Jack of all trades, master of …..SOME

 

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A while ago, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Ted Talk given by an industryexpert at Western University. His talk revolved around a figure of speech I am sure most of us have heard being thrown around in one-way shape or form—“Jack of all trades, master of none”. However, he had a rather interesting twist on this quote that made up the central theme of his talk—“Jack of all trades, master of SOME”! According to him, an age-old figure of speech, often used with a negative connotation, could be the key to success or at least, the most informed way forward.

Although puzzling at first, I was intrigued by his approach and thought process; perhaps because I somewhat sided, albeit unknowingly at that point, with that approach. It was not until recently though that I have come to truly understand the importance of being a “Jack of ALL trades, and a master of SOME”.

You see, the two parts of the idiom are interconnected, in either iteration of the figure of speech mentioned above, with one part leading to the other. There are quite a few reasons why I think it’s beneficial to be doing multiple things at once or trying out a variety of things. It is what LEADS one to master “some” of those many things.

Firstly, there is the more apparent advantage of being a jack of all trades—It is the best way to find out what lies at our core, by experiencing a variety of things first hand. This could apply to a future career, or a job. They say that the best way to understand what we like is to live it ourselves. Imagine how much of a self-discovery process it must be when we can truly validate all our initial impressions by studying something first-hand. It is an exciting challenge that may well just inform our opinion about that something. Even if we are set on a certain trade or profession from an early point in our lives, experiencing different things always adds to the type of unique qualities one may bring to the table. In retrospect, every life experience adds up and gives you different ways of dealing with problems that we face in our lives. Being a jack of all trades certainly gives you a plethora of tools that someone on a rather direct trajectory may not have even thought about when it comes to problem solving or developing creative solutions.

Secondly, and perhaps less intuitively (but my personal favorite), it gives you an opportunity to manage your time most efficiently. As the nature of the figure of speech suggests, “being a jack of all trades” comes at an opportunity cost of truly mastering one art or skill. However, I have come to realize that doing multiple things at once may just help us increase our productivity. It’s quite simple – when we have just one or two things on our plate, we seem to think that we have all the time in the world to accomplish/complete that certain something. Inadvertently, however, we end up losing track of time, often taking longer than needed to accomplish/complete that thing. Contrastingly, having multiple things on our plate forces us to allocate only a certain amount of time on one task, given there is little “leeway” to begin with. We are forced, out of necessity, to spend only the allotted amount of time on one task. There is a huge opportunity cost of not doing so, inevitable making us more productive and efficient.

Now I know that this is easier said than done and there are lots of caveats to living life with this approach. In fact, the Ted Talk presenter himself laid out some of the cautionary measures one must remember. It is important to recognize  when you must pull out of one thing and go forward with/to something else when trying out different things. To master SOME, a “Jack of all trades” must not delve into something deep enough that it becomes hard to pull out and move forward. The idea is to learn about something enough to make an INFORMED opinion but remain open minded enough to  explore other opportunities without being dead-set on that ONE thing.

Nonetheless, the idea here is to develop a mindset that opens one up to the world full of opportunities, eventually LEADING us to that one job or career or a skill which we MASTER.

It may very well be the time, then, where we start challenging ourselves to be a “Jack of ALL trades, and master of SOME”!

 

 

 

 

 

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Downplaying your problems

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Us humans are unique

We live in a world that is unique

Our problems are unique

So then why aren’t our solutions, UNIQUE?

Or are THEY?

Recently, I have become intrigued by how we cope with the stressors in our lives. We, as humans, face a lot of adversity in our lives—from the mundane traffic jams in our daily commute to work to the heart palpitating news of one of our loved ones succumbing to chronic illnesses such as cancer. We face it ALL. We hear about it ALL. We know firsthand, even if we don’t experience them ALL, about the different stressors that exist in our world and the ones we could potential face in our lifetime.

Over time, we have developed many ways of dealing with these stressors. While everyone has their own unique approach, I’ve recently come to terms with one that may not fly well with everyone.

