When I was a kid, growing up in South India, I learned a few things at my mom’s gigantic dining table. One distinct memory lingers in her voice.
“Eat your vendakai (Okra or ladies finger in Tamil), you will stand out in math.”
She meant it every time. That is how I felt. Having said that, my left brain thought the vendakai benefit was something she cooked up with her own creative juices.
Little did I know that many other south indian moms did the same. By sheer chance, I learned over a campfire conversation with friends in my late teen years. The chuckle that ensued is a lingering memory.
I chuckle every time the vendakai line rears its head again – when my young daughters are at the dining table.
I do not know the correlation between this vegetable effect and mathematical skill. What I do know are my own experiences that gave me an edge – both in life and work.
1. Art of observing dog’s tail
When I was young I learned: You cannot straighten a dog’s tail.
Somewhere along the way, I believed I could win over people to my point of view with words and actions. The shape of the dog’s tail [people’s behavior in the normal course of the day] is not that important.
As I got older, my aha was: There is immense value in studying the dog’s tail. You may not be able to straighten it forever. That study of tails opens your eyes on what people are comfortable with – in their natural state. An observation I found worth the weight in gold in the world of influence without authority.
2. The first, formal human touch
When I was young I learned: A firm handshake was a rite of passage to strong first impressions.
Somewhere along the way, I started to make a mental note of others with weaker handshake.
As I got older, one incident changed me: someone squeezed my hands tighter than what I would consider firm. From that day, I understood: The best of them mirror the other person’s pressure in a handshake.
Relationships are about making the other person comfortable and less about ourself. It starts with something simple – like a handshake.
3. The value of simple good morning and story of you
When I was young I learned: Work is workship. Efficiency is key. I extrapolated it to time spent on conversations and getting things done.
Somewhere along the way, I took pride in answering the question – what do you do? I talked about my work with pride and at length – when I had a willing listener.
When I got older I felt an invisible line: I am passionate about my work. Not married to it. I learned how a simple good morning and coffee room chitchats have a way to amplify my daily worth.
4. Anger and Frustration Perspectives – Think Different
When I was young I learned: Control your anger, breathe. Always felt like a crash diet. Appeals for a few days and unsustainable in the long term.
Somewhere along the way, my mom’s advice resonated: if you raise your voice, you have to do 10 times in return to make it up. That algorithm of what is in it for me, made me more self aware during frustrating moments.
As I got older I learned about “interesting.” This video illustrates it best.
5. Treat Treats
When I was young I learned: Treat others how you like to be treated.
Somewhere along the way, I got fixated on how I like to be treated to figure out how I like to treat others.
When I got older, I connected the dots: Treat others how they like to be treated. Customize it and thrive. How you like to be treated has less to do with their happiness.
6. More Questions than Answers
When I was young I learned: Answer the questions politely and sincerely.
Somewhere along the way, I questioned everything.
When I got older, I understood: asking the right question is the hard shell to crack. It distinguishes the front runners from also rans.
7. Do vs. Think
When I was young I enjoyed Nike’s tagline, ‘Just do it’ – it sounded awesome.
Somewhere along the way, I lost track of where I spent time – do, think or prepare.
When I got older, I understood: Sometimes, just showing up works wonders.
As the years roll by, I realize I imbibe a lot from my parents without ever realizing it. Their gentle suggestions on how to stand out in the hyper competitive world covers the range – from vendakai experience to handling anger.
And then, I had a chance to top it off with my own journey – hard lessons that gave me wholesome experiences with an edge.
Somewhere along the way, I learned a simple thank you is more than anything.
Thank you for your read.