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A highly skilled mason was retiring.  He had built hundreds of great houses for his boss.  He was weary and looking forward to retirement. His boss asked him to build just one more wonderful house for someone special.  The mason was not happy.  He had lost interest in building  great houses, though he was fit.  He agreed reluctantly and built a not-so-great house. The walls were weak and the roof was not great.  His quality of work was unusually poor.  As he bid a goodbye to his boss, his boss handed him the key of the same house which he built last and said – this was my farewell gift to you, my friend, I hope you like it.

Our Attitude affects everything. The Fast Company magazine is a fantastic place to read about Attitude.  You can read some fascinating stories on attitude at Fast Company.com; notable amongst them is the Zappos Story and the Amazon story.  Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill – that’s how Southwest Airlines hires people.

The Gita has the most profound material on attitude that you can find.  This verse recited by Lord Krishna, “Karmanye vaadhikaarasthe maaphaleshu kadachana” is a real punchline on attitude.  It’s meaning – “You have a right to perform your prescribed action, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities, and never be associated to not doing your duty.”   Do your duty with detachment to end results and results will automatically follow, is what it means. A fast paced, almost fiction like depiction on Lord Krishna and his teachings can be downloaded for free here.  You won’t be bored and the intricacies of the plots are truly amazing.

The latest issue of Fast Company has a very stirring editorial note on Attitude.  He describes how the young Facebook, Twitter generation folks are overturning corporate hierarchies and building businesses.  They don’t respect and couldn’t care less about corporate management structures and have scant regard for listening to deadbeat managers about what cannot be done and how we cannot do something.  They are adopting novel but simple ways to get things done.  It leaves larger corporations gasping for breath. He talks about the celebrity Ashton Kutcher’s attitude and how he is transforming the media landscape.

In these gloomy recession days, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s talks and book on “The Power of Intention” could also bring some cheer and a change in attitude.  Give it a try.

Woes befall us, if our iPod headphone gives the tiniest crackle, or gas prices go up a few cents.  We cannot do without an afternoon of internet disruption.  How can we get less affected by recession and other external environmental crests and troughs? A small jolt hurts us so bad.  It seems the more we depend on money and materialistic stuff, the more we get tethered to them firmly.  Our happiness solely depends on …well…stuff…

National Geographic carries a story about the Hadza tribe in Tanzania. They have no personal possessions, don’t grow crops, have no sense of time or calendars. They live by the day, hunt, eat and live happily and healthily. No change from 10,000 years ago.  Has the recession affected them?  While we hum and haw about layoffs and pay cuts, the Hadza are busy hunting for the night’s meal, nothing’s changed.

Gandhi did 2 things to live happily and create a revolution– he gave up materialistic possessions and started walking.  He became a vegetarian in his teens.  He got his power of conviction and inner strength from these sacrifices.  He lived life simple.  Remember, Gandhi took up walking and with his Dandi march started the Quit India movement that led to the end of the British rule in India.  He died a private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office.  Millions came to his funeral procession.

A recent editorial in Forbes or Fortune magazine said that the economy is not in anyone’s control anyway, take up walking and “walk” out of the economic recession.  The editorial recommended that Tim Geithner start walking since he cannot do much anyway to walk the economy out of recession.  Not much is in his control.  Not a bad idea.  After all Einstein discovered gravity probably while walking and resting under an apple tree….  Walking would probably give our economic gurus some new ideas to stir up the economy!

Walking stimulates the brain, generates ideas, reduces costs and helps keep the environment green and reduces the terrible dependency on oil.  I found a nice site http://www.walkscore.com that gives you a measure of Walkability of any city. I typed in Shrewsbury, MA, where I live. It is not so great at 51/100.  That means I need to drive to buy any groceries or have a cup of coffee.  There is not even a pedestrian crossing to cross the state highway at the traffic lights. Boston is classified as a Walkers Paradise with a score of 98/100.  Bangalore – 80/100 very walkable.  Interesting!

