Of Gods and Men: Who We Idolize and Why?

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Athletes, actors, revolutionaries, musicians, politicians, leaders of men or your own parents – we’ve all had an idol or a role model. Or for those like me who refuse to “idolize” another human, this may be a fictional character – Howard Roark from The Fountainhead in my case.

Christiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer, Mahatma Gandhi vs. Nelson Mandela, the debate of the biggest idol in their own field will always go on. And to each of us, the answer is different. I wonder what is the psychology that goes behind who we idolize, and why we choose them?

I have tried to categorize these idols into 5 broad buckets, each that appeals to certain inherent characteristics of the human psychology.

  1. The Gods or the Immortal Legends
    If tennis was a religion, Roger Federer would be God, if football was a religion, Lionel Messi would be God, if music was a religion, Mozart would be God
    – you get the idea. These are the idols that stem from the inherent need to worship a higher form of being, the desire to see the embodiment of perfection, that is beyond reach for the common man.
    This is the person who is the gold standard in their field and a level of expertise that almost elevates them to the level of a demigod. These individuals are often gifted with innate talent or skill that is often seen as “God’s or nature’s gift” and their art comes naturally to them.
    You may love them or hate them, but there is an undeniable effortlessness associated with them, so much so that it is almost unfair.
    They don’t have fans, they have disciples. You can’t as humans aspire to be them, because they’re immortal legends and all you can do is draw vicarious pleasure from seeing them excel at what they do.
  2. The Warriors or the Mortal Legends
    These are individuals who are in most cases equals to the Gods in their own right, but they’re not really Gods themselves. They’re warriors and mortals who have by the sheer strength of their determination and hardwork, been able to overcome what they lack in natural talent. They cater to man’s need to “believe they can”. These are admired because these are one of us – they give the belief that if you set your mind to something you can achieve anything.
    Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Tennis, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in Cricket, Christiano Ronaldo in Football. You can aspire to be them and noone will blame you for dreaming. They’re within reach yet on their own pedestal.
  3. The Revolutionaries or Rebels
    These are men and women who had the courage and strength to stand against the norm, against the collective, and were brave enough to challenge social conventions. The Che Guevaras, Mahatma Gandhis, Nelson Mandelas, Rani Lakshmibais, Malala Yousafzais of the world.
    They are the embodiments of that revolutionary spirit and that rebel that lives inside all of us. They are ordinary men and women who stood against the world – alone, and won against all odds and changed the course of history.
  4. First-Generation Heroes
    Self-made success is the kind of success that everyone strives for and looks up to. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than a true rags to riches story, a champion who won the battle of life against all odds and circumstances. These are truly heroes and again, much like the warriors, give you belief. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, and many others are admired because their success is their own and they built it from scratch.
  5. The Idols at Home i.e. Parents
    This discussion would be incomplete if I did not mention the first idols every child has – the parents. To a child, the parents are the true embodiment of everything that is right and desirable in this world. That notion may change or the conviction may weaken as one grows up, but to many of us, our parents will probably always remain the biggest idols.
    The natural explanation for that is sheer love and respect, of seeing up close every struggle, every triumph and the fact that most parents devote a majority of their lives in bringing up their children. And so the admiration, and desire to be just like them stems from this love and respect.

An Abecedarian of Life

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Alphabet is the mother of language
Brushstrokes conspire to create a picture
Cultures truly shape society
Diversity defines all parts of nature
Empathy strengthens humanity
Friendship gives life meaning
Gratitude teaches appreciation
Humility keeps us grounded
I’s combine to form a We
Justice has its own timeline
Karma catches up to us all
Love is the supreme feeling
Mind is an infinite canvas
No is a necessary evil
Opinion is everyone’s right
Poetry is a song of the soul
Qualities are a man’s adjectives
Revolution is born out of oppression
Silence isn’t always golden
Time is your most precious commodity
Unsaid remain the most profound thoughts
Vicarious are a reader’s pleasures
Words are the most powerful weapons
Xenophobia has no place in this world
Yet we need to preach and teach diversity
Zero is the absolute truth.

My First Haiku: Stillness of Silence

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For the uninitiated (like I was until a couple of days ago), a Haiku is a Japanese poem containing 17 syllables with three lines in a 5-7-5 format. There are also other technicalities of a traditional Haiku – I am no expert, and probably don’t intend to be but I thought I’ll take a shot at it.

