to last forever.

In a while, I began to feel my nerve throbbing at my temple. I watched silently, it had been so long since I had experienced this stillness. The lights in the house on the other side of the road sparkled and twinkled, and I wondered if the throbbing at my temple was keeping pace with the flickering lights.

At last, I heaved a sigh, and lost the throbbing. I could not feel it anymore. My heart beat in my chest and I wondered at the peace that the night full of fireworks had brought. May be the coming year would let me find the stillness more often. I mulled over my routine, wondering how often I could afford to stay up so late and find myself. Just as I tried to sort through the jumble of my mind, another rocket swooshed into the sky at a distance, and burst into 5 different coloured flames. It was a beautiful sight, and I worried about the smoke. The spell was broken, the moment had passed. I was still no more.

~ bharti athray

SO YOU WANT TO DO YOUR OWN THING?

This article is for all those of you out there who have been wanting to strike out and do something of your own: be an author, a painter, a musician, or run an independent business. When you choose to go your own way, without the security of the paycheck, you are choosing to be an entrepreneur. And this article is for each one of you out there! Enjoy.

To go from learning to performing – how quickly can you do that? That is what entrepreneurship is all about. What a lot of wanna-be entrepreneurs do is, after they have their big inspiring idea, they wait around, share it with friends and guess what? It dies a natural death. That’s right.

The problem with entrepreneurship is that it has a huge element of madness in it, a huge amount of risk, where you choose to walk away from your safe haven and strike out into the unknown. 99% of the people you know will tell you what a great idea it is, and yet, how there are a million chances that it will fail.

If you are a wanna-be entrepreneur and have shied away from starting your own venture one time too often, the thing for you to do, is keep your ideas to yourself.

Think out your idea in your head, plan the massive action that you need to take and on a pre-defined day, JUST DO IT. You don’t need approvals, you don’t need suggestions – enterprises are meant to rough it out.

The best thing about most enterprises is that you can start small and keep changing course as you progress in your entrepreneurial journey. So if you are among those that have been watching from the sidelines, keeping your safe little job, well, step out into the rain. That’s where the action is. Get that water on to your skin, soak it in, run with your idea, and run like mad. It is one of the best things about being an entrepreneur – when you are running hard, you can’t hear the naysayers… so you just keep going.

And when you keep at it, rest assured, you will reach your destination one day. Remember, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. The truth is, they can’t, and that’s why they assume you can’t either.

The only voice you need to listen to is the voice that is inside of you. And it will lead you to be the entrepreneur you have always wanted to be. Wishing you the wildest luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

~ Bharti Athray

image source: https://www.pinterest.com/dinglemor/the-joyful-jog/

TOUCHED BY INSPIRATION

It was just one of the long lonely days when I felt I must say something, but had nothing to say. I sat at my computer waiting for the inspiration to arrive. It never did come.

I finally walked away from my computer; out into the lobby of the floor on which my office sat. Sun spilled into the lobby warming my air-conditioned, numb body. I liked walking in the sun, always did. I did a couple of rounds around the block, playing hide and catch with the sun. Finally I had to come back to my table. My break had been a long one.

I sat, remembering the feel of the tropical afternoon sun on my skin and knew inspiration had just reached out to me. This little sharing is the result of that brief walk, my short interlude with the warm afternoon sun. I hope you have yours too, soon.

~ Bharti Athray

Image Source: hisgloryinourstory.com

A DAY TO FORGET

The little girl ran across the road, chasing a small brown puppy she had just fed. Cars on the road screeched as they swerved to avoid the little body running across the road recklessly. I stood at the bus stop nearby, my heart beating fast as I watched the girl narrowly escape accident twice. While the drivers yelled from behind their wheels, she crossed over to the footpath, and managed to get hold of the brown pup.

