Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present


A few years ago, my firm (Grant Thornton) embarked on a transformation program aimed at building a healthy and sustainable high-performance culture, in partnership with a ‘culture shaping’ consultancy (Senn Delaney). It has been a remarkable journey for the firm and for me personally. The premise of this program is that an organization’s culture can be transformed one individual at a time; and that you have to start with the one person whose behaviors you really control, i.e. yourself! The program weaves together 21 simple yet powerful ‘culture concepts’, which help us understand ourselves and others better, and makes us more conscious about how we respond to our environment.

I plan to write about a few of these concepts in future articles. I will start with one of my favorite concepts, ‘Be Here Now’. This is a deceptively simple concept that urges us to be mindful and live in the moment. In an earlier article on ‘Hacking Happiness’, I had talked about the neuroscience that underpins the link between mindfulness and happiness. This is particularly significant in an age of digital overload.

I had my ‘Be Here Now’ epiphany in 2012. It was a pleasant Saturday morning, and I had taken my daughter (who was then 4 years old) to our neighborhood park. The park was teeming with exuberant kids and sleep-deprived parents! My daughter wanted me to push her on the swing. For any parent who has done this, you will know that it is great fun for the kid being pushed, but not so much for the adult doing the pushing! My mind began wandering, and I did what I guess most adults would do in that situation – I whipped out my phone and started browsing messages and emails.

My daughter was saying something to which I was nodding; but I was clearly not paying attention. Then she suddenly stopped, turned around and asked, “Dad, have you been listening to me?” Very sheepishly, I told her, “I’m really sorry sweetie, I got distracted and missed what you said. Can you please repeat it?”

I will never forget her response. She gave me a very stern look and said, “Dad, I told you a secret which I have not told anyone; not mom, not my best friend. And you didn’t listen!” I had never felt so rotten in my life!

I promised her that it would never happen again and begged her to tell me her little secret. But she was adamant; and while she spoke about other things, she refused to reveal the secret.

That day I made a pledge to ‘Be Here Now’ for my daughter and for other people who really matter at home and at work. I have to admit that I still have my wandering-mind moments; but I am a lot more aware when that happens, and am able to refocus quickly.

The irony in this story is that a few weeks after the incident, when I asked my daughter what the secret was, she gave me a puzzled look, and said ‘What secret?!” Even though she had left me emotionally scarred, she herself had completely forgotten about the incident! (There is also a lesson for us adults in the ease with which children forgive, forget and move on.)

As you head for the holidays, I sincerely hope that you will all disconnect from your devices (after reading this of course!) and ‘Be Here Now’ for your loved ones.

Happy holidays!


  • Sanjay Thirumalai

    Global citizen with a passion for unlocking potential in people

    I have over 20 years of experience in consulting, global delivery and general management. I am a member of YPO, a global network of business leaders; and serve on the boards of Gift of Adoption Fund and Disaster Accountability Project, both nonprofits. I also mentor a few innovative technology start-ups. I research, write and speak on topics such as digital disruption, leadership & culture, happiness and climate change. I am a keen follower of global politics/economics (avid reader of The Economist); and consider myself a global citizen of Indian origin. My other interests include travel and sports.