Rejection, Language, and Gratitude

A storm just passed through, and the lightworks were awesome! We might be able to sneak in a walk before the next one hits.


Jia Jiang’s TEDx video on rejection has had over 4 million views. The point he makes about seeking out rejection so it no longer has power over him is powerful and yet, terrifying. Come to think of it though, most of my every day interactions, including the ones I had today are an invitation to rejection. But there are so many other things that I don’t do for fear of rejection. An universal problem?


Lera Boroditsky’s talk on How Language Shapes the Way We Think was a serendipitous recommendation this morning too, after a discussion yesterday during our team’s learning hour.  Her examples of language shapes time and how it’s perceived (the Australian Aboriginal Community in a different coordinate space), number words that allow technological innovations that open up the world of mathematics, early effects (color identification is different), broad effects (gender nouns in German vs Spanish), weighty effects (how blame is allocated in different languages) provoked me into thinking about the unexamined language I use everyday.


I’m also grateful to several people who reached out today to share their worry and that they trusted me enough to share them with me, even if all I could be was a patient ear. Also to the person who wanted to say the work I’ve been doing in organising the weekly talks at work for telling me how much they valued it: it gave me a boost in my flailing enthusiasm in coordinating more of them.


Happiness is a choice

The wet weather broke for a bit this afternoon and gave us a chance for a long walk.

I could have frame this picture better: the pelicans in the background and the rippling reflection of the boat in the foreground as the wind gently blew over the surface created a beautiful visual that this picture will not show.


Eddie Jaku, the self-professed “Happiest Man in the World”, died today, aged 101. His simple promise to himself after surviving the Holocaust and having his first child “ be happy, smile, be polite, helpful, and kind” is the kind of system I aspire to for myself. It’s his reminder that happiness is a choice that I needed to hear again today.

I have seen the very worst in mankind, the horrors of the death camps, the Nazi efforts to exterminate my life, and the lives of all my people. But now I consider myself the happiest man on Earth. Through all my years I have learnt this: life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful … happiness is something we can choose. It is up to you.


On a day like today, cloudy within and without, watching Jaku’s message again was a simple yet powerful reminder to count my blessings.

I’m grateful that I have people around me that I can talk to about how I feel without judgement. That I have good health. That I have a a choice to be happy despite everything else going on around me.



Connection and introversion

Life’s full of apparent contradictions.

Connection is one of my core values.
I’m also an introvert.
My close friends cannot reconcile the two.  Quite often, neither can I.

I need time to recover from human interactions. The interactions are messy. They usually don’t go according to plan. They require ongoing maintenance for “professional” reasons.
The damage or discontent they cause on a daily basis is often transmuted into other areas of my life, especially with people most dear to me.

Thankfully, the daily commute to & from work allows me some time to put a separation between the two.

Work that you love

Is that an oxymoron?

Really, if it’s work, can you love it?
And if you love it, is it work?

Pedantic questions aside, what is it that I really enjoy about my work?

For much of my last two decades, my identity has been defined by my qualifications & work. In direct contrast to how I thought of myself for the previous two decades of my life. I loved art, music, life in general. I drew my energy from the world around me, from books, from sketching & cartooning, from spending time in nature, observing things around me, curiosity driving many of my questions, & driving the adults in charge mad. I loved solving problems, words, cross-words, puzzles & math. I loved the idea of travel, the idea of meeting my idols, the idea of learning new things.

While I didn’t have much of a choice in the path I ended up on, it started a course of events in my life that didn’t make any sense at the time, but in retrospect, have been perfect. Maybe that’s the case of most people, if not everyone. For two decades,  I tried to find every avenue to learn & do things other than what I had “qualifications” to do. Not  being formally accountable  for these things was a double-edged sword: I could experiment with my learning, but I would forever remain a dilettante.

Today, I find myself doing work I love. I get to work with words, help apply math to real-world puzzles & problems, to learn. I occasionally get to travel, & rather than just meet my idols, I get to meet amazing people every day.

What isn’t to love?

Finding a voice in public

I’ve never forgotten the first time I did it.

