Hello 2015 – I can’t wait…

For as long as I remember, 2014 would be the year in which it rained , no poured on Christmas Day. It rained so hard on Christmas Eve, we could not go to church so we had to go on Christmas Day ; which really was a good thing because my soon -to-be eight year old daughter Anargha too could come.

It rained even harder on Christmas night but rain could not damper the wonder of Our Lord’s Birthday.

It was also the year in which many of us thought twice about boarding a plane.

With over three major air crashes that shook the world to its core, 2014 will go down in history as one that was bad for air travel. Right up to the end, just last week, yet another jet went down, breaking the hearts of all who saw the weeping relatives.

But what stands apart about 2014 has been its heralding in of a new chapter for my country Sri Lanka.

Under a yoke of suppression, Sri Lanka was in pain. As a nation, we have acquired a reputation for being resilient but when the bastions of society are threatened as never before, and the very basis of social fabric is torn apart violating all norms of justice and fair play, it was time for the citizen in each of us to do something about it.

As Arab Spring unfolded in Cairo and Tunis, we watched in silence. As the innocent fisherman in Chilaw faced a bullet, we waited. As the garment worker Roshan lost his life to a bullet in the struggle for what was rightfully his and other garment workers, we kept watching. I thought we waited enough when the citizens pleading for drinkable water in Rathupaswela were moved down with bullets ; the picture of a mother crying hot tears over her only son, still in his white uniform drenched with blood, I cried too. And I did what I could – pray for my nation to be set free from its heavy yoke.

I have always known that God hears the prayers of His people. And answers them.

As I sit at my computer on this balmy evening of December 31st, 2014, the rains have stopped. The crackers have already started to pop by enthusiastic youngsters who can’t wait until midnight. Shops and streets are thick with people shopping and the air is heavy with the seasonal spirit.

It beckons a new tomorrow.

Quietly but surely, the last few months have seen Sri Lankans who sat and watched people rallying against injustice and dictatorship all over the world, come together as a nation. Each of us have chosen what is best and what is right – over monetary value, over position and favour. A goal of setting our nation free from suppression has become no longer a vision far away, but one that we ourselves could herald in.

The best part about this Presidential election for me, is not just the active social media platforms that have been a citizens’ front, but also the way in which the people of Sri Lanka have chosen to stand up in the name of justice, fair play and good governance. Perhaps for the first time in Sri Lanka, professionals, artistes, intellectuals and the citizens who believe in the power of one, have come together to play a key and a strategic role in the election. An election that will favor none but the people.

For the first time perhaps, we are basking in the glory of citizen journalism.

In today’s smartphone enabled world, technology has brought a strong voice to the citizens – amplified on social media and the internet. No wrong can be righted and no injustice can be easily brushed under the carpet- the iReporters are watching and their cameras are their phones. Their note pads are their text messages and their Facebook updates. It’s a different world to the one in which we elected a President back in the day. It’s a world in which the young are able to connect and compare notes over Instagram and let the world know what they think. Where the young are leading the way for change and are holding hands with the old towards a newer, better country.

And so, as we face the game changing Presidential election some eight days from now on, we await change with a fervent heart. We can’t wait to sing under a new moon, dance in the sun under a government that will not be governed by a singular personal agenda but one that includes the wishes and the dreams of all Sri Lankans.

May God bless my country I love, one that will truly be a paradise for my children to live in and thrive in.

Happy and a blessed new year to all.

Is your dream just a dream?

Everyone dreams of that dream career or that dream turned reality start up but it seems that for most, it stays what it was at the beginning – just a dream. Some of us have these fantasies, these visions about leaving the current job in pursuit of entrepreneurship – still others dream of developing careers that speak to their hearts. For all of those dreams, the hard cased reality is that unless and until you turn those dreams into workable plans, they will not succeed. In order to turn them into action, what areas can we look at and what can we do right?

Success is usually in direct proportion to the effort we put in. Some of us are willing to go along as long as we are assured of total success. From the very beginning. But when it comes to the effort we put in, it seems only a few can handle the pressure of a start up, when you can end up working 12 hours instead of the normal nine to five routine. But when we realize that success can only be measured by the length and breadth of our effort, then we understand how the inputs bring out the outputs and can enable us to fly higher than we have dreamed of.

Success will be routed via specific goals and clear objectives – It is easy to get side-tracked, put off priorities, backtrack on deadlines and wallow in a pit of going-nowhere when you initially set out to make your dream happen. In the absence of clear cut goals and very specific outlines, your agenda is lost and your sight is waning. You need to focus clearly on what your goals are – they must be crystal clear. No one else’s priorities can be accommodated here, however worthy it may seem. Veer to the right or to the left and your dream can come tumbling down.