Consider this: i) you have studied a lot for an exam but the grade that you get does NOT reflect the fruit you were expecting. FRUSTRATING to say the least. OR, ii) you have suffered a recent heartbreak and life seems to have gone haywire – suddenly, all the joy seems to escape you and you keep trying to find reasons to live.

In these situations, the solution often seems distant. BUT what if you developed an attitude where you downplay YOUR problem and be thankful for not being in a situation that could have  been WORSE. Imagine if i) when you failed your exam, you could COPE by telling yourself how you could have failed an entire course or by thinking that there are people in this world that don’t even get the opportunity to go to school, forget feeling distraught for having an opportunity to rectify your mistake, do well in the course overall and still become educated. Imagine if ii) when you suffer that heartbreak you could feel gratitude for the loved ones that ARE in your life and remember that there are people in this world who don’t even have a shoulder to cry on. Wouldn’t it be different if you could experience a sense of relief that you just suffered a heartbreak instead of having a chronic illness that makes you suffer both physically and mentally?

Now I know each problem is unique and comparing it with another is not appropriate. I totally understand that our ability to judge and deal with problems is based on our life experiences. It is very much possible that the extent of one’s problem solving has never extended beyond dealing with traffic jams. Naturally, they would find the traffic jam to be the MOST stressful and wouldn’t even comprehend that there could be anything worse. Everyone has their own capacity and own self-judgement of what they consider to be, a “grave” or a “minor” problem. By no means am I belittling the human capacity to cope or problem solve. It is completely OK to feel distraught in all these situations. All I am asking for is a simple change in attitude to become better at coping with our stressors. I am asking for maintain a mindset that can help us get over our problems faster. I am asking us to become better at being GRATEFUL, for what could have been worse! It could be ONE way to cope. A UNIQUE way, perhaps!

I was once told that our failures don’t define me, but RATHER its the way we deal with those failures that SHAPES our identity!

Certainly then,

Us humans are unique

We live in a world that is unique

Our problems are unique

Our solutions are also, UNIQUE!

“I am not like you; I can’t do/be the same”

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Recently, I’ve been musing over our uniqueness as individuals in our lives, society, and the world. While it’s a true celebration of diversity, acceptance of differences, and something worth applauding for, I wonder if this unique celebration of “self” is slowly becoming romanticized.

First, I must say: I think it is brave that us humans are recognizing the inherent differences that exist even between people of the same race, society or family. I think that has done a lot to uplift one’s self worth and has given another a chance to rise above this constant test our society has made them undergo, constantly comparing them to someone else. It is very important to recognize our differences, be happy with what we have and inculcate the quality of gratitude in this process of acceptance. It’s very much appropriate then, to have someone say, “I am not like you, I can’t do or be the same”.

But see, here-in, lies a conundrum I have been facing. While this quality of accepting our uniqueness is laudable, I wonder if it ever gets into our way of self-development?

You see, what I fear is, when we say, “I am not like you, I can’t do or be the same”, we may be limiting ourselves from reaching our utmost potential. Even worse, we may be stopping ourselves short of even realizing what that potential may be by expanding our horizons! Sometimes, we need to push beyond our capacity to truly understand our capacity and how often we undersell ourselves when we say, “I can’t do or be the same”. Now again, practicing this approach may not be possible a lot of the times because of how unique we are as individuals. I get that! But, this mentality or attitude is necessary in times when we HAVE recognized that there is a quality or a trait exemplified by someone else which may be worth implementing in our own lives, and are yet falling short of doing so because of this acceptance that, “I am not like you”.

At the end of the day, what it boils down to is having the “will” to change. The path illuminates itself, thereafter. Think about all the great women and men we have grown up watching/ hearing about. What purpose do their lives serve if we all accept our limitations and never seek inspiration from their willingness to attempt the impossible, change what they thought was their inevitable, and become better than their previous self? Would Helen Keller be Hellen Keller had she said, “I am not like you, I can’t do the same” or would Lebron James be Lebron James had he watched Micheal Jordan or Kobe Bryant and told himself he can never attempt to do the same because he is not like them? They sought inspiration in others to get them to achieve their highest potential.

