After my last blog I took an inventory of my phone contact list. I made a list of all the people I had not spoken to for years and decided to call them. In that moment I wondered, why did we lose touch? What was preventing me from calling them? Maybe I expected them to call me?
When I examined my own biases, I decided to act. That day I called my friend K. He did not pick up my call in the first instance. I tried again after some time. This time, he picked up and after saying hello, the line got disconnected. I was in the car moving at a very slow pace there was no reason for the call to drop. In my mind my first thought was “now let him call me back. After all we’ve known each other for the past two decades.” I waited for the call and it did not come. Then I called him, and we connected.
We met immediately that evening in a nice five-star hotel veranda. With the fresh air gushing and nice greenery, we started our conversation. It lingered around niceties in life in the beginning but slowly slipped into negativity-complaining about life and especially Bangalore Traffic-It’s more about waiting than driving. Sometimes It is important to absorb the beauty outside and rage inside at the same time.
I told him “let’s have a coffee.” I insisted that we leave the place. So, instead of going inside the star hotel café, we decided to have an Udupi coffee. It was time for me to change the conversation. I talked about the the four buckets concept by Eric Barker. The four buckets of life are Achievement, Legacy, Significance and Happiness. I asked him what were his deposits in each of these buckets.
Every time he mentioned a certain challenge in his life, I either suggested a book (Don’t Retire Refire) or a podcast or TED as a solution for him. Finally, I invited him to attend our TILT forum meeting. As a follow-up I shared the TED video and even called him and enquired about the take away from that video.
Last week in TILT (which he did attend) we had a session on relationships. Ian narrated a story of two professors who had been friends for 15 years. One of them had a resource crunch and requested the other to help him out, the other person immediately sent two of his interns and managed his project with the existing people. When the second professor had a research crunch a few months later the first professor refused to help. The friends soon stopped talking to each other for a long time before another common friend intervened. He convinced the second professor to renew his friendship with his old friend.
Was his decision right or wrong? Every person in the room had a different opinion, most of the people thought the decision was wrong, some right and some believed that a partial rapprochement was better than hostility.
None of them were right or wrong. The reality is that everyone saw this situation through their own worldview. We all live in parallel universes- the one that surrounds us and the one within our mind. The universe within us is a collection of beliefs, prejudices, filters and dogmas through which we see the world.
Can we remove this lens and look at the world as it is?
One study had students look at 200 feet tall eucalyptus tree for one minute. Afterwards they felt less self – centered and even behaved more generously when given the chance to help someone.
In my case if I have not made the call, I could not have influenced K at all. In fact, after we met, he attended the meeting and he told me that he had also reached out to an old friend. This is how we pay forward to society.
Can we change our filters towards our children? Last week, for the first time I went shopping with my teenage daughter. I was inspired by modern Vikram-Aditya’s rules of living shared by Kavitha. When I suggested this to her, she didn’t know how to react but as my wife clearly refused to come, she had no choice.
She bought a new dress and behind the dress I saw this line “If it’s too loud, you are too old.” I did not utter a word. She picked, and I paid. Not one comment was exchanged, the only statement that came was my billing SMS. The shopping was done in 30 minutes. We covered two stores. Nastiness should wait, and niceness shouldn’t.
I reflected on the purchases. In the past, I would have judged and argued. I realized that I always compared my childhood with hers. This time I decided to let go and support her choices.
Correlating both experiences I figured out that it is possible to feel and do with no expectations. The parallel universe which we have is our default operating system. It is built with expectations, beliefs and dogmas from the past. The only way we can make a call and create impact is by changing the story within us. Psychologist Dan Mc Adams call this the Redemptive Story. Bad is redeemed with the good. Find the good that sustains you. That is the key.
I initially thought K should call me. That was the story my parallel universe was telling me. The moment I shifted from that story to “Can I understand what he is going through in his life?” I had the Eucalyptus effect. In the case of shopping with my daughter I changed the story in my parallel universe. “I was ready to accept whatever she decided”, and it paid off as well.
Stephen Covey, in his book Third Alternative, says, “It is not your way or my way; it’s a better way…”
We all have a parallel universe within us. What is important is to recognise how you are using this. Leveraging the parallel universe is about identifying “Is there a higher way?”
Very nicely captured. As soon as we stop making assumptions and passing judgment on others, the perspective changes.
Good writings Vinod. Parallel universe. We need to show empathy.