Success is what you take time to put into yourself – not everyone believes in investing in oneself. Whether in dressing well, in eating well (healthily of course) or acquiring knowledge and expertise, success is always spurred on by the level of investment you put into yourself. You make the moves, you get the ship sailing. You are the master of the destiny that is your start up or your business or your career. Until and unless you begin to understand and appreciate the key role you play, you will not be ready to take the ship to the next level. You must learn to value yourself and your inputs. Too many dreamers become dream catchers without inspiration when they belittle themselves.

Success usually encourages change – some feel change is not always for the better. Not true. Change can and will often open doors that may remain shut otherwise. Change is good, especially when it means more efficient ways of doing things and bigger and better attitudes. Some of us are change resistant especially when we are set in comfort zones. But dreams do not turn into reality for those stuck in comfort zones. Change can come slowly too – it does not always have to be bold and obvious.  

Success involves taking calculated risks – this is a tough one for most. What really are we talking about when we talk taking risks..is a calculated risk worth the risk taking. Can I stay where I am without taking risks of any kind because I am fine where I am. Sometimes, you need to soar above the turbulence in order to cruise. Molding your business or your career into a successful one often involves taking a few calculated risks. Ask the men and women who have achieved outstanding success and they will agree.

Success often involves taking responsibility for one’s actions, whether for good or bad – Responsibility is a key word for success. Whether for the good or the bad, taking responsibility is a key leadership trait that will enable us to face and overcome challenges. Not everything down the road is rosy – the pitfalls are many on the road to the top and being responsible and accountable can empower us to achieve our dreams the right way.

Success isn’t in wishful thinking – Success is not in on the same agenda as wishful thinking. I wish I had that, I wish I did that..too many people have wish lists but no plans to get the wish to come true. Wishful thinking would get you nowhere until and unless you turn those wishes into reality. You may feel you do not have access to resources, the connections or the contacts but determination to see your dream come alive is a good place to start. Once you work on developing that dream into a workable platform, you will realize that wishful thinking can indeed become a reality – if given to nurturing in the right environment.    

Success is what you make it out to be – it always depends on what your world view is. For some, success is making a lot of money and retiring to enjoy it. For others, it is leaving a dynasty of wealth to the next generation, even though it is going to ruin them. Yet for others, success is simplified into sharing their resources with others. Success is measured indeed by what you define it to be, on your own terms. Although there are a set of core beliefs and clear objectives that will spur success in our lives, we need to understand and capture what we mean by success, on our own terms.

Das ist gut! – Memories of Germany, The World Cup winners…

Watching the gentlemen from Deutschland win the FIFA World Cup on TV – didn’t really watch it, it was 1.30 am in Sri Lanka when the match was on but my sixteen year old son and his friend did, (the young can stay up late!)- as they bask in the glow of the after-win, I remember the Germany I lived in, almost thirty years ago. Back then, it was West Germany or Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the capital was Bonn. We lived in Bad Godesberg which was a quiet suburb in Bonn. I remember the bus passing through the Kennedy Allee where all the Americans lived. Those were the Eighties before the reunification and the Allied forces still had bases in Germany.

The only English radio I could tune into was BFBS – British Forces Broadcasting Service. I yearned to hear English and this was my oasis. The radio would be on the whole day long. Those were the days before the internet and social media. Although most Germans could master decent English back then, German was the language of choice. The hit TV series Dynasty was known as Denver Clan in Germany. We would watch it although the dialogue was in German.

Back in those days, Air Lanka flight to Frankfurt first went to Abu Dhabi, then Milan before finally touching down at Frankfurt Am Main. It was a long flight and usually a Tristar flew that route but also a one time 747 was also on the route, if I remember right.

Where else could you lose a hand bag and find it? There was this one time when I accidentally left my hand bag in a bus in Bonn. When I realised I had left it behind, I ran all the way to the Hauptbahnhof the main bus terminal. The bus driver had handed my bag over to the lady at the terminal and once they verified it was mine, I got it back. That, to me, is the highlight of my stay there.

My German class was a German version of Mind Your Language. There were over ten of us from different countries. There was Wandimu from Ethiopia, a son of a diplomat, Brenda from the US, Leah from Lebanon, Greg from Haiti, a diplomat, Stanlos, the Greek god and many others. We would share with each other everything about our countries. Occasionally, we would visit each other’s house for a meal, along with our German teacher. After classes, as a strong winter wind blew, we would huddle up for a coffee inside a coffee house and switch from German into English for conversation. Those days are etched in my mind as a perfect example of how people from different countries could come together as one, and this long before it was fashionable to do so. I have since tried to track some of them down on line, not with much success.

