Posted in Life, Daily, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World, Work

To “Sharpen” Thyself

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Jimmy Johnson

Working on any difficult task, project or activity, one of the first things said is to make it different or “think outside the box”. While many of us do set the grey cells things and speculate and calculate the various possibilities and outcome; very few engage in the activity of going back and revising or re-training their skills. Consequently very often we fail to improve and work with the regular or even less output.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward

The work environment in today’s world revolves around not just the “output” but also being different and innovative. Yet through all this what runs silently through is the “basics”. Unless one takes the effort to sit down and review, revisit and relearn the new and the old; progress would be limited. For it’s the little things that matter the most. What may appear as a “waste of time” may be more time saving of all the options.

“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” Henry Ford

Whether one is an entrepreneur, baker, artist, structural engineer, theologian, health administrator, stock traders or a poet as the list goes on; unless one learns to sharpen their skill by being willing to learn or re-learn, change for the better mayn’t be the very best shot that one can give. Doing the work with full persistence and effort isn’t just enough; doing it smart with effectiveness and renewing their skills is better, for not only improving the output but also for one’s own self-satisfaction.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

The two lumberjacks

It was the annual lumberjack competition and the final was between an older, experienced lumberjack and a younger, stronger lumberjack. The rule of the competition was quite simply who could fell the most trees in a day was the winner.
The younger lumberjack was full of enthusiasm and went off into the wood and set to work straight away. He worked all through the day and all through the night. As he worked, he could hear the older lumberjack working in another part of the forest and he felt more and more confident with every tree he felled that he would win. At regular intervals throughout the day, the noise of trees being felled coming from the other part of the forest would stop. The younger lumberjack took heart from this, knowing that this meant the older lumberjack was taking a rest, whereas he could use his superior youth and strength and stamina to keep going. At the end of the competition, the younger lumberjack felt confident he had won. He looked in front of him at the piles of felled trees that were the result of his superhuman effort.
At the medal ceremony, he stood on the podium confident and expecting to be awarded the prize of champion lumberjack. Next to him stood the older lumberjack who looked surprisingly less exhausted than he felt.
When the results were read out, he was devastated to hear that the older lumberjack had chopped down significantly more trees than he had. He turned to the older lumber jack and said: “How can this be? I heard you take a rest every hour and I worked continuously through the night. What’s more, I am stronger and fitter than you old man”.
The older lumberjack turned to him and said: “Every hour, I took a break to rest and sharpen my saw”.

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” Confucius

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Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, Reflections, Work

Address the Irritation

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?” Rumi

We all have our own set of vices. One of the most frequent one that we indulge in is “irritation.” In the everyday life, ranging from the pigeons that spoil our car and the windowsill with their droppings to children who badger us with their queries (besides needing us to repeat things a hundred times), colleagues at work with snide comments to elderly who are hard of hearing or household chores piling up to less personal time for oneself; we are annoyed by someone or something at a given time.

“Feeling irritated, restless, afraid, and hopeless is a reminder to listen more carefully.” Pema Chodron

It would be futile to address every irritation, for at times it may not be possible to do so. Instead reflect on the factors, sequence of events and reasons behind them for it would help us deal with “the irritation” better. To quote Carl Jung, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

The real art of countering them lies in knowing when to keep quiet or feign ignorance and when to react, to kill the irritation. Yet continuously addressing “the irritation” can wear one down. Instead practicing self- restraint can go a long way in making our day more pleasant and circumstances less trying.

“At times a person’s actions irritate us but not his words. At times a person’s words irritate us but not his actions. At times both words and actions are irritating. See the suffering behind these, ignore the irritation and practice kindness.” Anonymous

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Reflections

Gentleness through Time

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Francis de Sales

From time to time we meet gentle people. One of the attributes that is lost in today’s world is gentleness laced with tenderness. This virtue is rather difficult to meet in a society that admires rudeness and strength. We are encouraged to achieve goals and as quickly as possible, even if we disregard the honest approach and use shortcuts, suffering in the process. Consequently for the value of success, achievement and performance; the price we pay is too high. For to excel in such an environment, there is no room for tenderness. The gentle one echoes the words of Mathew 12:20 which says “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.” Francis de Sales

A gentle person is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of other people, enjoys being together which is as important as accomplishing anything. A gentle person walks with ease, looks with affection, touches with reverence and knows that true growth requires care with quiet inner strength. In our rough and sometimes inflexible world, tenderness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God.

“Let us seek the grace of a cheerful heart, an even temper, sweetness, gentleness, and brightness of mind, as walking in His light, and by His grace. Let us pray to Him to give us the spirit of ever-abundant, ever springing love, which overpowers and sweeps away the vexations of life by its own richness and strength, and which, above all things, unites us to Him who is the fountain and the centre of all mercy, loving-kindness, and joy.” – John Henry Newman

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Reflections

Converse to Communicate

Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory. Emily Post

In our day-to-day life, we come across many people of different personality types, various behaviours or views, and going through their individual set of emotions at the various phases in their lives. Yet a common thread running through all the people we meet either at work, neighbourhood or market is conversation. The latter can range from being a casual nod to a simple greeting of “Hello, How do you do ?” or talk of the weather, politics (regional to global), work and the daily happenings.

A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet. Truman Capote

Unfortunately not all of us can strike a conversation at the right time or a fruitful one which doesn’t end up in a war of words or ideas. This art has come to a point where social messaging and screen talk leaves one more comfortable than being engaged in a face-to-face conversations. The sad fact is real communication doesn’t grow from written words but meaningful exchange of words, ideas, thoughts, expressions and emotions.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw

Yet when conversing makes us uneasy, tactless, upset or bored to the point of losing people, breaking relationships and friendships; it is time to introspect and sift through the mind to find out what went wrong. There are a few tips that I often find helpful when discoursing with others.

