March 1, 2010
Three Weeks of Thinking
The year started with a storm. Raka’s second half of her Junior year has been the most challenging time in her academic life thus far. She is dealing with it her own way. Her way of planning or preparing may fall short of my expectations at times, but she is still reaching her desired level of success, in her own way. My challenge has been to sit back and not try to push her be a mini-me. Instead, I am enjoying watching her blossom into “Raka”.
I have not focused on book sales and speaking since the end of the year. I have been feeling a lot of guilt for losing the momentum, primarily because of my withdrawn effort. On top of this, my work pressure has increased and I have had some minor health hiccups. All together, life has been like a pressure cooker that may explode any minute.
In that scenario, I still felt compelled to blog every Tuesday night. Some of the blog postings have been forced and not spontaneous. Finally I told myself, enough is enough. I need a break. I need to think.
As I started thinking, I realized that I was very confused and conflicted. I felt that I was failing as a business person to push the book, but I was happy as a dad. As this was a familiar conflict of the past, I decided to reach deep inside for guidance. The search helped me connect five guiding principles I developed for myself as I wrote the book. Even though I claim the honor of developing the guiding principles, I have to confess all these are a result of the seeds planted by my Maiji (grandma) and nurtured by Raka. Once I integrated the five guiding principles, my answer was right in front of me.
Before I share the answer, let me share the five guiding principles:
Guiding Principle 1: Vision of the book is just to touch one more person.
Just like any other author, I too dream that the book will be featured as a “national bestseller” and I will be sitting across from Oprah or Ellen discussing the book. But was that the vision of the book? Or is that my professional ambition is trying to hijack the vision of the book? The vision of book was very clearly defined by Raka as “to touch one more person, and after you touch one more person, touch the next person.” This vision is a personal and authentic extension of what Raka has done by touching my life. So why am I feeling guilty about not pushing book sales?
Hence the time is now to rededicate myself back to the original vision. I guess just like any addiction, the seeds of the weed-like addiction inside of me are trying to jump out again. In a moment like this, it is better to go back to the basics and find the value and vision that helped me kill the weed the first time.
Guiding Principle 2: Share, don’t teach.
Being a consultant on the professional side and a past marketing faculty member at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I have a natural tendency to teach. But in this case, am I qualified to teach? What do I know about parenting? I do not know how to raise a boy. I do not have experience in dealing with other challenges other parents face regularly. Does the fact that my name is on the cover of a book, give me the right to teach? As I kept pondering, a quote that Maiji used to repeat regularly came back to me, “people who can do, people who cannot teach.” Am I trying to cover up my failures by trying to be a pseudo expert? This made me realize that I’d better go back to sharing. Sharing is creating an environment of information sharing where two people talk about their vulnerabilities and in the process recommit to be better parents.
Guiding Principle 3: Being born again in a “relationship” does not give bragging rights.
Yes, today I can say with a straight face that I am a better father, as every day I try to be present in my daughter’s life. I am not there yet and will never be, but the effort is the only measure of the focus of my journey. The bigger question is, does me being a better father now in any way erase the pain caused my daughter in the past. Can I ever forget her statement when she told me, “Dad, you broke my little heart?” No Arjun, no. Today’s effort does not vindicate me of past failures.
Maiji used to say that in life, one can either forgive or forget, but not both. In a relationship, one forgives and gives you a second chance but never forgets. The smallest of things revokes memories of past failures. I have seen that in Raka when I talk about companies offering me jobs, her first worry is that, will this goofball leave again. Sorry Raka, I am trying hard, and I promise to strive hard to not being absent ever again. When one cannot forgive, they choose to forget in the case the person chooses to put the relationship away in a compartment and move forward. I am glad I woke up before Raka decided to forget me instead of forgiving.
Guiding Principle 4: Every success comes at a price.
Yes, I want to go out there and spread the message of the book, but as I learned from my corporate days, every effort comes at a price and the price is usually time taken away from those close to you. In this case, any time I take to spread the message will be time I take time away from Raka. Is that in the spirit of Raising a Father?
I do not think so.
Guiding Principle 5: I am ready to fail in every other part of life and in every other relationship as long as I can give an A+ to myself as a father.
This to me is the simplest of guiding principles, but has a few elements.
First it goes back to the conflict of balance vs. choice. Balance is what we all strive for, but those dear to us must know, that if one has to choose, he/she will choose the dear one over everything else. That is what instills confidence.
Second, it’s about clear prioritization. I know I want to do well in every aspect of my life as I am driven and a proficient multi-tasker. But I am not a super human (yet). Hence I need to clearly define the non-negotiable areas if things get stressed. As I asked the question, the answer came to me. Being a dad who is always present is non-negotiable, I cannot lose sight of that. I know I will not fail in other areas, but if I get one A+ on my report card, I will make sure that it is in the subject of being a father.
The important part, the report card I give myself. All problems always arose for me when I let others judge my success in life. Instead, let me go back to the basics and wrest control of my life and only I will pass the judgment of my failure.
As I processed through all this, I felt relieved. It felt like the sun was breaking through after a series of cloudy days. I was smiling again. I could see the rainbow again and as I took a few steps forward, my rainbow buddy, Raka was there to hold my hand.
What does all this mean?
Nothing much other than that I feel good again, the same way I felt the day after I quit the corporate world. A fresh restart is all I gave myself and this time I did not cause pain to Raka. I booked our five day road trip in the east coast over Raka’s spring break to visit colleges. In fact Raka will be visiting colleges and I will be simply staring at the marvel in my life, a miracle, who, from a little child, is now growing into a young lady who is ready to spread her wings and fly into the outer world. I know as she flies out, she will look back at me for an instant and say, “I love you daddy.”
I love you too Raka.