.. If I had only tried.



Though I exercised a good amount of artistic license when I published my first book, Kaleidoscopic Lives, almost three years ago, the fact of the matter is that most of the stories were inspired from real life, including the one about a German housemate I once lived with.

Axel, at that time was 53 years old and had just finished the 1st year of his undergraduate degree in mathematics – sitting with students one third his age. He was slightly eccentric but nevertheless serious about wanting to graduate and used to study diligently.

While he never revealed too much about his youth, one of the few things he told me was how he could never attend college when he wanted to and he had literally spent more than 20 years of his life just fixing and supervising the installation of window panes (some way to spend the best years of your life, huh?). However, at some point Axel decided he was going to take action.

He quit everything and went back to college.

I’m sure he was faced with enough ridicule, scepticism and whatnot. And yet he just did what he wanted to in the end. And he didn’t make excuses – he didn’t say he was too old to learn (think of somebody who never went to college going to study mathematics at 53), he didn’t say he didn’t fit in with the crowd (he sat among giggling 18 year olds who looked at him like a grandpa), he didn’t let his physical limitations come in the way (he was a chronic asthmatic, and had frequent rheumatic pains) and lastly, he didn’t say he didn’t have money either. He bought clothes from Primark at discounts, cooked every meal himself after buying his meat and groceries from the most economic stores, and lived in an rented room for 70 pounds a week – all in order to ensure he lived as frugally as possible to fulfil that little dream of a college degree.

Once I asked him, what he planned to accomplish after getting his degree. He had his plans for that too..

“I will one day open a school for pure sciences… no sociology and all that bullshit, just pure science”.

I’ll never meet Axel again, I’m quite certain. He seldom used emails apart from his college one, had no social media presence and the number he used would’ve been discarded as soon as he left town.

So why am I posting this today? A colleague of mine who quit work after 14 years reminded me of him.

We often get drowned in the noise of our surroundings, living from day to day, doing what we often don’t enjoy because we need that paycheck at the end of the month. We are often afraid to stop because there are a million reasons not to – EMIs, rent, school fees for kids and a million other expenses.

And we continue on as our days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years.

We move from our twenties to our thirties, and then to our forties, and afterwards to our fifties, and before you know it, the best years of our life are over.

Of course, we may have grown up kids by now and we can always say that we ‘sacrificed’ our life for theirs. But then that’s what every generation says to the next, isn’t it?

Dont’ be surprised if our children live our lives all over again and say that to their children too.

What we really do is that we effectively shift our lives in our mid-twenties to autopilot and then let the years drift by. We never break out of our comfort zones, or take risks when we could and we camouflage our inaction as family responsibility or something else.

Of course, the fact that we started a family knowing all underlying responsibilities involved, doesn’t matter. And we stay oblivious to the fact that there are people who successfully manage a family life and still do everything they want to (no wonder all the top 3 billionnaires in the world are family men).

Not all of will become a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos, but then again, we’d never know if we didn’t even try.

So what are you doing as you read this? Would you be happy doing the same thing or something similar 10 years from now? If not, did you plan out when you are going to stop?

Coming back to my old pal Axel. I have no clue how he will spend the rest of his days. He might succeed and start that school, or he might fail miserably. But there’s one thing I’m sure of – the time he’s on his deathbed, he’ll atleast have that comforting thought – that he tried.

Life may not have worked out the way we expected it to, it almost never does. But don’t let that stop you from trying. Don’t let your fears and insecurities stop you from trying.

After all, when your time is up, the last thought on your mind shouldn’t be, “… I wonder how things would have turned out… if I had only tried”.


Hits and Misses of 2017, in retrospection, and goal setting for 2018!

Hope you had a memorable entry into 2018!

Though life doesn’t always happen as planned, a certain amount of contemplation and planning does go a long way in help get us closer to the goals in our lives and help us cherish our lives better. This is the reason why all of us should take a few moments to reflect on the year that passed by at the beginning of every year. To see what we did right the last year and that worked for us, and to evaluate what we missed, so that we can improve upon it in the new year.

I did set a few targets at the end of last year and while I didn’t meet them all, I believe the very fact that I set these targets, helped me achieve a good part. So here are the hits and misses of 2017 for me:

The Hits – The Things That Went Well for Me

1. Working on my Marriage  – I have just completed a successful year of married life after being a chronic bachelor for far many more years than my peers and can now appreciate the actual difference of being in a relationship and being married. The time I was single, it seemed every other family member or friend made it their life’s mission to get me to tie the nuptial knot (and then once I got married, half of them told me how it sucked – darn sadists!). Following my rather unconventional marriage (compared with traditional Indian ones), I was determined to make it work – because I knew I’d be having enough family waiting at the opportunity to snipe, “it was your choice”. I’m glad to say 1 year into our marriage, I have been happy with completely satisfied with my decision and realised along the way that having a happy marriage involves a lot of effort starting with the simplest of things such as sharing of chores and open communication. I believe I passed the anniversary marriage test when my wife joyfully declared on our first anniversary “I have the best husband in the world!”

