Thursday, May 30, 2013

Juggling the Quotients.

This is a note from yesteryears, but lately have been thinking a lot about intuition, intelligence, happiness and does this all connect or is it random. 

The question is "What is more important EQ or IQ?" Before I comment on this.. lets go down to the basics.

What is intelligence? Traditionally we have definied intelligence (or IQ) as our capability to solve problems mentally. It includes capability to think, comprehend ideas and language. So imbedded is IQ in our system that across the world we have chosen to design the entire education system around this concept of having a good IQ.

Current education system, which is desperately calling for a major disruption, leads us to believe that if we can solve mathematical problems, remember our facts and read at lightning speed then we are intelligent. Majority of the population is born with a basic level of intelligent needed to succeed in life. There was and has been only one Einstein and Newton. All of us cannot be geniuses. So where does that lead the rest of us .. on the path to success or failure?

Success I say! IQ alone can take you nowhere. A person with high IQ can end up with a killer resume and a very comfy job and that's about it. How many of you know someone who is a brilliant jerk? Yes, being intelligent is not enough.

Mother nature is great.. she has blessed us all with the basic level of IQ needed to succeed in life. She is also very good in creating a balance. A high IQ does not necessarily mean a high EQ.

When I was in college, my dad gave me "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman. And in a subconcsious way that book has stayed with me. I am not saying that I have a very high EQ.. but that book did teach me to listen and empathize to some extent. EQ or emotional quotient makes us aware of our feelings and that of others. It teaches us to empathize and encourages us to respond to happyness and sadness in a rational way without hurting others. In today's world, that's a very difficult task. Another interesting fact that I learned from the book was that IQ is a subset of EQ and not the other way around. 

Think about it.. when we are sad, grumpy or angry.. does any task get completed. No, not even the simplest tasks get done. It is only when we get a grasp on our emotions does our "thinking" come back.

So having a high IQ with minimal EQ does nothing. 
There is a third component, well at least in my mind; it's SQ, the spiritual quotient. Some argue it's the easiest to acquire as it can be practiced at home or just about anywhere
. I once again disagree. It all depends on how u define spirituality. Spirituality to me is not about going to a temple or church everyday. Its about believing in the good of life. Its about positive thinking. Its about looking beyond the profit loss equations and thinking more holistically. In a sense both EQ and IQ are a subset of SQ. Spiritual quotient is what allows us to move on when the going gets bad. It is the presence of this Q that allows us to pick up the scattered pieces and put the puzzle of life together. ( For those of you who like different but good movies Jim Carrey's movie "Yes Man" delivers the concept of positive thinking in a very interesting subtle way) 

The good news is SQ and EQ can be acquired very easily. You are not a slave of your personality or atttitude and with the right approach they both can be changed for the better. I am saying this from personal experience. What path you choose to improve it will be your decision. It will be different for all of us. For me it was the realization that I have to stay healthy and strong for my kids for a very long time to come. Being 40+ is no excuse for being tired, impatient, grumpy not running and jumping with them. How did it happen for me? Interestingly it is getting out and moving that makes it happen for me.  I don't battle the weight any more,  (thats a whole different topic :-)) but it did make me feel happier and more sound emotionally. Its intersting how trying to improve my physical health actually improved my emotional being. 

What about IQ? IQ unfortunately cannot be acquired that easily. It can only be acquired if one makes his passion his profession. If that is not the case, improving upon the IQ factor is a lot harder than SQ and EQ.

The question was which Q will be important in the new decade? The answer is obviously all three, but i SQ, EQ will have the upper hand for what succeeds is the individual and not the intelligence. 

Ciao everyone and as always thankyou for taking the time to read this. Keep your comments flowing and the converstation going. Its what keeps the grey cells active :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unbreakable or Breakable?

It feels so good to be back. I have missed this space. Last two weeks were a smack in the face by Mother Nature asking me to mellow down. Ironically, Mother's day weekend was when it all started, the migraines, the nausea, the body ache, the fever and the complete melt down that sent me on a roller coaster ride wondering what was wrong me me and why? "Why was it happening to me?" is a question  I asked my self repeatedly. I ate healthy, I exercised daily, I was doing and feeling great, when suddenly the head starts splitting and all I wanted to do was crash on the bed and be left alone. Thankfully, my family stepped up and did leave me alone for a good one week. That's how long it took me to come out of the forced shut down. Some where in between, did manage to go to the doctor and get the battery of blood tests and CT scan done, only to be relieved and told, I am fit as a fiddle. Doctors and family alike told me to forget it as a fluke incident and continue the rest and gradually ease myself back to normal schedule.  

