My Aha Moments for your road ahead.

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.”

I always felt she cooked the idea along with the vegetable.

Little did I know that many other moms shared her view. By sheer chance, I learned over a campfire conversation with friends in my late teen years. Nuances within our hyper competitive middle class homes may vary. We chuckled at how the vendakai brought convergence in shared beliefs.

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. However, the study of tails opens our 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 can 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 the 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.

Closing Remarks

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.

Karthik Rajan.

While reading this, if a thought crosses your mind, do add a comment.

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I enjoy writing at the intersection of analytics and human relationships. Link to my blogs here.

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