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Changing lives – one child at a time – Jaago Foundation

Too busy??

I know I am.

I have been too busy to get enough sleep and since I can’t sleep, I either lack appetite or I just eat because I have to and I eat whatever I can get my hands. Now that’s the worst kind of disservice really that I can do to myself.

I have been too busy running from office to university. Too busy keeping up with work and assignments to focus on quality. Too busy to pay attention to the fact that half the year has already gone by and I am suddenly faced with the realization that I have only six more months to go before the year is over.

 

I have been too busy.

You know I am starting to hate that… being too busy. I want to be ‘not busy’, not running to class or to work or to keep up with some other commitment which I had made. I long for days like today, when I can wake up in the morning knowing that this day can be anything I make of it because all the hours in it are mine. I can read, write, nap, meditate, listen to music, engage in some self-love to revitalize myself. Days like this … I finally have time to improve Me … my thoughts, my life, my health. To concentrate on who I am and who I want to be, to evaluate whether or not I am in the right road for it.

These past few months have also taught me humility. I am a nerd who has trouble accepting anything less than A grade on my papers. My grades are in par with full-time students, youngsters who are not worrying about paying tuition, mortgage or getting forward in a career that spans nearly 2 decades. In my striving to hold on to A grades, I have stressed, worried and freaked over papers, assignments and never-ending exams. In moments of despair, I have thought of a blind guy in my class and asked myself if he can do it, why can’t I?

While all this striving undoubtedly expands my horizon, it has also taken away the joy I had in learning. And days like today I realize that it is not my commitment that I have to change, it is my attitude to my commitments that I have to change. I have to learn to be ok with getting something less than A on my grades, I have to reconnect to life on a higher level than this to truly enjoy each day to its fullest.

And I think it’s high time to book my next holiday 😉

Compartmentalisation

Psychology defines compartmentalization as a defense mechanism, or a coping strategy, which doesn’t impart a very good connotation. Put simply, it’s how our minds deal with conflicting internal standpoints simultaneously.

Compartmentalizing is something that doesn’t usually come easily to people. You can see this in the way people will bring problems from home to work, let that affect their performance and vice versa. For some not so strange reason, I seem to have the opposite problem. My life is compartmentalized in so many segments that I find it difficult to allow them to mesh together. Maybe that’s also the reason I challenged myself last year to allow a disintegration in the boundaries, to mesh in all the different parts and build a new collage of the different parts.

Compartmentalizing is good, as long as you can handle it. To compartmentalize is to shove something in a box in your mind. It isolates the issue, allowing you breathing space, to get back to it with a cool head, a certain sense of detachment if you will, that allows you to approach it in a new way. In my own experience, this detachment has allowed me more flexibility and find more solutions, it’s probably the reason that I can come up with a Plan A, B, C and D to most any situation.

Compartmentalization however doesn’t work if you are trying to run away from issue, to avoid dealing with them. You do not get to shove things in a box in your mind and pretend like you have forgotten them. The issues don’t leave, resolve and in the back of your mind, you know that they exist. In extreme cases, this denial can lead to disassociate disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The reason I do it is automatic but it’s a skill like every other that we acquire. Being able to compartmentalise can help you to achieve more, be more effective and efficient. It allows me to do a 40 hour week, my two volunteer work, one full time evening masters. There is no end to how much more you can handle. Anyone can train themselves to be anything, us humans have unlimited potential, if we focus on expanding our potential.

And that applies to humans too 😉

This is not a new phenomena infact a vast majority of us do practice it daily. For example, you might go home, see your kid smile at you and completely forget the stress you carried over from work.It’s what people talk about when they say that they want more work-life balance. It’s what allows multi-taskers to be effective. Leaders to stay on top of all the varied things that go on under them in an organization, team or league. It is our unconcious mind protecting us automatically from being overwhelmed. 

If you would like to use the process of compartmentalization in a concscious and effective way, then I suggest the following steps:

1. To effectively compartmentalize, isolate the issue. Don’t confuse one thing with another. Be very clear on what you are isolating.

2. Once the issue/problem/riddle is isolated, focus on it. Really focus on it. Place that issue on the table in front of you like a rubics cube and look at it from all angles. BUT do this only for short periods of time.

3. Once you have analysed a problem, you can then start working on a solution. A little bit at a time.

4. Once the problems been handled, close the compartment. The problem existed, you handled it. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t file it away somewhere in the back of your mind in order to return to it over and over again. You have already given it your full attention. You have already solved the issue at hand to your best possible ability. Now close it and be done with it.