Some of the best Haikus can be found all over the internet, mostly from traditional Japanese poets. And without much ado here’s mine!

Stillness of silence,
Then the chaos of a scream
And silence again.

If Feelings had Faces…

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Have you ever wondered, if feelings had a face,
would each have a certain characteristic, shape, form or race?

I think I’ve seen the purest joy when a child reunites with his mother,
when there is nothing in the world they wouldn’t give to be with one another.

I think I’ve seen the deepest sorrow when a life is lost before its time,
when the world just seems unfair, and without reason or rhyme.

I think I’ve seen the ugliest hatred in the perpetrators of discrimination,
when it drives a human to put another through unjust humiliation.

I think I’ve seen the worst greed when the rich steal from the poor,
when money is all they see and are blinded by its false allure.

I think I’ve seen the most extreme anger when someone is betrayed,
when someone shakes the foundation of trust that over years had been laid.

I think I’ve seen eternal hope when all else seems to fail,
and nothing short of a miracle can get you out of jail.

I think I’ve seen the most unconditional love in selfless sacrifice,
when possessing ceases to be the goal, just the other’s happiness does suffice.

The Blue-Eyed Woman

He stepped out from his car, and with the door still half open, he looked up at what was to be his new abode for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t much but it would do the job for a single guy in his late 20’s with no real liabilities or baggage.

He had no baggage, both physical or emotional, because he had decided to leave it all behind when he had told his parents he was going to move on from the only place he had ever known all his life.

He had grown up in a little country town, having lived with his parents until he’d gotten a job at 21, and had felt obligated to move out and live on his own, even though his parents would like nothing more than him choosing to stay with them as long as he liked. But he needed to feel grown up, and of course, there was also the matter of Cassie, his childhood sweetheart who he’d promised to move in with as soon as he’d managed to get a job that was good enough for the both of them. Having gotten a college degree in business, he had joined a local factory as their payroll manager, not exactly the best job that he could get, but it was enough to pay for his rent and provide a decent living for both him and Cassie. Cassie was still 19 when they decided to move in and she chose to live her life in the moment, without a care in the world. Their families had known each other a long time, as was common in such a small town, and had seen Randy and Cassie grow up together, always fond of each other, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they’d one day marry and have a family of their own.

But this was today, 7 years on, and what seems like the most natural progression of events, doesn’t always turn out that way. Randall Jones, Randy or RJ, as his friends called him fondly, had moved on from his hometown to a city, in what he’d told his family was a move to make better use of his college degree as he’d landed a job with a big textile company as their marketing manager.

But all it really was, was a desperate and last attempt at moving away from everything that reminded him of Cassie, who had one fine day disappeared and left, without a reason or explanation or even the courtesy of informing him or leaving behind any way of contacting her.

They had had the most wonderful 4 years living together and growing together, but something had always been amiss. But whenever Randy had asked what it was, Cassie had brushed it aside by saying that Randy was just being silly and she was perfectly happy with him. And then suddenly, she was gone. Randy had tried to find her or find answers for the better part of 3 years, but he had now decided it was time to move on, and perhaps a new job in a new city would be the perfect distraction.

And so, he shut the door of his car, the car that was probably the only reminder of Cassie that he still possessed. They’d bought it together from the local used car garage when they’d moved in and it had been a good companion through all this time and Randy felt it would be unfair to get rid of it. He walked back to the boot and grabbed the couple of suitcases of clothes and bare essentials he’d carried with him. He walked around the garage to the main door and looked under a small potted plant where he had arranged for his landlord to leave the key. As he stepped in, the house in front of him was pretty bare, with a living room, a kitchen, a big lone bedroom and a bath en suite. The house was quite spacious, which made its emptiness look all the more exaggerated. It wasn’t completely empty – there was the couch in one corner of the huge living room, and a pretty basic table and chair near the fireplace. The bedroom had an old wooden bed, but the linen was a spotless white and had clearly been freshly changed and gave it a neat look. Randy felt this was perfect for his new life – he didn’t really need much else, and if he did, he could slowly build up to it. So having had a bit of a supper on his way here, he crashed onto the bed, not bothering to unpack, tired from the 6-hour drive up to the city.

