Spirit of youth

Written by Suraj Shah.

Feeling lethargic, run down and bored in life? Spend time with someone younger, someone with a youthful spirit, someone with a sparkle in their eyes — it’ll shift your mood.

With my wife out of town, I wasn’t looking forward to coming to an empty home after work today. I had plenty to do, but was missing her company. Feeling tired and bored, I had a little post-work nap and then headed out to take my cousin brother for a birthday dinner and dessert treat, still feeling a little drowsy.

Spending a few hours with my just-turned 19 year old cousin, I felt something shift within me. The lethargy flew away, while curiosity and energy filled me.

For a 19 year old, Arjun is doing really well. He has met all his goals — attending a world-class university, recording for a band in a professional studio, recording an orchestra and sound engineering live Jazz performances. He is currently living with no goals.

He is totally debt-free, self-sustaining and doesn’t need to borrow money from his parents. He refuses to take a student loan regardless of the investment potential, so he is not weighed down by the loan.

Arjun works hard and keeps doing the work he loves. He is my inspiration. Spending just a few hours with him made me feel great and woke me up to my own inner youth.

If you are feeling a little lazy or bored, here are some tips for shifting the funk and immersing in life’s jazz:

  • Spend a few hours with someone younger than you.
  • Learn about their life right now — what they are working on, how they behave and what drives them.
  • Seek out the youthful spirit in those around you — in your local community, at the office, at the bus stop.
  • Look out for people who walk with a spring in their step, stop them and find out what they love about life.
  • Glance at people’s eyes and look out for that sparkle. Smile at them and let their smile back illuminate your whole self.

Shy away: making new friends

Written by Suraj Shah.

After the loss of a loved one, do you find it hard to make new friends?

Recently I have been offering bereavement support to an elderly woman who, after losing her husband, was sad to also lose her social life.

This is a woman who grew up as a shy girl in a large family where she did not need to make new friends. She had moved half-way across the world when she married and the only friends she had since then were her husband’s male friends and their wives.

When her husband died, suddenly the dinner parties stopped, those friends no longer visited her, and with her family living too far away she became very lonely at home. Put off by insincere people and scared about people’s motives, she became reluctant to make new friends.

This woman asked me what she could do to make new friends.

From shy to sociable

When I was young, I too was incredibly shy. So much so that I even bought a book on “How to start a conversation and make friends”. I was so embarrassed about it that I hid the book in my bedroom cupboard to hide my shame.

Then at the age of 16 something changed. It all started with a smile.

I was waiting for a bus to school, like I had been that whole term, when an attractive woman in her mid-20s approached the bus stop. Even though I had noticed her earlier that week, I did something different that day. Rather than dodging eye contact and staring at the pavement, I looked straight into her eyes and said “hi!” with a smile. She smiled and said “hi” back.

That day, my life transformed. I lost my shyness and started initiating fun and playful conversations, some of which turned into warm long-term friendships.

Now I can confidently pick up the randomest conversations with the randomest of people in the randomest of places. My wife sometimes has to give me a stern look so that I remember to pay her more attention than I do to those around us!

Tips for overcoming shyness and initiating conversations

Starting a conversation is easier than you may think. Try some of these out and let me know how you get on:

  • Smile: Clearly it worked for me when I was 16. A geninue smile is incredibly powerful. It gives off a feeling of warmth and friendliness to another person and helps to spark an initial connection.
  • Where to make new friends: Hang out at places where you are likely to find others with similar interests: specialist bookshops; cafes; museums; galleries; parks. Chances are, you may just find someone to talk to in the train or at a bus stop.
  • Use the props: Look at what they are carrying — a musical instrument, a book you recognise, interesting jewellery or footwear. Comment on it.
  • Listen: Listen deeply to what they are saying and relay back a few things that you pick up from their words to check you’ve understood correctly. Once you’ve done that, add something from your own perspective.
  • There is always something to contribute: You do have something valuable to say and can positively contribute to any conversation.  Always remember that.
  • Appreciate their qualities: If you have observed something about them that you admire, grow that feeling in your heart, remembering that you would only notice it in someone else if you had it (even on a small level at first) within yourself.
  • Not everyone wants to talk: Some people would prefer not to get into a conversation – usually out of fear about talking to strangers or their own discomfort, and they are very happy just with themselves. That’s ok – let them be and move on.

Once you start to initiate conversations and make new friends, you’ll quickly see how fun and simple it is to do.  Enjoy the process and learn more about yourself through new people you meet.

Comment on this post and share your own shyness dissolving tips at Google+

Gain from loss

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

What do you gain when you have lost?

A man in his early-50s was sitting in the pub talking with his friends over a drink. One friend asked him how he felt now that his daughter had married and left home.

The man’s face lit up with a broad smile and proclaimed:

“I may have lost a daughter, but I’ve gained a bathroom!”

When we lose something that is very dear to us, it may feel natural to wallow in the sadness of that loss. But shifting our perspective to what we have gained from that loss may be all it takes to feel great.

The inevitability of loss

Over the years, things come into our life, and they vanish. People enter our life and they move on. Situations arise in life, and they cease. All this is natural.

Yet, when something or someone we hold dearly is no longer around, we are filled with a whole set of emotions ranging from bursts of anger, to teary sadness, through to relief.

  • Losing a job may raise worries about how you will be able to afford to pay the bills.
  • Losing a car as a result of an accident may take you longer to commute each day without the car.
  • Losing an argument may make you angry and bitter.
  • Losing a husband or wife may make you feel lonely and find it hard to take care of day-to-day tasks.
  • Losing a child who goes off to university may make the house feel empty and far too quiet.

So what is there to gain from any particular type of loss?

Gaining from loss

It is not often easy to see at first what can be gained from a loss of some sort, but is certainly worth exploring.

  • When you lose a job, perhaps you have the opportunity to explore an alternative career path.
  • When you lose your car, perhaps you discover a love for walking everywhere.
  • When you lose an argument, perhaps you develop the art of humility and care towards others.
  • When you lose a child who goes off to university, perhaps you delve into a new hobby that enriches your life.
  • When you lose a loved one, perhaps you gain independence and have the opportunity to develop self-sufficiency.

It is often said that when one door closes, another one opens. What door is opening for you at a time of loss?

Gaining the ultimate from any kind of loss

Beyond what you think you may gain from a loss, there is one thing you gain that is certain. The loss keeps reinforcing within you the reality that all things, whether good or bad, must come to an end.

By knowing this at the onset of any activity you undertake, or before welcoming any person into your life, it makes the separation that much easier at the time when they naturally have to go.

This is the art of detachment, something that you can cultivate through the various losses that you naturally go through in life.

But you needn’t wait till a significant loss to develop detachment. Through daily contemplation and introspection, it is possible to let go, even before something has arrived in your life.

As a result of detachment from desires and aversions, turbulence in life settles down.  As detachment increases, each day feels calmer and calmer.

What do you get to gain when you have lost? Share your thoughts on what you gain from loss at Google+