Now all I need to do is to repeat that feat for another 50 years.

Pic: That’s us yesterday night – 1st anniversary night dinner and new year’s dinner rolled into one

2. Moving to a productive job –  Life at my previous company had become stale and I had decided 2017 would be the year to move on to a company where I could practice ‘actual’ Project Management (given my hard-earned credentials as a certified Project Manager) instead of ‘namesake’ project management. And just around the time I started looking out, I found the perfect opening in the old company I worked for – just in line with what I wanted – a place where I could build on my skills as well as use my previous knowledge. Given that I want to become freelance contractor by the time I hit 40, this was just the perfect break to gain the necessary experience till that time.

3. Publishing a #1 Bestseller – Even after publishing 3 books, I was never able to get an elusive #1 bestseller badge for any of my books and I was determined to do all the right things to earn that for the only full-length book I released this year. In fact, I used to visualise my book as #1 even before I had I had hit the publish button. I used to go to the Amazon bestseller charts and superimpose my cover the top-rated book there and pretend it was #1. A few months later it occupied that very spot in which I used to imagine its appearance – and for almost 4 months now it’s the best-selling book in that category. Goes without saying that I did tons of work in between, but the fact that I believed it was possible, went a long way in making it possible.

Pic: The most satisfying moment for an Indie author is seeing their efforts culminate at the top of a bestseller list4. Learning about Blockchain and Cryptocurrency – While this was never on my agenda at the beginning of the year, it was in-line with my generic goal of learning something new. I spent most of my out-of-office hours in the entire second half of 2017, after the release of my book on Options Trading, understanding and learning about blockchain, cryptocurrencies and the potential of this technology that could power the future.

Pic : One of the best things I learned this year was about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, amongst others, and their underlying technology

In fact, the many hours I spent not only helped me with some good knowledge of the topic, but also helped make some investments that have given rich dividends already.

The Misses – Which are now on my plate for 2018

1. Health and Fitness – 2017 has been one of my worst years in the past decade when it comes down to health and fitness. It was far worse for my wife who was constantly troubled by ailments (my wife had over 18 trips to a doctor between January and October and her health was major reason for concern that led to her leaving her job too). Though I didn’t have any serious disorders (but a few niggling ones) my workout and fitness routine I had built over years took a beating too, and a serious neck ailment took me out of action for months. From being somebody who was extremely fit and did half marathons 2 years ago, I can barely run a kilometre right now. So, one of my prime targets for 2018 is to get back into that shape I was in 3 years ago (<14% body fat, and lean fit) – and that’s not going to be easy but will be worth it! And yeah, I need to help get my wife into a healthy lifestyle too – and that will need some convincing!

Need to do a lot more running and workouts this year to get back into shape2. Book Reading goals –While I did a fair bit of book reading in 2017, it is nowhere near the levels at which I used to read many years ago – this was also partly because I spent a lot of time reading articles and focussed on video tutorials in a quest to learn something new. But either way, after keeping a target of 24 books, I fell short by half and need to work on this in 2018.

Pic : The noteworthy books I completed reading in 20173. Passive Income and Writing goals – One of my medium-term objectives is to get my passive income to match my earnings from my full-time job. In Dec 2016, I had set a rather lofty goal of achieving this by end of 2017– ridiculous though it sounded then (because at that time my only passive income source, from book royalties, was barely 5% of regular salary). However, I did scale up from 5% to 50% in the past one year (thanks to the 2 books released in Dec 2016 and July 2017) and believe that target is now within my reach with a bit more effort (more sleepless nights I suppose).
Since my passive-income goal is tied with my writing, I am setting myself a target of completing 1 full length book for 2018 (I’ve already decided it’s going to be on Cryptocurrencies) and a revamp of my Project Management Professional Certification Books (which I cannot avoid since the exam is undergoing a change early next year). I’m also keeping the bar a little high here by taking another crack at short fiction in the latter half of 2018 – I haven’t done any fiction since my first book, for the record!

4. Moving Abroad for work – This is another long-term goal for which I was supposed to initiate the necessary paperwork in place this year, so that we could move abroad to live and work in a couple of years, but failed to do so. It’s another item that my wife and I have on our plate together to plan and complete in 2018!

And these are my goals for the coming year and I’ll be monitoring them frequently to see how I’m progressing with them.

 So, What about you? If you haven’t done this already, set your Goals today!

If you’re somebody who’s had a problem not knowing what to set as your personal goals, have a look at this image below – it will help you create your own set of goals too!