I would always remember the Germans as very duty conscious. If a lady with a child was in distress, there would be plenty of people, all good samaritans, to help. I don’t remember the Germans being particularly friendly but they were good hearted and ever ready to help. Our land lady used to love my mother’s chicken curry ; she would freeze it and share it with her family over weekends.

One habit I picked up in Germany was being punctual. My husband is often ‘Sri Lankan’ late but I try to be on time as much as I can. In Germany, it is almost sacrilegious to be late. I also picked up the habit of being uber clean. In Germany, cleanliness is an obsession. Especially cleaning one’s premises. I guess it is a good thing, especially when you don’t have help around the house.

Long walks in winter were fabulous in wind blown Bonn. I remember visiting the cathedral in Cologne and the Brandenburg Gate in the then West Germany. We had to travel through the then East Germany which was very obviously economically badly off. It was a sight to watch the Russian made sad looking East German cars struggle beside the swanky Mercs and BMWs cruising past them on the dilapidated East Germany highway, towards West Berlin. Once, our BMW broke down and we had a time getting a not-very-friendly East German mechanic to fix it. It was an experience, just being there on that road which looked like it came and went nowhere.

Frankfurt was a wonderful city and full of fun. Bonn on the contrary, was a quiet university town kind of a place which really didn’t live up to its name as the capital during the divided days. Other than the diplomatic community, Bonn was a small valley that was quiet and less than glamourous. Bonn Eines or Bonn 01 was more commercial than Bonn Zwei or Bonn 02 where Bad Godesberg was.

Maybe it’s time I went back to do some catching up in Deutschland.

JUST HOW DO YOU DREAM?

 Everyone dreams of that dream career or that dream turned reality start up but it seems that for most, it stays what it was at the beginning – just a dream. Some of us have these fantasies, these visions about leaving the current job in pursuit of entrepreneurship – still others dream of developing careers that speak to their hearts. For all of those dreams, the hard cased reality is that unless and until you turn those dreams into workable plans, they will not succeed. In order to turn them into action, what areas can we look at and what can we do right?

Success is usually in direct proportion to the effort we put in. Some of us are willing to go along as long as we are assured of total success. From the very beginning. But when it comes to the effort we put in, it seems only a few can handle the pressure of a start up, when you can end up working 12 hours instead of the normal nine to five routine. But when we realize that success can only be measured by the length and breadth of our effort, then we understand how the inputs bring out the outputs and can enable us to fly higher than we have dreamed of.

Success will be routed via specific goals and clear objectives – It is easy to get side-tracked, put off priorities, backtrack on deadlines and wallow in a pit of going-nowhere when you initially set out to make your dream happen. In the absence of clear cut goals and very specific outlines, your agenda is lost and your sight is waning. You need to focus clearly on what your goals are – they must be crystal clear. No one else’s priorities can be accommodated here, however worthy it may seem. Veer to the right or to the left and your dream can come tumbling down.

Success is what you take time to put into yourself – not everyone believes in investing in oneself. Whether in dressing well, in eating well (healthily of course) or acquiring knowledge and expertise, success is always spurred on by the level of investment you put into yourself. You make the moves, you get the ship sailing. You are the master of the destiny that is your start up or your business or your career. Until and unless you begin to understand and appreciate the key role you play, you will not be ready to take the ship to the next level. You must learn to value yourself and your inputs. Too many dreamers become dream catchers without inspiration when they belittle themselves.

Success usually encourages change – some feel change is not always for the better. Not true. Change can and will often open doors that may remain shut otherwise. Change is good, especially when it means more efficient ways of doing things and bigger and better attitudes. Some of us are change resistant especially when we are set in comfort zones. But dreams do not turn into reality for those stuck in comfort zones. Change can come slowly too – it does not always have to be bold and obvious.

Success involves taking calculated risks – this is a tough one for most. What really are we talking about when we talk taking risks..is a calculated risk worth the risk taking. Can I stay where I am without taking risks of any kind because I am fine where I am. Sometimes, you need to soar above the turbulence in order to cruise. Molding your business or your career into a successful one often involves taking a few calculated risks. Ask the men and women who have achieved outstanding success and they will agree.

Success often involves taking responsibility for one’s actions, whether for good or bad – Responsibility is a key word for success. Whether for the good or the bad, taking responsibility is a key leadership trait that will enable us to face and overcome challenges. Not everything down the road is rosy – the pitfalls are many on the road to the top and being responsible and accountable can empower us to achieve our dreams the right way.

