I am... Life is... Living life with mastery

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Ashu Khanna - I am... Life is... Living life with mastery

Preface

"Dream as if you will live forever; Live as if you will die today." - Anonymous

My journey of self-discovery and transformation has been a very beautiful experience. It has given meaning and direction to my life and has filled me with boundless joy.

I Am… Life Is… Live Life with Mastery is about recognizing that life is simple and beautiful and we complicate it with our clutter of thoughts. We make a drama out of life. Life actually is a sport to be played all out and enjoyed. Living with clarity, committing to an inspiring vision and accepting the oneness of life, has allowed me to have richer relationships with others and myself, be innovative and live life to the fullest. Compassion, unconditional love, happiness are our true expressions. Time, wealth, wellbeing…the book views these aspects of life from a holistic perspective, as in my experience it is possible to live an integrated life with mastery.

My first book, ‘I Am Freedom…Be a Leader of Your Life’, captured my internal dialogue in seeking answers to take charge of my life. The deep desire to feel free was awakened as I became aware of having lost the contentment that I had experienced till my youth. My internal churn in this process of self-discovery kindled an overwhelming need to pen down my thoughts. Several insights dawned in me, and I discovered that Preface 15 we are born free and perfect. I felt a strong urge to share them and say it is possible to live life with freedom.

In my process of introspection, I recognized the intensity and noise of my questions, feelings, desires, wants, fears and anxieties. This clutter had blocked my ability to experience life. I was only seeing what was important to me. I had very little room for observing and absorbing anything new because my thoughts were filled with past fears or future hopes. This tunnel vision was limiting my life.

I first fought for survival with the outside world. My struggle then shifted to the world within me. As I introspected into my behaviour, every insight opened a door. I saw the alignment of outcomes in direct correlation to my way of being. Our life is a mirror of our internal space. It is as real as it appears and as clear as we understand it. We get what we deserve. Good, bad or ugly, they all arise from our choices in life.

As the answers unfolded, I realized there was no one to fight with. With my assertion of ‘I Am Freedom’, my war had ended. I was no longer a warrior. I realized we are born free and bondage is a state of our mind. Freedom, happiness, peace, joy and bliss are integral to us as human beings just the way sweetness is inherent to sugar. I knew my core was love. I also knew I was surrounded by love. It was now up to me to understand the free expression of my inner self.

My curiosity was further provoked. From my past years of reflection, I was aware that the answers were within me. I now had to let go and allow the petals of the flowers to open freely. I needed to stop focusing on I, me and myself and to habitually live by listening to my inner voice. I had to trust the voice of possibility to manifest my potential to express freedom, happiness and peace.

Discovering new facets about life, nature and myself, understanding their mysteries, twists and turns – never cease to 16 I Am…Li f e i s… amaze me. Life is designed to be extraordinary and beautiful and we all can live it such in our own way. The marvels of nature, discoveries within me and the external manifestations of life have inspired me to write and share my experiences and learning. I pray the book ignites passion for life and awakens the desire to making life simple and miraculous.

In contemplating on my Self, I have felt the bliss, peace and love that form our essential nature. I have experienced the miracle of human life. Such experiences, knowledge and understanding inspire me to live life with quietude and love, to play to my potential and celebrate the miracles and joys of life.

I am the ink that flows from the pen.
I do not fill the ink and neither does the pen belong to me.
I simply flow and write when the writer chooses to pick me up and write the thoughts.
What is my identification without the writer, paper and pen and maker of the ink? - OM Tat Sat

Table of Contents

  • Drama of Life
  • Life is a Sport
  • Inspiring Vision Fuels Passion
  • Translating Ideas into Reality
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit with Team Spirit
  • Innovate to keep Pace with Dynamism
  • Living with Awareness
  • Live in the Present
  • Diversity
  • Unconditional Love
  • Expectations
  • Authenticity
  • Happiness
  • Living from Internal Abundance
  • Wealth
  • Time
  • Balance
  • Excellence
  • Well Being
  • Meditation
  • Who Am I
  • Living with Oneness
  • Mission with Ambition
  • Living Powerfully from Detachment
  • Every Moment is New

Foreword

In my executive coaching career I have circled the globe more times than I can count. On American Airlines alone I have logged more than 9.5 million frequent flyer miles! If all this travel has taught me anything, it is that leaders around the world have much in common. Most high-level leaders, regardless of nationality, have Western educations and do business in fluent English. But the rapid globalization of business only partly accounts for their similarities. The leaders I coach – some of the most influential people in the world – are ambitious, hardworking and brilliant. They rarely suffer from fear and insecurity. Most often, their biggest problem is a titanic ego.

Ashu Khanna’s insightful book is a master class in letting go of ego. Each chapter reveals another path to genuine self-reflection and inner contentment. A student of the Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita, she understands how powerfully our thoughts shape our realities – for good or for ill. A misguided inner voice telling us that we’re better than other people only creates suffering for us and for those around us. Desire for status and position create clutter in our minds, as Ashu writes, blocking our awareness of what’s truly happening. Leaders need this clarity to lead well.