Believe me when I say this, rather than drifting through each day as it comes, it helps having goals and targets for each month or year.

Create your list of goals and stick it where you can see it, or write in in a diary.

Meeting each of the goals you set will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of 2018, rather than the feeling of dejection many feel at not having done anything of significance the entire year and then creating a set of new year resolutions in 2019, that will get forgotten in a week’s time!

I wish you a wonderful 2018 and may you achieve each of your goals!

PS: Originally posted on my blog Steemit.com

Turning your disability into your biggest advantage – A lesson from the Scatman

cover pic for steem postsSomewhere in the mid-1990s, as a teenager, I came across this song that was creating ripples in music circles. And the more I heard it, the more the song grew on me – the song did have a peppy beat and some unique vocals.

It wasn’t a song of one of those ‘aww-so-cute’ boy-bands with custom made love songs or a song from one of those stunningly beautiful singers from girl-bands whose sexuality oozed off the screen and distracted viewers from their actual music, which was, more often than not, mediocre.

This was the song of a very unassuming middle-aged aged man who wore a black suit, a bowler hat, and a rather unfashionably thick moustache. Clearly, his song’s popularity had nothing to do with his extremely modest looks.

At the age of 53, John Larkin, an almost unknown Jazz pianist-turned-singer was making waves with his songs that was a fusion of disco and scat singing (a type of singing in which the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using his voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium) and was selling records by the millions and giving all the pretty boys and girls sponsored by the big corporate labels a run for their money.

John Larkin was better known by the name Scatman John.

Everybody has a story, but some stories are just way more inspirational. As was John Larkin’s.

Larkin, who was born on March 13, 1942 in El Monte, California, suffered from a serious speech disability from the time he could speak – a severe stutter that traumatized him throughout his childhood. His stutter was supposedly so bad that he was afraid to speak because he struggled to string two sentences together, and was constantly ridiculed by other children in his neighborhood.

John started learning to play the piano when he was 12 and grew up became a professional jazz pianist.

John’s piano was his voice.

He was quoted as once saying, “I hid behind the piano when I was performing because I was scared of talking.”

John’s lifestyle, compounded with his speech problems, took him through a dark phase in his life where he got caught up in drug and substance abuse – he apparently finally came out of it following the death of a close friend, and with the support of his wife and the couple’s inner social circle.

It is said that the most defining moment of John Larkin’s life was when he received a standing ovation for his rendition of a 30’s jazz song called “”On the Sunny Side of the Street”. That was probably the moment he decided to put aside his insecurities aside and tried singing for the first time along with his piano performance.

Till his late forties, John, never really found noteworthy musical success despite being active for 2 decades as a jazz musician. He even came out with a self-titled LP record in 1986, known today only because of his fame that came much later.

John left California to move to Berlin, Germany, where Jazz was more happening in 1990.

It was his agent who suggested he try scat-singing with a combination of dance music. Larkin adopted the name Scatman John and working with his producers came up with his first single in his newly adopted genre – a song called “Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)”

And things took a turn.

In 1995, at the age of 53, became a worldwide star – his single went on to sell over 6 million copies. Ostensibly his scat singing not only improvised on his stuttering problem but the words of his song as an inspiration for those suffered from speech defects.

“Everybody stutters one way or the other
So check out my message to you
As a matter of fact, I don’t let nothin’ hold you back
If the Scatman can do it, so can you

Everybody’s sayin’ that the Scatman stutters
But doesn’t ever stutter when he sings
But what you don’t know I’m gonna tell you right now
That the stutter and the scat is the same thing to you”

Scatman John came up with another single the same year called “Scatman’s World” – the song debuted in the top 10 in the charts and built on the singer’s repertoire.

Both his hit singles made it to his debut album as Scatman John, titled Scatman’s World released later that year and was a huge international success and was even one of the best-selling albums in Japan! He was so popular there that Japanese toy stores sold dolls of his likeness, and he even appeared on phone cards and Coca-Cola cans.
John Larkin became a symbol of success for the community of people who suffered from speech defects and e was a recipient of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Annie Glenn Award for outstanding service to the stuttering community and National Stuttering Association Hall of Fame.

In 1998, John Larkin was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on Dec 3rd 1999 at the age of 57.
It is tragic that somebody who found acclaim late in his life after so much struggle was destined to live for barely four years after tasting success.

But it is said that John Larkin, aka Scatman John, remained positive till the very end of his life. He said, “Whatever God wants is fine by me … I’ve had the very best life. I have tasted beauty.”

Scatman John may never be counted as an all-time musical great and very few would probably remember his name a generation from now.

But his story serves as an inspiration for those felt let down by their disabilities. Like he sang in his most famous song – “If the Scatman can do it, so can you”.