I was in in year 3, & apparently the teacher thought me the brightest kid in class. I’d changed schools that year (& had failed in at least two subjects in the previous class, so how that happened remains a mystery to me).

Being the ‘brightest’ automatically meant that you were selected for any competitions – debates, speech contests, sports etc. I was terrible at sports and not much better at anything else, although I loved reading & math.  I got selected for a speech contest. I don’t remember what my subject was. But I do remember standing on a stage that seemed twenty feet above the ground, looking at an ocean of people I did not know, freezing up, forgetting every word of what my mom had helped me prepare & rehearse. The worst part was being booed off the stage by a sea of cruel faces, most of who were just as old as I was.

I remember my fateful decision that day to never, ever get in front of a crowd to speak again.  It has had nearly catastrophic consequences.

Fast forward to the 2000’s. I discovered Toastmasters through a series of co-incidences, found the love of my life who was the daughter of my mentor, gave up Toastmasters for half a decade as life got in the way, rejoined it when I moved countries, & have nearly gotten over the fear of talking to most crowds, however big or small.

Nearly, I said.

I’ve been reading/ listening to a lot of blog posts & podcasts of late, & have been wondering why I’ve not really done things that I’m rather reluctant to do because of those voices in my head.  One of them is doing presentations/ public speaking at work. Talk (pun intended) of coincidences  – an opportunity arose to host the monthly team meeting, & I found myself thinking about a particular podcast, & volunteering when no one else in the room wanted to. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.

I’m fortunate that I have built some really strong relationships at my workplace. As soon as I told them what foolhardiness I had embarked upon, I had some incredible support from my friends at work. I came up with a few of my own ideas & my colleagues were happy to suggest theirs too. The leaders were also really supportive, despite my reservations about doing this.

One of those podcasters / blog posters that have really kicked my ass into gear has been James Altucher. I messaged James on Twitter, telling him just that.

I was awestruck when James replied back, asking how the event went, & reminding me to breathe from my diaphragm, not my chest! He probably has already forgotten his simple act, but that did incredible things to my confidence when I was beginning to think that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

The meeting went well, & while I was still nervous & a bit out of sorts, I’ve been getting feedback from a few who attended the meeting about how fresh it was, & that it was the first time they thought it was a worthwhile use of their time. Wow!

And thank you again, James.  I think I’ve found some courage to raise my voice in public again.

The sun is setting at all times – [Article]

David from Raptitude reminds us that no matter what, The sun is setting at all times.

We have to acknowledge that truth is relative to the observer. If there were nobody observing the sunset there would be no sunset.

What matters is how things appear to be, from your perspective. Your quality of your life hinges on your perspective, not the theoretical state of the world, or “objective” assessments of your living situation.  

Samuel Clemens’ fan mail [Article]

Maria Popova shares a collection of the mail that Samuel Clemens (better known to the world as Mark Twain) received from his beloved readership
Eg: A poor & barely literate Englishwoman sent him this sincere personal story & a modest request:

Dear Sir

I wonder if you would care to hear how much my husband & self appreciate your books. We have been married 4 years & I have bought him one of your works each birthday & at Christmas. He is never tired of reading them & they keep him at home many a time when he would be out at night He reads them aloud to me & I enjoy the reading as much as himself. The reason I am writing is to beg a favour of you. Would you be kind enough to give me your phota so that I can give my husband a surprise on his next birthday? We have one hung up that I cut from a paper but I should dearly prize a real phota I dont seem able to come across one here & we arent so well off else I might if I was rich. My husband earns £ 1/-per week as a booking clerk on the railway. We have a little boy six months & his father says when he is older he will tell him about poor little Huck & Tom Sawyer. Perhaps you will be too great a man to answer this & grant my request as we are only humble cottagers. I trust Ive done no harm writing. I have just been reading some extracts in our paper copied from your articles in the “North American Review” I am sorry you lost your daughter Susy you seem to have had a lot of trouble in your life but you always come up smiling. This seems a long letter but I will have to pay 2 ½ to post so I will get my money’s worth. The only thing is I am sorry you arent an Englishman & more especially a Lancashire man, perhaps you will put this in the fire I hope I have a phota from you

I beg to remain

Yours respectfully

Edith Draper