Forget it, is what I am now trying to do, but the episode was powerful enough to instill a partial fear of  unknown.  

It also made me realize how unbreakable and yet fragile the human body is.  Why? I ask again. We are the supreme animal form, centuries of evolution made us what we are today and yet we have so many unanswered questions.  I sort of felt sorry for the poor doctor when I went to visit. The guy genuinely wanted to help, but had no answers except telling me the couple of things that could be going on. With the process of elimination, they erased of all the big issues and were left with either a bad case of migraines or tension headaches. I accepted both as they were the least scariest options. I came back home, thanking god for giving me a warning and letting me go. 

Made in Sun Pharmaceuticals Ind. Ltd.
Their office is less than 20 mins
away from where I live
Baroda came to me.
In my valentines post Love, its logically illogical, I wrote "Love is beautiful feeling that starts with the conception of a living being." And today as I connect the dots, I realize a life that begins with such a delicately strong emotion has to be the same, isn't it?  

In time of distress to move on, I need signs. Signs that tell me it will all be okay. Last week, when I was at the doctors, I remember telling myself, How I wish I was in Baroda ( my hometown in India.) Few days later when I got my senses back, I looked at the meds I was taking and see what I found :) 

I couldn't go to Baroda, but Baroda came to me. I knew then, I was going to be okay. 

Humans, especially the breed we call MOMS, have a tendency to think of themselves as super humans.  In the process, we forget that we are humans first. The human body is by far the most intelligent machine. It takes abuse and yet is resilient like no other.   How many of us actually think that the food we eat needs to feed the mighty mitochondria - the power house of every cell. I know I don't.   

The dichotomy between the mind and body is an interesting one. Logically one would think they dance the tango in perfect harmony, though that is very rarely the case. The mind is like an agile ballet dancer, jumping and twirling weightlessly at the slightest joy, while the body often lags behind cautiously watching every jump and twirl making sure it doesn't twist a muscle in its effort to try and follow the moves. 

It is this dichotomy that is surprising me today. My mind is bored as I respectfully follow my families wishes to take it slow and ease myself into it. My body though is a different thing, it is quite content living this slow paced life and not lifting a finger. 

I guess that's where meditation comes in, it somehow bridges this gap between the soulful mind and the mechanical body and makes the two dance in harmony.  The human body agree or not is nothing but a machine. It is the mind that puts the soul in it. And this machine like any other one is breakable and needs its regular maintenance. 

Many of you have seen the slide show Life is a cup of coffee on the social media. Its been circulating for a while. And while we all know its true we continue to eye the cup and forget about the coffee.  

We think good food, exercise and good hydration is the key to good health. And it is but there is a fourth component, shutting the eye.  In our zest to get the prettiest cup, we forget we have only 24 hours in a day. And the best part is, no matter who you are of where you are, that is a constant for all us, a day has only 24 hours and there is only so much one can achieve. We often take on more than we can handle, and sacrifice our sleep to make it happen. We punish ourselves if we don't achieve our targets, feel guilty about it, try even harder and before we know it we are trapped in this cycle that does not want to end. 

I learned my  lesson last week; enjoy the coffee, even if it is served in a paper cup. Its the coffee I want, not the cup. 

I now schedule my 8 hours of sleep before I pen anything else down in my calendar. I now follow the age old adage "early to bed, early to rise" and don't make compromises for anyone, for I now understand the mechanical part of me. 

I am wiser and smarter, and I now know that in addition to the spiritual and soulful me, there is a mechanical me too and yes that's breakable.  

And now I want a cuppa coffee and see Unbreakable, by M. Night Shyamalan starring Bruce Willis. Anyone joining me ? 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Today's post just like the title is short, simple and sweet. It's a simple tribute to the moms of the world and of course mine too

Becoming a mom is an interesting experience.  When the tiny bundle of joy is handed to the mom, it is the most amazing and overwhelming feeling. To think that an entire human being was living and thriving within her in some ways is also a very powerful feeling. It is the power to nurture. This is one aspect of life, that men will never know.  

Who is a mother? I'll let you decide.

To me, I have always seen my mother stand tall as a pillar. She was the one who watched me as a hawk and yet never told me that she was watching. Growing up I argued with her, I screamed and we fought and I never understood why she was so possessive and adamant about not letting me wear too much make up, i.e until 4 years ago when I had my own daughter. And then those answers suddenly became obvious. 

It is true we don't understand what are parents went through until we have our own. 

