Discovering My Own Belief, The Really Hard Way

It’s easy to believe that which I profess in words to believe, because I have a way with words. So well did I yield words that even I fell for my own professions. Then arrived a dark night of my soul whence I believed the stories my nightmares narrated. Thereafter, all hours of the day, imprisoned inside my own nightmares, I discovered what I thought was the key to my freedom, did not work. Words failed me.

It was then that I discovered while I could narrate new realities, it was not the same as meaning.

One breath at a time, I lived from moment to moment. In the early days, I told myself, “Every breath is a rebirth. If you can take the next breath, you are still in control.” I lived by the rhythm of each rising and falling breath. And as a lotus grows in the mud, each breath deepened my sense of profundity of what breath is, and planted the seeds of knowing in the mud of my suffering.

It was then that I discovered there is no bad or good, really, just how I choose to respond to “is-ness”.

These knowings were curious, for they refuse to be contained by the words I attempted to dress them in. And yet I knew, but how is it possible that I could know without words? There was a gentle certitude to these knowings that soothed me as I struggled violently to stay sane. Cradled in the refuge of their quiet presence, I began to see the clumsiness of the words we’ve created and how awkward the foundations of our constructed reality are.

It was then that I discovered how pain had made me vulnerable to the seduction of words that promised freedom from my suffering.

If not, how then can knowing be attained? This question led me to ask “how do babies know” because I believe they do know; “how was knowing done when they were no language per se”; or “how else do sentients beings communicate”. Simple questions which opened doors after doors after doors into other ways of knowing. With each knowing, my breath grew surer and clearer.

It was then that I discovered that each breath is a doorway to knowing, if only I knew how to pay attention.

And so I got curious about the breath, and very quickly felt like it was a case of “trying to learn how to swim by reading and watching videos about swimming”. So I switched my attention to attention, and did tons of research, which didn’t really lead anywhere. Then I got lost in the rabbit hole of “extra-sensorial perception”, and on it went. Until one day the penny dropped, “I need to use another tool other than my mind”.

It was then that I discovered the elemental purpose of heart.

Thus began my inner journey of trust. Of discovering the motivations, behind the motivations, behind the motivation, that gave rise to each utterance. Of befriending each and every emotion I encountered along the way, and heeding Rumi’s advise, inviting all to share their gifts of knowing. Of learning afresh how to sing the songs my soul wishes to express, instead of echoing the grasping of my ego.

It was then that I discovered the freedom that comes with being kind to myself.

Perhaps because I’ve discovered these the very hard way, hanging off the cliff of sanity with a few fingers on the ledge, I believe that our presence full-bodied, skin touching skin, letting silence speak, trusting where our breath takes us … is often the most powerful way we can honour the “is-ness” of another’s humanity. And should words desire to manifest in that space, it would ring more true.

This is what I believe.

Storytelling: 5 Powerful Tools to Earn A Loyal Audience

As humans, at one time or the other in our lives, we have to relate a story–storytelling. It may be about a happening or incident, a person or ourselves personally, or an institution or organization. It could be professional or for fun, as a leader, business owner, administrator, public speaker, preacher, parent, or just among our friends and colleagues.

We can’t do without telling a story. However, whenever the need arises, it needs to be done excellently, so as to pass across, the desired message.

As an entrepreneur, for example, you have to constantly tell a story to sell your products and services especially when you are taking the golden path of Content Marketing.

As a passionate storyteller who wants to have a great effect on the audience or readers, there are some hacks which if utilized, can keep readers fixated on a page. More importantly, the story would have the desired effect and leave a lasting memory on their minds.

I have come up with 5 powerful ingredients which if infused into your storytelling art, would grant you a wide and loyal audience:

Passion:

This should be the easy one, as a writer that loves what he or she does and has a goal to narrate for excellence.

The more passionate the storyteller is, the more authentic they seem and the more compelling their story becomes. You have to be enthusiastic about what you are narrating, this makes the audience more convinced and builds their own passion too. It simply makes the story compelling and motivating.

A protagonist:

There needs to be a hero or protagonist in your story; somebody who can be respected and related to. Someone who is inspiring and possesses desirable qualities which are worthy of emulation. This person, community or group engages your audience as they want to see what happens to them and learn more about them.

It keeps them suspended and longing for more. Note, human beings are naturally curious, we want to know what happens next.

An antagonist:

If there is nothing at stake, there is no story. What or who is the hero up against? There doesn’t need to be some super villain; think poverty in the community or lack of education, corruption or terrorism, youthful exuberance or an unreasonable boss, an unrewarding job or bad political terrain and so on. There has to be an ‘enemy’ against the aspirations or circumstance of the protagonist.

Awareness:

What’s the “Haha!” moment in your story? A moment where people learn or realize something they otherwise wouldn’t have. Did the hero learn something? What was the meaning and rationale behind the story?

There must be a climax. A high point of understanding or sigh. This is a very integral part of a story which drives home most of the points the story aims to pass across.

Transformation:

What has changed throughout the length of the story? Think about the impact, what is different and what has changed as a result of the story you are telling. Again, you don’t need to thwart some mythical villain and restore order to the universe; a personal success or any little change can be very moving.