And so, how can WE ever know if we are destined for greatness when we keep accepting our limitations in the form of our uniqueness—I leave it up to you to ponder upon, the next time you stop yourself to say, “I am not like you, I can’t do or be the same”!

The Infamous Travel Bug

ppsOh how the travel bug is everywhere!

If you are in your twenties or thirties or any other age group really, more likely than not, I am positive you find yourselves in situations where people come up to you and ask whether you like to travel or inquire about your next destination. If that does not happen, I am sure you know people around you who are always talking about this topic. People often claim these years to be some of the finest of our lives, and so, it’s important we take the time to explore the world. Of course, being part of this society, I too, was adamant on travelling and exploring the world. I didn’t want to miss out on such an experience. And so, I started saving up for my next trip. Luckily enough, I was able to go on two different trips within a span of a year.

Now here is why the travel bug is interesting. After booking both of the trips, all of us that were going on those trips (which were quite different altogether) got busy with our lives. It becomes hard to get excited about the trip amidst our daily life struggles. You find yourselves planning for all the things that need to get done after the trip even before going to the trip. In both instances, we had a hard time acknowledging that we were at our destination the next moment. We were supposed to be in a different mindset, which happened only gradually as we went about our travelling plans and touring the destinations.

Oh how the travel bug changes your perspective

Skipping to the end of our trips, on the plane back to Toronto, I was reflecting upon our trips and trying to make sense of the type of experiences I had on both of the trips. Both were vastly different. Our first trip involved a lot of struggle as we lost some of our valuables along the way and had to change our travel plans accordingly. I still remember how tensed and stressful the situation was while we were going through that experience. We hated the fact that we missed out on some of the places on our itenary, and of course weren’t too happy about the extra cost we encountered. Our second trip was really smooth, with no such troubles. Everything worked out as planned.

BUT looking back at it, none of that matters. Although we had a bad experience on the first trip, it still translated into valuable lessons and memories. In fact, after having gone through a smooth experience on the second trip, it almost seems as if the first trip was more memorable because of the troubles we faced. THAT is the process of discovery that I think makes travelling worthwhile. We learn to make compromises, we learn about ourselves and we learn about others. More importantly, we learn how travelling is not just about the places you visit, but also about the people you embark on those experiences with.

From our second trip, I realized the value of living in the moment. It is amazing how we wish to hold onto every single moment while we are away on a vacation but often find ourselves looking forward to the next big ‘event’ or day in our daily lives.  We try to make sense of every single thing around us and try to introspect the meaning of every moment as it willfully passes in front of us while we are away on a vacation. In our usual lives, we don’t even stop to think about whether we had lunch or dinner even. Which is quite alright, and again that IS WHY the travel bug is important.

And then of course there’s the humbling feeling you get when you understand the reality of it—the idea of “this too shall pass”. When we were going through the awful (not so much anymore) experience on our first trip, the only thing that kept us together and kind of excited was the temporality of the experience. It was soon going to be over and become a ‘cool’ story to tell people. When I was going through the smooth experience on our second trip, I was trying to cherish every moment because I knew it would soon be over. I was afraid of not living in the moment and losing out on an incredible experience.

Oh how the travel bug is interesting!

With that, as we plan to escape to our next destinations, it’s very important to be open to the experiences we have while we are away but more importantly, it’s necessary to bring them back and implement them in our daily lives because, as I said, the travel bug can also be LIFE CHANGING!

An ode to womanhood

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This is a short expression of gratitude to my mom and other women in my life who have set up a great example of what it means to be a woman and continue to do so ever so gracefully.

 Having been lucky to grow up in a family with powerful woman figures, I always found it surprising and a bit confusing to relate to societal qualms of placing women at the same level as men in all spheres of life. To me, it was rather simple – both men and women actively played a part in running the household, finances, taking care of the family, and other societal matters.