Mom, today too is one who wears a velvet glove over an iron hand. I am thankful for the fact that at a very young age she told me, "The one thing every woman should know is how to cook." And yes, I was only in 5th grade when I started cooking. I am thankful for the fact that she still thinks its okay to scold me when I behave illogically or when I am being unfair to her grandkids. I am thankful for the fact that she is keeping up with times and is able to talk and relate to her grandkids and most importantly I am thankful she has a Facebook account .. LOL! I love the fact that she enjoys Facebooking, not because I am a FB junkie, but more so because to me that is a symbol of an alert and young mother. She puts me to shame when she solves those sudoku puzzles faster than me. And yes, she remembers the nuances of English grammar and can calculate percentages better and faster than me, so I am really thankful when she takes care of checking homework during her short stays in the US. 

To make a long story short, I am thankful for you being you! 

But wait, there is another mom in my wife. What we all call the Mother-in-law. My MIL and mom are bang opposites, with one thing common, they both are strong willed woman.  My relationship with my MIL started like all most daughter in laws, there was respect and slowly over years with some arguments, and discussions, the respects gradually turned into a mutual understanding and today after 15 years, yes I can talk to her like I talk to my mom. 

MIL has lived for her kids. Her life today too revolves around her kids. She selflessly raised her two kids and today stands tall with pride as she sees them thrive in their respective homes. She too, puts me to shame :) for she can devour a WSJ better than an investment banker. Technically she does not have a formal education and yet she can converse on any topic and very often will not only discuss, she also remembers the statistics and the numbers accompanying the topic. Its honestly very impressive and a great feeling to see her read the WSJ.  She appreciates the paintings I make and enjoys the food I cook. What more can I ask for? Its about the little joys in life. 

With two strong women in my life who have lived their lives for their families but on their own terms, there is little room for me to falter.

Today on mother's day, I thank god for sending these two wonderful women in my life. 

They are truly the Women of Substance! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sweet Surprise!

I usually don't post on Friday's, but today was just special. It was a great morning, a girl friend pulled me in to go shopping with her and find that perfectly handsome dinosaur t-shirt for a little T-Rex.  We did find that and of course many more goodies. 
But the highlight of today that made my day and many days ahead was meeting my kids' 3rd grade teacher. She is retired now. Her year with my son was the last in the school. We had stopped at Panera Bread for a quick bite and there she was having lunch with a friend. I of course had to stop and say hello. And she was thrilled and instantly had so many questions about my kid. And then she said something that I will hold special forever in my heart. 

She said, "My husband and I were talking, and we are coming for his 6th grade graduation." I am a big girl, so I don't cry, but that did bring tears that were held back and of course I was instantly standing taller.
 How do you thank a teacher who loves your kid so much, that two years after retirement still talks about him?  How do you thank a teacher who has your kids picture on her refrigerator? I honestly don't know how. Its priceless when your child has been influenced by so many wonderful people.

My post yesterday got a mixed bag of reactions, and I think most people missed the point.  Its a note to self, to not write a very long post, keep it short and sweet, so the message of "nurturing the child and working with their personality and not peer pressures" is passed along. 

Today was honestly a packed day filled with errands. The surprise meet today has brought back energy in me. 

When a past teacher remembers your child so fondly and lovingly, the feeling is just priceless. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Exams, the GATE to success?

Its almost STAR testing week in our schools here.  6 years ago, when my older one started his kinder, I started my journey of volunteering and understanding the US education system.  Before I go further, I do have to warn you that my stance on most cases makes me the black sheep in the Indian community. I am one of those parents who don't ask for homework. I am one of those parents who does not believe in tuitions simply because its elementary school not MIT. And then there are parents who say that to go to MIT, one needs tuitions and I respectfully agree to disagree with them.  

Is my child a straight A student, no he's not. Does that bother me? The first time he got a C, yes I was bothered and then I reminded myself that I flunked a subject or more in the first year of engineering college.  And that was a shock not only to me but my friends too, because I was a straight A student from Kinder to 12th. Nothing less than an A, ever.  So coming home that day, I was scared and had no idea on how to break the news to my parents.  It was one of those rare afternoons that my dad decided to come home for lunch. I quietly decide to help my mom in the kitchen and broke the news, she continued to roll the chapati and asked me to serve the food on the table. Later, she helped me tell dad.  I appreciate the fact that my parents did not loose it, they kept their calm and said, what's done is done? You decide how you want to fix this and make sure you fix it. I graduated with a gold medal in Environmental Engineering.  Not trying to blow my own trumpet here but get the point across that life prepares us for it all. This experience helped me not get upset about low grades. Even to date when he is  going through a lack of confidence phase I remind him of his mom every time. More importantly, I remind him that just because I got A's does not mean I am very intelligent or an out of the box thinker.