Success isn’t in wishful thinking – Success is not in on the same agenda as wishful thinking. I wish I had that, I wish I did that..too many people have wish lists but no plans to get the wish to come true. Wishful thinking would get you nowhere until and unless you turn those wishes into reality. You may feel you do not have access to resources, the connections or the contacts but determination to see your dream come alive is a good place to start. Once you work on developing that dream into a workable platform, you will realize that wishful thinking can indeed become a reality – if given to nurturing in the right environment.

Success is what you make it out to be – it always depends on what your world view is. For some, success is making a lot of money and retiring to enjoy it. For others, it is leaving a dynasty of wealth to the next generation, even though it is going to ruin them. Yet for others, success is simplified into sharing their resources with others. Success is measured indeed by what you define it to be, on your own terms. Although there are a set of core beliefs and clear objectives that will spur success in our lives, we need to understand and capture what we mean by success, on our own terms.

 

Is the Househusband here to stay?

 

It’s a uniquely modern syndrome – the househusband. Humour aside, there are plenty of househusbands who have taken over the household and child minding duties as the wife’s career accelerates and she starts making twice or more than what he makes. New York Times recently reported that  the majority of the Wall Street high achiever mothers have househusbands, without whom the women would not be able to do what they do. Apparently, according to TIME magazine, so do the ‘Suits’ type alpha females who rock the large law firms in New York. If they are partners and seniors, they are most likely to have househusbands who run errands, pick up children and take care of cooking and home chores.

So what’s wrong with that, you might ask. Granted, in Sri Lanka, where women do engage in high -powered careers, we are a little way off the househusband thing. Plus, we are lucky in that we often have extended families, a grandmother or an aunt to watch the kids and the home front so that the women can continue in their stellar careers. Either way, culturally, househusbands are not exactly a concept that rocks in this part of the world. A man is expected to work and bring home the bacon. Or the rice. But he has to go to work in the morning and come back home in the evening or whenever he finishes work. Even if it means work is just a computer in his den.

But it seems the high -powered women who prize their careers elsewhere do not feel much differently about gender specific roles, either. According to TIME, such women do not like to talk about their househusbands. It is embarrassing , or so it seems, when the woman doing the earning has to admit that it is really her husband who is handling the home front. Gender roles reversed? Unable to deal with it in the 21st century? Maybe.

It is to be assumed that if the wife has built a career that makes more money and offers more scope than what the husband is engaged in, then it must be that the family would make the decision to give her the support she needs while he chooses to handle the kids and the chores. But pragmatic as such a decision seems, the cultural shock apparently is a tad too much.

It does seem indeed that the power mums are not proud of their househusbands but embarrassed. Some are said to pretend their househusbands engage in other ‘work’ such as ‘consulting’. Is it that the equality of the sexes is fine in theory but in actual fact, the cultural definitions fit better ,more naturally than the ones we have created ourselves? Is politically correctness being stretched too far, being too tested when in conflict with gender defined roles that have come into place over centuries?

Like it or not, apparently the househusbands also feel uneasy about the status quo. When they have to mingle among mothers picking up kids and running errands, it is not always easy to be the instruments of cultural change even though it might seem edifying at the start.

It would also seem that as developed or progressive as the world may appear to be, somethings are always kept best in their traditional roles. It benefits the children too. The traditionally defined roles of the husband as the earner, supplemented by the wife, even though the roles may differ as far as income levels go, is still accepted as the model that works best.

On the other hand, it does take a very courageous and a mature man to be able to successfully fit into the role of a househusband. Courageous because in the eyes of his fellow men, he stands the possibility of being ridiculed; looked down upon in the eyes of family perhaps. He needs to be mature to handle the pressure of letting his wife be the numero uno in the financial department. On the whole, the reversal of culturally defined roles is never easy and will also continue to be a challenge, no matter which part of the world it is.

The other side of the coin is that a supportive husband is what makes a woman’s stellar career stellar. Whether busy in a career himself or a househusband, without the support of the man in her life, even the most powerful woman can find herself in a complicated situation. You maybe the most powerful woman career wise but you could also be the most miserable.

One is reminded of the unique role of Miranda Priestly, the all- powerful editor of the fictitious Runaway magazine, in the hugely successful “The Devil Wears Prada” movie. Although it is said that Miranda’s character was based on the actual Editor of US Vogue, the icy Ann Wintour,  Meryl Streep did absolute justice to the role as an iconic woman whose glance could make or break a hundred careers. What stresses our point though is the  scene in the movie when Miranda is told by her husband that he does not want to be a “Mr. Miranda Priestly” anymore ; unable to stay a mere bystander in their already tumultuous marriage, they eventually go for a divorce. That scene, to my mind, captures best the cultural shock associated with being a full time househusband.

It just isn’t what is done.