He hadn’t realized the extent of his fatigue, but he was clearly not used to driving this far all by himself, since they’d barely ever gone so far out from their hometown all these years. And so when he woke up the next day, he checked his watch and it was 7 a.m. already, and he’d been asleep for a little over 11 hours. He quickly flipped open his suitcase and grabbed his toiletry bag, a towel and a pair of clothes and headed into the shower. He had a meeting with his new employer at 9 and he didn’t want to show up late. He looked sharp in his favorite white shirt, and the cufflinks that his father had gifted him before his first job 7 years ago, a pair of nicely fitted trousers, a blue tie with a tiny white pattern on it, and shining brown shoes. With his active lifestyle and some good genes, he’d always been a charming good-looking young man. Realizing that he had had no time to explore the neighborhood, let alone get any groceries, he decided to skip breakfast, and stepped out of the door and into his car at 8:20, keeping a fair bit of margin for his meeting, which was at the company offices a short 15 minute drive away.

He met an old, but kind lady at the reception, who politely asked him to wait while she intimated the regional general manager of his arrival. It was only 8:40 when he had arrived, so he had enough time to gather his thoughts and be ready for his big first day. After only about 5 minutes of waiting, a middle-aged gentleman dressed in a loosely fitted suit, probably in his mid-40s, walked out of his office, and went straight towards Randy, introducing him as Mr. Steven Hill, the regional general manager of the company. Steven was going to be Randy’s new boss. Randy was quickly given a tour of the office and shown to a small cubicle, that had a laptop, some stationery, and not much else. Randy spent the rest of the day going through some paperwork that he was handed and meeting some of the other employees of the office introducing himself and attempting to make new acquaintances. The day breezed past him before he knew it, and it was 5:30 p.m., and as he walked out of the office after his first day at his new job, his mind wandered to the fact that he was yet to settle in to this new life, and he had no food or supplies at home, nor anyone to go share a meal with.

On his way back, he decided to stop by a small pizza place to grab some dinner, as it wasn’t going to be until the weekend that he would be able to set up his kitchen and stock up his new home with some supplies. As he glanced around the small store, having ordered a couple of slices of pepperoni and a coke, his eyes met those of a woman, probably about his age, who was there with a young girl who he guessed would be 3 to 4 yrs old, and by the striking resemblance was probably the woman’s daughter. The woman was plainly dressed, rather so plain that you couldn’t be blamed for not noticing her if it weren’t for her ice blue eyes, and the long dark hair, that went almost down to her waist, even as she bent down to clean up the mess the little girl had made. The brief meeting of their gaze was interrupted by a loud cry of “Let’s go home, I am tired”, that came from the little girl while she pulled on the woman’s arm.

Randy had never really had any trouble getting women’s attention, but he hadn’t bothered to explore the dating scene since Cassie, and wasn’t easily attracted, but this time seemed different.

As the woman and the little girl walked away and got into an old station wagon parked outside the store, Randy’s gaze followed them until he was reminded by a nudge from the cashier that his order was ready, and he was slightly taken by surprise. He drove back home, which was only a couple of minutes further away, but that short journey was broken by a quick stop at the local grocer to buy some eggs, cereal and milk. As he walked around to his door from the garage, he noticed the same station wagon parked in front of the house across the street. Was the blue-eyed woman his neighbor? Had he been thinking about her more than he should about a random stranger, who in this case is probably a mother of a little girl and in all likelihood married too. He had clearly had a long day, and he needed to shake these thoughts off, so he went into the house, had his pizza, took a quick shower and settled in bed with his book, one of the few that he’d carried with him, as he was used to doing a bit of reading before he dozed off.

The next morning, he followed his routine, fixed himself some quick breakfast, and stepped out at 8:30, and as he turned the key to lock the door, he noticed the woman with the blue eyes chasing around the little girl in the front yard of the house across the street. So his suspicion was true, she did live right across of him. As he unknowingly stared right towards her, she noticed him, and suddenly got conscious of herself running and giggling behind the girl, and gave him an embarrassed smile. Had she remembered him from the brief encounter last evening too? Was that smile a hint of a reciprocated attraction or was he just overthinking a friendly smile from a neighbor, who he again thought was probably happily married with a kid (or two). He returned the smile with an awkward smile back and a slight raising of the eyebrows as if acknowledging her and then walked to his car. He drove to work half lost in her thoughts and found his mind and his heart conflicted. The tremendous asks of a new work environment kept him busy all day and he managed to not think of her again until he was driving back home when the thoughts of the blue-eyed woman again started to pop up in his head.