A simple narration of how the challenge was overcome, for example, how you eventually founded your first company after quitting a job or how you made your first million.

This also gives hope to the readers. It inspires them. And most importantly, they yearn for more, since they feel it is worth their time and more value has been added to their lives.

They may tell someone about your story or retell it. Reader loyalty is achieved. Wider readership is on the way.

Make sure these five ingredients are never lacking in your storytelling. Then, you are in for a fulfilling experience as a story-teller.

As an entrepreneur, your products will never go unnoticed thus, a forward leap.

How to Make Social Media Work for You

In this age of social media, there are literally countless ways to make your business well known, but it takes skill to know where and how to focus your energy, as well as when to slow down entirely. Not all websites are a productive use of your time and/or money.

Before you begin any marketing campaign, even an online one, make sure you create a blueprint for long-term success. It’s good to have a plan in place for how to proceed, even if that plan changes organically over time. It’s also true that less is more when it comes to online promotion. You should know when to publish and when to scale back to avoid over-saturating your audience with over-promotion. Today’s consumers will blatantly avoid ads they find too intrusive or annoying, with some people rejecting an entire website or brand entirely. This phenomenon is known as consumer abandonment and it’s a very real issue in today’s digital marketplace.

Once you have established a plan, it’s important to appoint yourself a good team. While it may be true that millennials have grown up around technology, in certain cases, there’s just no substitute for experience. Social media is just another marketing tool for a  concept that has been around for eons, so being born in the tech age shouldn’t instantly qualify someone to head up your marketing campaign. That being said, for some companies it might be a better fit to have someone young on their team. The decision should be based on a number of factors such as your company culture, who your audience will be and what you’ll be selling. The key is to find the right fit for your specific business.

Choosing the right social media platform(s) is another important decision because there are so many to choose from but not every demographic will use every website. By looking at statistics like monthly active users (MAU), the top social media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, however, that doesn’t mean that every option will be a good fit for your business. It’s also important to factor in how much time you want to dedicate to the maintenance of each additional social media profile since every added site will require more time and/or monetary commitments. The only thing worse than a nonexistent social media presence is a horribly-maintained one.

In addition to posting timely articles and user-friendly advertising, it’s a good idea to interact with your customers – make it a two-way street. People love and require feedback in today’s marketplace and the more human your company seems, the more people will be able to relate to it and form brand-positive awareness.

How entrepreneurs can manage ambiguity effectively

In a world that’s ever-changing, change is the only constant. As entrepreneurs, change that compliments growth is not an option – it is a necessity. There’s a popular thumb rule in entrepreneurship – every single day, if you don’t encounter a single moment of doubt, uncertainty or confusion, you’re definitely doing entrepreneurship wrong.

For entrepreneurs, it is extremely necessary to be able to look at the smaller details while being equally comfortable with zooming out and looking at the bigger picture. This complex challenge gives rise to a lot of ambiguity. One can lose their way obsessing with the finer details, on the other hand, it is equally easy to be led astray by focusing too much on the larger picture. 

Learn to draw a fine line between micro and management

This helps you deal with perspective; it helps to disassociate from things in your control and things not in your control. Learn to understand the gestation period and how much of a time can you give to something before feeling the need to step in.

Relax, stand back and take a look

This one goes without saying. Sleep on it, take a vacation, go on a walk and do something you love if you’re stuck with ambiguity. Often thinking about the problem obsessively only multiplies the problem, standing back and taking a breather allows for your brain to protect itself from saturation.

Listen to your people

If and when you’re in a place where you don’t get to see much of on-ground reality, listen to feedback, problems and questions that’s put forth by the people who are at the receiving end. Make sure to hire and surround yourself with people who have the right balance of aptitude and attitude, for that could be instrumental in shaping your entrepreneurial journey.

Have your own definition of excellence

It can be easy to get swayed by societal definitions of excellence. There is no need to abide by quantitative and qualitative parameters that were set forth by others. You know what’s best, you know how far you’ve come and the areas that you need to work on; set your own standards.

Keep track

Often, there will be a pattern when it comes to decision-making, if a certain kind of decisions make you nervous or if certain functional decisions make you unsure, keep a track. If financial and marketing decisions make you feel unclear, dig deeper and see what about the ambiguity makes you uncomfortable so that you can counter it better in the future.

Don’t be afraid of contingencies

Not everything goes according to the plan, there will be times where one needs to adapt, improvise and overcome. Bracing yourself and staying open for plan B helps deal with unexpected outcomes better. Being able to bounce back and get up fast makes or breaks an entrepreneurial journey.

Master the process of unlearning and relearning

We live in an era where nothing stays constant for too long. Prepare to grasp the cycle of learning by understanding when you have to unlearn to stay relevant. On the other hand, it is also extremely important to be able to relearn and constantly move towards self-betterment as often as possible. 

Learn to embrace the grey

More than anything, as an entrepreneur – it  is important to view things while understanding the grey area. There is no black and white, right or wrong, it is imperative to acknowledge that not everything has a right or wrong answer. The ability to accept ambiguity is probably the most underrated trait of an entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur, it is a 24*7 firefighting job that comes with its own set of quirks, surprises and challenges. Make ambiguity your friend and embrace it, for change is the only constant in the entrepreneurial world.