With age, however, as I started to expand beyond my limited sense of the world, I noticed a different story unfold altogether. It was rather NOT that simple. I realized two things: 1) women who had created that equal space for themselves faced a lot of struggle getting there, and 2) women who were unable to create that equal space, albeit for reasons usually beyond their control, were considered subordinate. It was apparent that our society, and us men, were able to, for the most part, respect women that ‘MADE it’ (whatever that is based on societal standards), especially if that woman happened to be someone of our own, but had a hard time channelling that same respect towards women that took upon roles considered to be not so ‘powerful’ in our society. Research shows that only men with strong maternal figures and daughters are likely to understand the struggle and accept the value of women in our lives.

Which got me thinking – maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. Why is it that a woman who is a homemaker seen as a different individual altogether than a working woman? Why do we need a powerful woman figure in our own lives to realize the importance of a woman in our society? What if we viewed the role of a woman differently? Could that change the society’s perspective and help us understand ‘their’ struggle?

You see, ultimately, there is a huge common ground between the two types of women (and the difference really is a societal construct) I talked about earlier. All of them have endured enormous amounts of SACRIFICE and continue to do so fulfilling their respective roles. Yes, the type of sacrifice may differ amongst individuals. A homemaker may not have to constantly prove her worth in an office boardroom filled with a plethora of men, but she still has to constantly struggle with proving her worth beyond the household. She still has to sacrifice when it comes to making decisions about her family. And she still sacrifices when she puts her interests after the interests of others around her. WHAT I am arguing here is to simply realize this very quality of a woman, which can be humbling enough to help us realize their struggle and more importantly understand their potential.

Once again, I have been lucky to have come to this realization through an example set up by my mother, but I don’t think it’s a requirement that absolves people who fail to understand their struggle in the first place—for we, as humans, do and should have the capacity to introspect and express our gratitude only after which, can we truly change the way society will progress.

Nurturing an open mind

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I have recently come across a question, which until now was crystal clear in my mind.

What nurtures an open mind?

If I were to go out on the streets and ask someone random, the first answer would be “education”. And rightfully so! I think I would conclude the same.

Education is undoubtedly effective in nurturing an open mind because it provides perspective. It helps an individual develop the ability to reason and ration things out. More importantly, it provides one with the knowledge to accept the unknown and accept their limitations. It helps one realize that one’s worldview is limited, and hence there is space for differing opinions to exist.

However, most of the world is now becoming more and more educated (baring a few exceptions that I don’t intend to talk about here), and yet, we still find ourselves unable to accept the unknown and truly nurture an open mind.

Why is that? This is where my conundrum led me to think about the basics of this problem. What makes people who are uneducated nurture an open mind? How can we explain what an open mind even means to someone who has not received any sort of education in their life? Certainly, there are people in the world that are still able to nurture and think with an open mind without any sort of education. There must be an answer!

Well, I think that answer may just lie in the root value of being human – that is developing and maintaining “relationships”. I am sure we have all heard, countless times, that “man is a social animal”. Yet, I find it amusing how this simple sociological concept is evading our consciousness slowly but surely.

Now allow me to explain why I think the answer to the question I posed above lies in this concept of developing and maintaining relationships as I reckon it’s not the most intuitive. What I want to emphasize here is how the concept of relationships can go beyond the limits of education as a transformative tool in nurturing an open mind – a dire necessity in our rapidly progressive world.

A true selfless relationship with a fellow human being is a type of education in itself. When we share our life experiences with others around us with whom we share different types of relationships, we are adding to an infinite pool of resources. I recently came across a Ted Talk given by a young entrepreneur who goes around the world, meeting and staying with elderly people to gain insight from their life experiences and transform them into tangible ideas that help our societies develop. When you meet and connect with someone, you instantly learn about how there are multiple ways of ‘living’ life and feel humbled by the things you have yet to learn or experience. In addition, building relationships also teaches you a lot about yourself. Often times, you have to step outside your comfort zone when reaching out to that other person or even when maintaining that relationship. This is where growth occurs. This is when you learn to adjust your opinions, your lifestyle, your thoughts and your actions based on the other person. This is where you realize the limits of your own ‘self’ and learn how different people channel their inner strengths and weaknesses, which in return, help us go beyond our cognitive biases .