5. Learn to say “no”. Get comfortable saying “no”. Prioritize your time and your attention. While there are unlimited supplies of problems, both at home and at work, you as a human however only have a limited supply of energy and time to devote to them. So learn to get comfortable saying “no” to things that have no business in your life. And once you have said no, move on. These do not have to be filed or compartmentalized in order to be handled at a later time. It’s like cleaning your PC when it gets virus infected. You purge and reboot 🙂

Challenging myself to grow this year :)

Usually when I am struggling to blog, it’s not because I lack subjects but more like there’s so many going around in my head that I don’t know which one to put down first. So this one is going to be a mish mash of all the things that are going round in my head.

First off, my new year started with a bang! I am biting off more than I can chew this year. That is in other words, I am challenging myself to grow this year.

This year I am going back to University for a Masters in Development Studies. I am already working on the field and while I love the practical side of it, I have been struck by the fever to know more… the theories, the models, the past cases, what has worked and why, what didn’t work and why not. You know how you feel when you pick up a great book and just can’t put it down until you have finished the last page? That is how I feel now, it’s like an insatiable burning appetite for all that I can learn and more. So a full-time Masters degree coming right up 😀

Then, there is something else that I have applied for and am still waiting for the final result. This is what I know so far, there’s been over 600 applications and I have made it to the final round. Beyond that, there’s nothing more that I know, nor is there anything more that I can do to make sure that I am one of the 20 people who get selected. It’s a waiting game at this point in time. 

What these two things taught me is that while I have kept up my practice on how to sell my skills in the work place, I have NO idea how to sell myself to academics. Know what I mean? I am more used to putting a dollar value on activities, time and I can negotiate win-win solutions for most deals when it comes to business.  But I just don’t feel the same confidence when it comes to selling myself to an academic panel.. lol. It’s beyond my comfort zone and I LOVE the challenge!!

So all these is going to be in addition to my full-time job as a Food Security Advisor, my volunteer work as Public Relations advisor with Butthan Foundation and the Program Manager work with Radio Vubon. I still want to keep up with my blogging, my ghost-writing, my networking and connecting. I might have bitten off more than I can chew but instead of being scared, I feel freaking EXCITED! I can’t wait! The challenge of it all will be amazing! And I know for a fact that this year will be AMAZING 😀 😀

p.s. I am trying to keep my posts shorts and sweet, didn’t really work, did it? but I will be back with more updates later in the week 😉

Attitude and Entitlement

I try to help people network, to find opportunities, for business, for jobs. I actually enjoy doing it but at times when I politely decline, or advice a job seeker to rethink their approach to the search, some simply respond back with a renewed appeal to help them make more money, to save them from the misery of their current jobs/bosses/companies. In short, to use my network to land them a better-paying job anywhere. The tone of the appeals remind me of the fairy tale myth of a knight in shining armour riding in to rescue the damsel in distress.

When I advice these people to get more experience or trainings or education, it’s not taken well. They don’t want advice, suggestion or help. You land them a job that pays better, has lax/better working conditions and they will be happy. Everything else, simply falls on deaf ears.

Now, riddle me this – “What do these people tell themselves that they are entitled to?”

Take this one particular guy for example. He has been working in the same company for the past 16 years, doing the exact same thing. He’s a graduate, who latched on to his first job and remained there. He fed himself the lies and fears that everyone (yes that includes me) feels. He’s poor, not very well-connected, not smart enough, good-looking enough, intellectual enough, the wrong gender (and you can add many more…) so he can’t get a better job. Forget the fact that for 16 freaking years, he did not even attempt to do something more in his own work! No growth, vertical or horizontal. No network or support within the company either because he doesn’t get along with any of his colleagues or he feels isolated, threatened and lashes back at real or imaginary slights. Not once does he stop to question that if he has a problem with EVERY single person around him, then the root of the problem might be himself.

What makes people with attitude like this think that the company is going to owe him a living for the rest of his life? that he has any right to complain about how much he gets paid? Or that even after his job becomes defunct, the company will continue to employ him in a function no longer needed? How?

The mental record that this guy (and I am sure million others) is playing to himself/herself over and over again is that of being a victim of circumstances. To these people destiny is determined by events and instances totally out of their control. 

 One guy wrote me a message, in really bad english (that’s my pet peeve), about how he needs to find a better paying job because he needs to support his family. Really? Like seriously? Show me one person who doesn’t have obligations. Show me one person who doesn’t have a present or future family to support. Show me one person who doesn’t have problems in this world, whether that’s money or family or physical or mental or something else. Do they really sit around thinking that they are going to get a job, keep a job and get paid more every year … just because they need it? Who doesn’t want or need more than what they have right now?

Sadly though this quote by Thomas Jefferson is the most apt in this situation. You can spend  months and years trying to help someone but until they are willing to help themselves …… nothing changes.