And then after deeply ruminating over walking and living simply like the Hadza folks, I realize if marketing and advertising is what actually has led us away from a simple life to the awful dependence on stuff.  I remember the Lexus ad tagline “A strong desire is a justifiable need”.  So we buy more and more stuff today, tomorrow and more stuff on Black Friday.   But that’s what runs the economy and keeps the world going around, doesn’t it?

Fascination with trains and railroads has been an enduring obsession for me.   When I was five, all I ever wanted was to be a locomotive engine driver.   What a wonderful life he led and what fun trains were!  Chugging through vast hinterlands in rain, dust and snow, trains would conjure up yearning imagery of lost worlds and nature’s vagaries for me.    The old Hindi ballad, Kishore Kumar’s “Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai” is spot on.  Translation with some poetic license 🙂

Move on with the journey of life, said the engine’s roar
The commanding yet beseeching horn blared
Get in, you mere mortals and say nothing more!
The train beckoned me and I was snared!

Whether they run on steam or coal or gas or electric motors, trains have basically retained the same glamour.  The Palace on Wheels carries amazed international tourists from Delhi to Jaipur in royal ambience.  A steam engine symbolically pulls you out from Delhi station.

Jethro Tull’s “Journeyman” is so poignant when you remember some long night journeys in trains:

Orange beams divide the darkness
Rumbling fit to turn the waking worm.
Sliding through Victorian tunnels
Where green moss oozes from the pores….
Howling into hollow blackness
Dusky diesel shudders in full cry.

“Chaiyya Chaiyya” from AR Rehman is one helluva train song, with the cute small train winding through hills.  It is also the title track for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Inside Man”.

BTW, I still want to be an engine driver, wonder if I should look up Monster.com tonight……. .

This bestseller talks about how Mary got into the driver’s seat of a “toxic dump” of a workplace where everyone’s morale was very low.  No other department employee enjoyed talking to Mary’s colleagues.  The work they did was boring, their customers were unhappy and hated talking to them.  Next door was Seattle’s Pike Place Fish which did a similar boring job of selling fish but everyone was happy and made customers happy daily and all the time.  Slowly Mary transformed her “toxic dump” and her department became the most fun department of all.

She helped each employee “Choose their Daily Attitude”, “Build Fun” into the workplace, “Be Present” and “Involve Customers” in their activities and work.  It involved simple things like having a fun competition during lunch time, sharing each other’s problems and inviting a customer to share their glory and teach them something on one day.

Found the book quite inspiring and as simply written as “Who Moved My Cheese”.  Light, fun and easy reading, yet deeply philosophical.

Looking at quickly reading Kermit the Frog in “Before you leap: A Frog’s Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons”.  Seems very similar, quick great reading.

I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer say on TV that when you make a person feel good, there is a chemical called serotonin that is secreted inside you.  That stimulates the body and makes you healthier and happier.  Some people I met serotonize themselves whenever they meet someone and make themselves happier and healthier.

I met a Administration Coordinator of a medical company at Orlando event alongwith a colleague.  All she did was usher us in, ask us if we had coffee, register us and take us to the stall where we were supposed to go.  In these five minutes we were in awe of her.  Every gesture of hers made us feel we were of great value to her.  We were the king of nations, we were the royals, we were to be made happy.  And she had no reason to do so, we were actually vendors to the company.

Recently I met a clothes vendor on the street in Bangalore.  She was selling some useful nick nacks on the street.  She spoke in Hindi, English and Kannada and told us why she was selling this and how each cloth would help us.  Again, she treated us like we were revered people and she joked and wanted us to smile and laugh, whether we bought something or not.

I found these people amazing!  They had no reason to make us feel so good.  I realized all they were doing was to make us feel happy so that they were happy.

Can I be less surly with my colleagues, family and whoever I meet and make them happy and serotonize myself to happiness?  I’ll try 🙂