After parking his car in the garage, as he walked towards the mailbox in his front yard for a quick scan, he heard a big loud “Hey there!” from across the street in a jovial voice. The voice belonged to a man across the street, who was enjoying evening tea in his front yard while he went through the local newspaper. As Randy looked up to return the greeting, the man – tall and well built and probably in his mid-30s, walked towards Randy and introduced himself as Bryan, from across the street, and welcomed Randy to the neighborhood amidst some other small talk. Randy’s mind was still too busy wondering if the man was the husband to the blue eyed woman who had haunted his thoughts for the past 24 hours, when to his surprise, he heard Bryan say “Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? I noticed you just moved in a day or two ago, and your landlord Mr. Smith, a fine old man he is, did tell me that you’re not from around here and don’t have a lot of family and friends here. My wife makes the best steak ever, and she’d be glad to be a good host to our new neighbor! What do you say?” Randy didn’t know what to say, but of course he couldn’t decline such a kind invitation and gladly accepted while his mind still raced about all the possibilities.

Still battling his thoughts and the feelings he’d been having, he got ready to go to dinner to meet his new neighbors – a kind man who’d generously invited him over, and in all likelihood his wife who’d been just as kind and warm in giving him a courteous smile this morning, while his heart had gotten all the wrong, unwarranted ideas. He forced himself to not let any silly thoughts come to his mind and to be a good guest. After ringing the bell, as he waited at the doorstep anxiously, a lovely lady, with blonde hair and hazel eyes, with an apron on top of a flowy grey dress opened the door, and said “You must be Randy! Why, come in – I am Samantha, Bryan’s wife!”. Just as Randy stepped into the house a bit bewildered, Bryan walked out of the study into the living room, and greeted Randy in his most pleasant fashion. Randy’s eyes kept wandering around the house, almost certain that he’d seen the blue-eyed woman in the front yard of this very house. And then he heard a cry of “Mommy” from the bedroom, and the little girl he’d seen came running out in a pink frock with one sleeve stuck around the shoulder, “Mommy, I can’t fix my frock, help Mommy!” Now Randy was even more certain this was the house, but where was the blue-eyed woman? “Jenny, can you go help your niece? I don’t want to burn this steak here”, shouted Samantha from the kitchen. And the petite woman with the dark long hair and the ice blue eyes then appeared and headed straight into the bedroom, to help her niece while a big sigh of relief and even a little wave of joy took over Randy, who felt just as attracted at seeing Jenny for the third time as he had for the first two. And maybe, just maybe, he’d fall in love again, in this new city and truly start a new life…

When You’re Gone…

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Years and years from today,
When you slip into your deepest slumber,
How will the world remember you?
Have you thought what will you leave behind?

When they gather around you for that one last time,
Have you thought what will they have to say?
When they think back on the memories you shared,
Have you thought which ones will come rushing back?

While endlessly running in this worldly race,
Have you thought what really is your finish line?
Before chasing that next elusive dream,
Have you thought to pause and enjoy what you’ve already achieved?

In the chaos and madness of this busy life,
Have you thought to look at what you’ve built thus far?
When you were a child and wanted to grow up to be someone,
Have you thought to ask the mirror if that someone looks like you?

When you are nothing but a collection of memories and stories,
Have you thought what will the cover of your biography say?

If I Could Learn…

Reflecting back onto the things I could learn from this world...
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If I could learn from a mother,
I’d learn to love without condition.
If I could learn from a father,
I’d learn to be the invisible pillar of strength without suspicion.
If I could learn from a child,
I’d learn to trust without hesitation.
If I could learn from a dog,
I’d learn to be loyal without expectation.
If I could learn from a friend,
I’d learn to read what’s in another’s head.
If I could learn from a lover,
I’d learn to hear what’s still unsaid.
If I could learn from a farmer,
I’d learn to die of hunger so that others could eat.
If I could learn from a tree,
I’d learn to give shade to others while enduring sweltering heat.
If I could learn from a teacher,
I’d learn to pass on all my knowledge and wisdom.
If I could learn from a king,
I’d learn to truly devote oneself to one’s kingdom.
If I could learn from a pauper,
I’d learn to be thankful for every full meal.
If I could learn from a doctor,
I’d learn the responsibility that comes with the power to heal.
If I could learn from a saint,
I’d learn the virtue of patience.
If I could learn from an ant,
I’d learn the true meaning of perseverance.
If I could learn from water,
I’d learn the ability to adapt.
If I could learn from fire,
I’d learn to separate fiction from fact.
If I could learn from life,
I’d learn to enjoy every phase without complaining.
If I could learn from death,
I’d learn how to give life its true meaning.