1. When you know something, but not asked; it helps to keep quiet and listen.
2. When you are at the receiving end of a talk, learn to be silent to listen. Two can’t talk at once for no one would be able to hear then.
3. Do not interfere in other people’s conversations especially when standing in a sub groups of group.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. Plato

4. Answer the questions, but do not elaborate to the point where others’ get a faraway look, start yawning or contemplating other activities’ in their mind.
5. When you want to tell something before you start doing, hold the tongue. For don’t tell others before time, until you have done it. Instead switch over the talk to interest, advice or opinion.
6. Do not tell people of their shortcomings, unless asked.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing. Rollo May

7. When feelings are hurt or reproached, keeping quiet with a smile and walking away really helps.
8. When the talk seems unfair or unjustified to you; say the same with reasoning, quietly and calmly.
9. Speaking abruptly, out of context or with excitement doesn’t help in the exchange of ideas or flow of words. Instead simmer the glee, watch their eyes and body language and then explore the ideas running in the mind with context to the situation at hand.

Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood. William Shakespeare

Ideas, talk and words are like milk. Once spilt, can’t be completely retrieved. As Shannon L. Adler had said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life long quest of the wise.”

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Random Thoughts

Through the Toil

“Don’t worry. It will all be alright.”

Very often, we come across these words but though these words are precious their impact varies from person to person, from time to time and situation to situation.

For those of us who hear them, the degree of belief oscillates from disregarding these words to acknowledging them in our heart or simply pass through the words realizing that this is what everyone will say. For those of us who often speak these words, they are said when we may be at a loss of what to say or can truly mean what we have gone through. When it comes from the latter, it genuinely strikes a chord to the person who hears it.

Whichever way or what ever context these words come into play, the fact remains that these words will not change the present situation but can offer a semblance of hope that time will pass through these troubles and we too shall pass this phase. As Charlie Chaplin had once said, “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.”

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. (1 Chronicles 28:20)

We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. Barbara De Angelis

The world when it is turned upside down, is like a niggling wound. We can’t turn away from trouble and nothing will change when we run away, besides getting a temporary respite. Trouble can only be passed through and one has to cross the waters either at that point of time or later.

To quote Angelina Jolie , “I do believe in the old saying, ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger.’ Our experiences, good and bad, make us who we are. By overcoming difficulties, we gain strength and maturity.”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (Mark 5:36)

Instead, what we can do is glean hope from others and the Word of God as we travel through the storms and tempest. While we wish courage to all who have trouble, I wish compassion for all those who had trouble and passed. She was with you so that you would not forget about her and feel sorry for those who are today in what you once were and wept.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Of Gourmet Coffee

“Coffee in Brazil is always made fresh and, except at breakfast time, drunk jet black from demitasses first filled almost to the brim with the characteristic moist, soft coffee sugar of the country, which melts five times as fast as our hard granulated,” wrote Bob Brown and Cora Rose in the 1939 South American Cook Book, adding “For breakfast larger cups are used, and they’re more than half filled with cream. This cafe con leite doesn’t require so much sugar as cafe preto – black coffee.”

The brewed drink prepared from roasted beans and the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species have grown to worldwide acclaim. Initially the genus Coffea was native to tropical Africa and certain areas like Madagascar, the Comoros, Mauritius; coffee plants are now cultivated in over 70 countries. The two most commonly grown varieties are C. arabica and C. robusta. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. Dried coffee seeds or “beans” are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. Roasted beans are ground and then brewed with near-boiling water to produce the beverage known as coffee.

“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Gourmet coffee has been in vogue now. They are coffees grown by a specific country which can also refer to a specific grade or region of a country. For example Dejardin Supremo Colombian refers to the region: Dejardin, the grade: Supremo and the country: Colombian.

“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness. Sheik Abd-al-Kadir”

Regardless of the type, what matters most is how coffee tastes, smells, and whether or not it makes you feel alert and happy. There are quite a lot of different types of coffee beverages with more than thirty on my count with most popular being Cappucino, Cafe au lait, Caffe Americano, Espresso, Mocchacino and Irish Coffee available at most coffee outlets.

“Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” Benjamin Franklin

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Drowned by Expectations

When adversity strikes, that’s when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on. LL Cool J

Life is known for its’ curve balls, treacherous routes and sudden rides. When we start our journey, we were given a blank slate. Over the years, with the lessons that we have learnt, instances that we have witnessed and experiences that we have gone through, we start filling in the spaces. Somewhere along the way, when we use the colour of expectations too much, we discover the fallacy too late. For every adversity has its’ own way in and way out, but the path clears when we remove our blinders, lower our expectations and use our common sense to put our faith, trust and intelligence to good use. Although the “drowning man” had blind faith, if we are unable to discern that “His Grace and His Faith” can also show us the path at the right time when we look for it, then we need to cement our Faith with insight and common sense. Else this will cost us our blessings from His Grace, His Love and His Mercy.

A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the rowboat went on. Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the motorboat went on. Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away. Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!” To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?” (Various versions of this parable can be read online and has been quoted in different works like Beck, Joko; Smith, Steve (1989). Everyday Zen: Love and Work.)

“However desperate the situation and circumstances, don’t despair. When there is everything to fear, be unafraid. When surrounded by dangers, fear none of them. When without resources, depend on resourcefulness.” Sun Tzu