In Bangladesh, a country of close to 160 million people, if you can read and write you are part of the 53% of the population who can do so and half the competition is already eliminated there.  If you have access to internet, you are part of the 3.7 to 6 % of the population who do so, putting you literally at the top percentile of the population. If you have a job, you should be grateful that you are not part of the 5% of the population who cannot find employment.

So let’s look at it in another way: In a country of 160 million people, you are in the top 53% because you are literate, top 6% because you have access to internet. To top it of, in these times of global recession, despite all the political turmoil, you are employed in an economy that experienced 6% GDP growth and 3% employment growth. Do you need more?

Do these people realize that a growing economy creates jobs that has never existed before? That our education prepared us for jobs that were probably defunct in the 4-6 years that it took us to graduate? Theories and concepts go through constant evolution, unless we keep up, we become dinosaur in the job market?  To grow horizontally or vertically in our function or job is our own responsibility?

NO ONE owes anyone anything. If our parents afforded us an education, they have already done more than enough. They do not owe it to us, to use their relatives, networks, connections, savings to plead or pay for us to secure a job. That is our responsibility.

If a company employs us, they do not owe it to us to see to our professional growth. We have to do it ourself and if we can’t grow within the company then it is our responsibility to grow outside of it.

Change your sense of entitlement. Change that mental record that says, I am owed this or that. Change the mental record that you are victim of circumstances, birth, limitations etc. We determine our own attitude.

 

No one grows alone. Everyone needs help. We all need bosses we can learn from; mentors to guide us in our journeys; books to expand our mind; ideas and debates that rock the believes we hold and helps us shape new ones. The more your sense of entitlement is pointed inward to yourself, the more you expect of yourself, the more time you invest in yourself, the better the result.

Until you know where you want to go, how can others show you how to get there?

Soul food

Ever more people today have the means to live,
but no meaning to live for.
~Viktor E. Frankl~

A few years ago, on the eve of my 30th birthday, I realized that this was a milestone that I had not expected to reach. I honestly did not in my wildest dreams even think that I was going to live to be 30. Am I ill? nope. Do I have a life threatening condition? nope. What I had was a life that I didn’t particularly like living. What came after that was a realization that my life is not going to change unless I change.

The life I had was two separate entities, one that I lived inside my head and the other that I lived externally. I controlled the external one because the internal entity was running amok in me. I was so focused on all the problems of everyone else and firefighting simply because I was afraid to stop and solve the real fire that was going on inside.

The hardest and the best thing in life has been to be brutally honest with myself. Takes time, practice (A LOT of it) and an infinite amount of patience. Once I got to that point, where I can look at myself, at the thoughts running in my head, the actions manifesting in my life and no longer felt the need to hide from any of it … that’s when I truly came into being. My anger at my own perceived helplessness diminished and instead I found my true voice, me.

I started making conscious choices, I questioned myself constantly and I questioned the long-held believes of everyone else around me. Who was I? and what do people expect from me? Why? Do they have my own best interest in their heart? or are they manifesting their fears? trying to control things in ways that are not good for me. These were some of the questions that I asked myself (I highly recommend others to do the same).

All these questioning, some of which was VERY interesting, led me to make choices that make ME interesting. I don’t have all the answers, sometimes all I get are very intriguing questions but life is not about answers or control, it’s about living free. I lived and I grew as a person, just not the kind that everyone expected.

I gave myself a gift when I turned 30. I sponsored a child’s education with Jaago (http://jaago.com.bd/), I discovered the joy in giving unselfishly without any hope of return and I was hooked. My pledged to myself this year to sponsor more children with another organization – Streetwise (http://www.streetwise.com.bd/). I am hooked on the joy of giving, of changing lives, one person at a time.

This year the interns at my office asked me what I would like as a birthday gift, I requested that they sponsor a child with Jaago. So instead of a material gift (valued temporarily), a gift that will change a life (value infinite) and the girls did just that. Judith and Anne surprised me with a decked up office when I got there in the morning but they had me crying when I unwrapped my gift. I was so happy that I couldn’t stop bawling my eyes out 🙂

This is what I walked into on my birthday morning 🙂

The mastermind behind all these 🙂

My girl .. our intern … a beautiful person inside and out 🙂

The gift that had me bawling my eyes out and will keep on giving 🙂

  

I posted this on my FB page for the blog on a status update, but I think it holds relevance here too.