Her messy ponytails fell forward as she leaned to pick up the jumpy fur ball. She was scolding him for being naughty or so it appeared to me from where I stood. Slowly my heart calmed down, knowing the girl was safe. As the child continued reprimanding her little friend, completely oblivious of the chaos she had caused on the road, the onlookers slowly shook their heads and moved on.

The world returned to its busy-ness.

I wondered at these strange moments of life, where one wrong step, a second’s delay in braking from one of the many drivers could have changed so many lives in an instant. It could have become a day none of us there would ever forget, in a bad sort of a way. But it had not, the girl, her puppy and the drivers were all safe. And the sun shone pleasantly, making this yet another day I would soon forget.

~ Bharti Athray

What is the one thing that you stand for?

We have all heard this a million times over, yet when it comes to implementing the same, somewhere we fail.

In this post, I invite to you to give this question a think: what do you stand for?

I believe if you can find the answer to this question as it applies to the many levels you operate on, in your everyday life, you would be a more successful person than you are today.

The problem is, most of us are trying to be everything to everyone, even when every marketing guru tells us that it is a surefire route to failure. Yet that seemingly safe path is what we pursue.

Today, I invite you to take a few minutes and think out what you stand for in your many circles of influence. And also ask yourself whether that is how the world around sees you.

What do you stand for:

  1. In your family
  2. In your circle of friends
  3. Amongst your colleagues
  4. To your organization
  5. To your clients
  6. To your community
  7. To yourself

Take a close look at the many roles you play and do an honest analysis of whether your world knows what you stand for in each of your circles. At the risk of sounding contradictory, the fact remains that we are all different people in different spaces. But the effort here is to recognize your stance in a given circle and live in truth to that stance.

Build on your belief and let the people know. Make it your identity and let people reach out to you when it comes to specific issues, where your beliefs could provide the solution.

Explore, analyse, stand for who you really are.

I would love to hear from you and know what you stand for in the many areas of life. Leave your answers in the comment box below!

This post was inspired by an article by the famous marketing guru, Al Ries, titled ‘Is There a Marketing Lesson to Be Learned From Donald Trump? Here he shares names of the politicians who worked hard at being everything to the masses and were forgotten.

~ Bharti Athray

Five things I learnt while running my own business

At the advertising agency where I work, I have been a partner for the last 8 years, which is like a pretty long time. During this period, I have gone through a transition from employee mindset to business owner’s mindset. I share these learnings for those of you in the creative space, working as freelancers, as independent creative agencies, and hope you will see the truth in these faster than I did. I had to lose a couple of really good clients, before I began to accept these as entrepreneurial truths.

  1. You never, ever argue with the client. The moment you argue with the client, you have lost her. If you want to get a point across, do so in a calm, composed and civilized manner. Never argue, no matter how friendly your equation is. Never forget, you are still a hired professional.
  2. When at the negotiating table, say nothing. Once you have made your offer, be silent. If the conversation continues, feel free to talk about the actual job and the deliverables, do not approach the numbers talk again. The other person gets the message that you are not willing to negotiate any further.
  3. A client typically hires you for what he thinks you know. Unless you have done some other kind of work for a common contact in his network, it gets a little difficult to upsell a client on your other services. Be ready to prove yourself in another space, when the opportunity (emergency) arises!
  4. Do the thinking for your client. Too often as creative people, we wait for the client to give us a brief and other comprehensive details on the job. In my experience, most of the time the client is really clueless about what he wants.
    He needs to see the draft creative to be able to say, “No, this is not what I was looking for, I want it like this.” I try to think out my clients’ needs as much as possible, so then all he really has to do is make minor corrections / tactical changes.
  5. Be ready to go back to the drawing board. While you are thinking for your client, there is a good chance that you haven’t really understood the client’s perspective on the communications piece. It happens even to experienced teams every once in a while. So after putting in a fortnight of hard work to come up with that brilliant creative, you have to be ready to start again if the client rejects the lot.

What have you learnt during your stint as a freelancer or a self employed creative? Do share your inputs below.