7 Tips for Your First Job

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Starting your first job definitely brings with it a lot of excitement but also can be a nerve wracking experience at the same time. Everyone only has one “first” and so we all start with having “never done this before”. But the smallest of things can often be the difference between being that star new analyst or a nervous disaster. From my own experience, as well as having seen and mentored others through this process, here are some tips that might help make that first job a memorable learning experience.

  1. Everyone was once in your shoes – While it can be overwhelming to interact with your manager and other senior colleagues at your first job, remember that they’ve all been there. Simply knowing this fact and reminding yourself of it often brings you back from being in awe of someone and humanizes them a bit more and makes that interaction much easier. So that CEO or Business Head who is at your Welcome Orientation wasn’t born at that position, she too was once in your shoes.
  2. No question is a dumb question – I cannot stress enough the importance of asking questions. I would rather have a junior who asks questions if they have a doubt, rather than “assume” and make mistakes. Your first few years are probably when you will get away with asking the most basic things as you’re clearly new to the job and no one is judging you for not knowing things. Trust me, if you think a question is dumb now, it will be dumber when you’re no longer as new to the job.
  3. Take notes – preferably in writing – A good follow up to asking questions is ensuring you take note of the answer and don’t repeat it unless absolutely warranted. The same goes with mistakes – while it is OK and often necessary to make your own mistakes, be smart enough to learn from them and not repeat them. While some of us do just well with taking a mental note, most of us don’t have the photographic memory of Mike Ross or the eidetic memory of Sheldon Cooper.
  4. Focus on the small things – It is very unlikely that in your first couple of years at a job, you will be assigned to handle the most critical of projects all by yourself. But this does not mean there aren’t enough opportunities to shine. The most important part of your first few years at a job is doing the small things right. Proof-read that email, double check the formulae in that excel-sheet, go over your work three times if you have to, but avoid making mistakes that can be attributed to oversight or carelessness. Attention to detail and being absolutely thorough in what seem to be menial tasks is what defines you and is your stepping stone to bigger responsibilities. As is often said, your job can often be to make your boss look good, and you do that best by taking care of the small things.
  5. Time is the most valuable commodity – When you are bombarded with a long list of tasks from everyone on your team, because you’re the junior-most person around, getting everything done and doing it right can be challenging. Manage your time well and prioritize. Learn to create a list of things to do at the start of the day, prioritize what’s important and cross-check this list at the end of the day to ensure you didn’t forget anything. It is easy to work long hours in your initial years, but hard work is not always about long hours but also about efficiency and time management. Finding a balance between work and life outside of work is important to not burn out too early.
  6. Say Yes to every opportunity but know it is OK to say No – While some of the tasks assigned to you in your first job may feel like “this is not my job”, they can often be extremely valuable to your learning curve and often also provide networking opportunities as you work with more people. But what is equally important is to learn that you don’t ALWAYS have to say Yes and you are well within your rights to politely decline something if necessary. This may be because you have too much on your plate, you don’t feel you’re adequately qualified to handle a task, or another valid reason, as long as you say No with a rational explanation.
  7. Learn from the people around you – While I am not a fan of advocating “networking” for the sake of networking, the best part about working in an organization or in a team is the people you work with. Most workplaces will have incredibly smart people around you with different backgrounds, expertise , experiences and perspectives. Make sure you keep an open mind and absorb all the good qualities and work ethic that you can from your colleagues. Most people that are happy with their jobs don’t necessarily love the work that they do as much as they like the people that they work with.

Beyond these basics, just be you and enjoy that first job, because there won’t be another! Remember you were hired for the job for a reason, and so all you need to aim for is bringing the best version of yourself to work everyday, and constantly work on adapting and upgrading your skills.