My fear for most of you is that you will never be rich enough to realize that wealth doesn’t hold what you are seeking.
~Matt Chandler, The Village Church, Flower Mound, TX~

More people than ever before spend their lives earning money in order to do the things they want to, sometime in the future. Only to realize that time has passed, they haven’t done anything much other than accrue bank loans and mortgages on things that don’t really bring them any pleasure. In an all connected world, more people feel lonely and disengaged from those around them. If we stop and ask ourselves why… maybe … just maybe, we’ll change our lives and put more value on the things that really mean something to us before it is too late, before we have lost them, before our time has passed and we no longer have the energy to enjoy them.

As human beings, I believe that we have infinite potential for good and greatness in us. But we have to try, we have to constantly strive and we have to be aware of the fact that it is each moment’s conscious and unconscious choices that make up our entire lives. None of us exist alone, we affect others with our thoughts, our actions, our energies. And if we each make the effort to add, to give, just that little bit extra, whether it’s at home or at work or with our friends, together we can make a big difference.

Education and the difference it makes

Even if you don’t read anything else today – you SHOULD read this … “Why These Kids Get a Free Ride to College“. This article in The New York Times is about a city where a promise has been made by anonymous donors – EVERY kid that graduates high school will be given the scholarship to get them through college. The “Kalamazoo promise” is blind to race, sex, grades, criminal records or otherwise – it is doing what other impetus had failed – it is revitalizing the town and it’s residents to stay, to work on creating a better community, a better future for their children. These kids who are graduating high school and are now making their way through college in greater numbers than before are in turn feeding into the economy in terms of higher earnings, better living standards, raising the bar so to speak.

Children are amazingly resilient, far more so than what we give them credit for. But they are also very impressionable. Catch them early, guide them into the path you want them to tread on and you are far more likely to achieve what you want. When I see my son treat animals with kindness, I am proud that he has learnt to show kindness. It is my belief that this kindness will resonate in the way he deals with all living beings, including our less fortunate fellow human beings. When his teacher complains that instead of finishing reading books and getting stars next to his name, my son is more interested in moving around the room and helping his fellow mates with their reading, it tells me that my son is developing the innate desire to help others that is in all of us. These are qualities that all of our children are going to need, beside the literacy that we all try to gift them with, to build a better harmonious future.

I certainly cannot claim credit for the kind of person my son is becoming, since I myself, am learning a lot of things from him, watching him. But I do like to think that if children learn the most from example then we must be vigilant to set the right example for them.

Swimming in the deep end

Sometime or the other in our career, we all find ourselves in situations where we are sinking or swimming, a promotion, a hot project, someone else’s sudden resignation can push you into a steep career growth. So while you are trying to find your footing, here’s Steve Tobak’s tips on “How to sound like you know what you are doing”. I love how he’s kept it short and simple in 5 bullet points that are easy to remember and use:

Always say, “Sure, no problem.” If your boss then asks, “Do you know what to do?” don’t flat-out lie and say, “Yes.” Just say, “I’m sure I can figure it out. Don’t worry, I’ll get it done. You can count on me; I won’t let you down, ….” yada yada. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll sound too much like you’re trying to convince yourself and it’ll backfire, as in the next pointer.

Say very little. When questioned by someone in authority, most of us will babble on until we see some sort of positive response. Don’t do that. When it comes to acting like you know what you’re doing, less is more. Give a brief answer, look your boss or whoever straight in the eye, and wait. More often than not, they’ll give you the same look back, judge your level of confidence, and say, “Fine.” But the more you say, the more uncomfortable you’ll sound, the less confident you’ll look and the more likely you are to dig yourself a deep hole you can’t get out of.

Do your homework. Back in the day, whenever I got a new job and had no idea what to do, the first thing I did was spend some time with people who’d been there before and ask them what they would do in my shoes. That way you can at least walk in with a plan. It’s amazing how rarely people take advantage of this simple but highly effective way to make a great first impression. It also shows initiative and commitment that you took time to prepare.

Act like a duck. Ducks look so calm and serene from above but, underneath the water, they’re actually paddling like they’re being chased by alligators. New situations are scary, and it’s human nature to be afraid of the unknown, but the truth is that the way you feel isn’t necessarily evident to anyone else. So lighten up and stop worrying about how you look and sound. You know, I used to have a terrible fear of public speaking. Inside I was nervous and panicky, and yet nobody ever noticed a thing. Go figure.

Have a sense of humor and humility. The two most underrated leadership traits are humor and humility. People are attracted to it and, for some reason, it makes you seem more confident and capable. Also people will cut you way more slack if you show a little bit of interest in them and don’t take yourself so seriously or come off like an egotistical jerk. That alone will buy you more time and open people up so you can get the lay of the land.

Above all else, have some faith, prepare prepare prepare, work hard, remember to leave the bull shit aside and simply say “I will check on that / find out / work on it and get back to you on this” and last but not the least “fake it till you make it”.

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