I did ask him n 4th grade, Would you like to be a straight A student? His answer and for the most part I quote "Mom, I am in the middle of the class. I am not the smartest and not the dumbest. Some times I get okay grades, but mostly they are good. So I think I will do fine in life. I don't have to get an A everytime." Once again, he had stumped me, I didn't know what to say. 

Honestly, even though I got all A's in school, I don't think I was super smart, but I was a good crammer :). Getting A's in school is the easiest thing to do. If every child can just cram what is written in the textbooks and spit it out, they will get A's.  What's hard is to not cram and then convey the message so accurately that it seems like you crammed it. Textbook answers are expected for the  most part. Every once in a while the student comes across a teacher who is there because she loves her students and is willing to re-read an answer to understand that unique perspective which is different from what the text book says. 

And then we have that whole question of how do you evaluate that unique perspective?. 

In India, we all learn the same thing and if a student cannot keep up with the curriculum they fail and if they are way ahead of their class, they get bored. There are'nt too many options. But in the US this difference in learning is treated interestingly. There is something called GATE student in our school district. It is the Gifted and Talented Student. How do they decide this, by a 3 hour exam in 3rd grade.  3rd grade is lower elementary. There are no grades and exams are not stress induced. The philosophy in 3rd grade is do your best. It's okay, you'll do great. The student in 3rd has no clue what GATE is and what implications it has on his long term schooling career and yet they are asked to sit through the exam. There is the option to opt your child out, but then which parent would prevent their child from being identified as gifted and talented. One such unique parent is me. I opted him out. I know he is gifted and I also know that he is 8 years old who only does something when he understands the logic and importance of the task. That's just him. To ask him to sit through that exam would be setting him up for failure. Today, if he has to sit through that exam, I am more confident of him succeeding, because he now knows why he is giving that exam. He knows that if he clears it, he gets advanced classes in middle school.  But he lost that option when he forced himself to go in 4th grade. He wanted to be with the GATE students, because they are "smarter" than the rest of the group. And we knew he wasn't ready because he was doing it for the wrong reasons, but as parents we gave him the choice to make a decision. 

I am by no means trying to undermine the importance of this program. I genuinely feel that it is a great program for those kids who are truly "out of the box" thinkers and not crammers. Because I think some kids are and they do get bored in a routine class. Even though the intent of the system is right I think the execution of it, has made it a joke.  Why I don't say anything in the school, because I have been told since my son is Non_Gate I take this stance. What can I say, I love the Indian approach to life :) 

Today we live in a society that measures everything quantitatively. There is this intense need to quantify everything. There are efforts being make to quantify even happiness. Extend the quantificaiton to school level and we have grades, the intelligence of child is measured based on one exam. The student may be unwell that day or maybe a life changing event at home has the kid disturbed, but he/she still has to give the exam and do well or else he fails.

There is something intrinsically flawed with this system. The education industry NEEDS a major disruption. 

Disruption because gone is the era when students went to the library and poured over text books. This generation has so many tools at their hands, that they need the freedom to not only express in their own unique way but also learn in their way, and that is the student pain point. The freedom to learn in a way that works for the kid is missing. 

When we have exams we have a whole group that excels, a group that is average and a group that struggles. Very little emphasis is given to the group that struggles. Its always about those who succeed. And that's just wrong. Because from these strugglers will emerge a few who didn't understand the logic of algebraic equations, but are in awe of the brilliance of a Mozart or Picasso. It is these who can look at something so ordinary as a sunflower and make it into a masterpiece.  I was very happy to recently learn that our school principal is bringing the Rembrandt program to our school.  I know it will be an outlet for many budding artists. 

The STAR testing week starts on May 9th and I am sure all parents including myself will be on high stress mode. What amazes me is that during exam time, its not the child that is stressed out, its we the parents. We, including myself have a zillion questions on the how, why and what of the exam.  I do it all the time, and its only after I have asked the question I realize the kid is probably tired and beat, the exam is over, lets just leave it that.  Why do we as parents do this? Don't know about you, but I think I do it, because it is the one thing that I cannot help him with. I can check his homework, read his essays, give ideas for his projects and even do a mock edit of his writing efforts, but I cannot give his exams. It's that feeling of helplessness, its that feeling of lack of control that translates to the zillion questions, which put my mind to ease, but probably further stress the mind of my child. 

This STAR testing week I make a promise to myself to tell my son exactly what my dad told me in the final year of engineering exams and as a matter of fact tells me even today "Just do your best and leave the rest."