See the issue is, education, although vast in its reach, is limited by the very notion of its complexity and timeliness. It is hard to educate someone who has been taught a certain way from the time they were able to reason, and it is equally hard to educate someone after a certain point by which they have lost their ability to accept flexibility and dynamicity in what is being taught. This is where relationships, which are purely based on the power of emotion, can provide that fluidity in someone’s thoughts. To put things into perspective, we are more inclined to try a certain thing act a certain way, or think a different way, regardless of our reservations against it, when a friend, a close family member, or someone who we respect a lot , asks us to!

Now of course I am not arguing against any sort of higher education or arguing for limiting your formal education. My point is to simply think on a basic level to allow ourselves to grow beyond the constraints of the society. I realize that what I am proposing here is very difficult to practice.  In practicality, it is simply impossible to go out of our busy lives and try to develop and maintain such relationships, but I promise it is definitely WORTH thinking about!

 

Bridging the generational gap

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All of us possess some sort of control over whom we become friends and spend time with. We don’t necessarily get such options when it comes to our family. There is no selection, which seems to make us unhappy at times. Perhaps this forceful acceptance and a generational gap make us exclude our family members from our inner circle as we grow up. They simply don’t make the “cut” when it comes to discussing some of our personal matters.

 Now picture, for a moment, two hypothetical scenarios of two individuals who have a different relationship with their family:

 Jack – Jack has a wonderful loving family. He is showered with love and has a very open relationship with his parents. They talk about everything that goes around in each other’s lives. Jack’s parents respect Jack’s individuality and freedom yet demand respect from him. Similarly, Jack’s opinions are counted in family matters and a sense of hierarchy does not exist in their relationship. They share all personal matters with each other and value each other’s opinions.

 John – John, on the other hand, also has a wonderful family. He is showered with love but does not have a very open relationship with his parents and family. He chooses to keep his personal life to himself and has a hard time opening up to his parents. He considers his parents as figures of authority more than equals in a relationship. John’s attitude has made his parents question his choice of friends, are cautious about his actions, and worse, are losing trust in John, who is losing his independence.

 These two strikingly contrasting stories present the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy that I believe changes our relationship with our family when we fail to include them in our inner circle and bridge the generational gap.  

 Which brings me to think about the reasons why John ended up in a situation that is different than Jack’s — what can people in John’s position do to bring out the best in their familial relationships?

 Coming from a South Asian background where children tend to pursue a higher education than their parents, the biggest reason for this divide stems from our misrepresentation of what it means to be “educated”. Yes, we may have become better equipped with handling today’s technology and can reason out things better than our parents, but we fail to realize that life is a very big teacher. Having lived longer than us, our families possess a unique sense of appreciation for life and knowledge that we can gain from. The reason why I bring this up is to simply start a conversation – to have a point that can inspire a point of connection necessary in bridging this generational gap.

 Simply put: it is only ‘us’ that can bridge that gap by discussing and maintaining an open channel of communication. How can we expect our family and parents to understand our point of views and our lifestyle if we always keep them in the dark and exclude them from our lives?  

 Another reason why we may be cautious of having such an open relationship with our family is because of their heavy emotional involvement in our lives. And I GET THAT! None of us would like to see our family members emotionally disturbed because of ourselves. But another side of the story is that our families know our strengths and weaknesses and know the right ways to support us when needed. One has to take a leap of faith and give them the opportunity to show us their rational side.

 Talk to them about your day, talk to them about your friendships, your relationships and your career. Involve them in your decisions and tell them about your day-to-day hurdles – only then will they be able to reciprocate and understand your way of living and your way of thinking.

 What I am saying here is that it is the mentality of considering your family as ‘friends’ more than anything can change John’s outcome and help him develop a meaningful relationship with his family. Only an open form of communication can bridge the generational gap. It is important to realize that at the end of the day, every family has problems/issues. Nonetheless, having a family is a blessing and running away from them, instead of embracing them wholeheartedly, is not only ignorant but adding fuel to the self-fulfilling prophecy.