And yet our global business culture often emphasizes success and achievement at the expense of humility and honest self-appraisal. I have found that leaders ruled by their egos – who are primarily concerned about their own success – rarely enjoy it the way they thought they would on their way up the career ladder. Instead, they are ruled by anxieties about how they are valued and perceived. By contrast, the happiest and most effective executives are givers, interested mostly in the progress and fulfillment of the people working for and with them.

When leaders come to me for advice about how to help others succeed, I advise them to start with themselves. Some remarkable leaders have taken this approach with stellar results. Steve Sanger, former chairman and CEO of General Mills comes to mind, as does Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Allan Mullaly, former president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, took the job when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and is widely credited with one of the most remarkable corporate turnarounds in history. His leadership style was marked by his willingness to be transparent and admit what he didn’t know. He is one of the best leaders I have ever seen (and a model coaching client), which is why it has been such an honor to work alongside him on developing leadership programs.

Ashu also believes in introspection, and she takes a close look at herself in these pages. I admire that. She candidly describes both her successes and her shortcomings, setting an example for her coaching clients to do the same. Like many leaders I know, she was a highly driven professional. Later, she took a break from her career in accounting to have a family. Her struggle to find a professional path forward led her to coaching.

Ashu and I are in many ways mirrors of each other: we are both coaches, though she is a woman, I’m a man, she’s from the East, and I’m from the West. We share some fundamental values that inform our coaching practices, among them the empowering notion that no matter what hand of cards fate deals us, we always have a choice about how we play that hand. As Ashu writes, “Every moment is a moment of free will.”

Critics of this philosophy sometimes argue that circumstances beyond our control prevent us from acting freely – and this is true. But no matter how hard or constraining the conditions we’re in, we still have a choice about how we respond to them.

Victor Frankl, the Auschwitz survivor and author of the memoir “Man’s Search for Meaning,” writes that, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Ashu and I also share a belief in letting go of problems in the past and focusing instead on what you can do better in the future. Some thirty years ago, I coined the term “feedforward” to describe a new kind of performance appraisal. Instead of feedback, which involves reviewing past behavior, I suggest asking for guidance on what to do better in the future. Feedback has value, but it’s often uncomfortable for both parties. Bad feedback is hard to get and possibly even harder to give. Good feedback is still a form of evaluation, not a solution for the future.

Another belief we share: the value of daily discipline. Ashu recounts how she developed a daily routine of getting up early to read scriptures and listen to devotional music. My daily rituals are different – I spend time thinking and reflecting, and also answering a series of about 40 questions I wrote for myself that gauge how well I am meeting my life’s main priorities. I recommend this “Daily Questions” process to my coaching clients as well.

As I argue in my book “Triggers: Becoming the Person You Want to Be” (with Mark Reiter, Crown, 2015), this kind of structure is a powerful tool for keeping our lives on course (or maintaining inner stability, as Ashu posits). A trigger is any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. People, events and circumstances are constantly bombarding us, and they affect us more powerfully than we realize. It is easy to think that we’re in control when actually the environment is shaping our actions.

Awareness is crucial if we want to change our behavior for the better – and all but a very few of us could stand to make some changes. It sounds simple, and it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. As I like to remind coaching clients and audiences at my talks, simple and easy are two very different things. But it’s possible, especially with the insights in this book. I recommend keeping it on your nightstand or somewhere you can reach for it every day, to absorb and re-absorb its inspiring lessons.

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
World-renowned leadership thinker and coach

Back Cover

I am…Life is… Live Life with Mastery is my inner journey in search of how to live an integrated life and to express the inner self freely. Each chapter reveals a path to genuine self-reflection and inner contentment. Life is simple and beautiful. We make a drama out of life with our clutter of thoughts. Life actually is a sport to be played and enjoyed.

"Awareness is crucial if we want to change our behaviour for the better – it’s possible, especially with the insights in this book. I recommend keeping it on your nightstand or somewhere you can reach for it every day, to absorb and re-absorb its inspiring lessons."

Foreword by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
World-renowned leadership thinker and coach

Testimonials

Knowing and working with Ashu has been a personally and professionally enriching experience. Her worldview has a deep philosophical underpinning and is informed by clarity of thought and tempered by strong sense of honesty, compassion and generosity. Ashu has the desire and the ability to make a difference.

Mr. Jaideep Khanna

CEO & Country Head India, Investment & Corporate Bank, Barclays Capital India

Ashu has worked as a coach with my team on a few occasions to help improve teamwork and team dynamics. Working with a group of type A investment bankers can be pretty tough. Ashu was able to draw out the team to share their views openly in a constructive manner.

Mr. V Anantharaman

MD & Regional Head - Origination and Client Coverage & Co-Head - Wholesale Banking, South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank

I find that Ashu has a knack for cutting to the heart of the matter, no matter how complicated it may be. Her direct approach towards stating the issues up front, and then exploring solutions works very well in a business environment, where time is short and issues are complex.

Mr. Ashok Bajpai

Regional Director, Essar Steel

I have known and worked with Ashu Khanna for a number of years on various programs and have found her to be a very effective coach and trainer. Her programs on leadership and Branding are particularly of high order and clubbed with her unique individual style have proven to be quite impactful.

Mr. Awdhesh Krishna

Global Head - HR, Nomura India

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"Don't shout" is a commonly used hypocritical statements by a parent to a child. When the command is barked, the child is confused because the parent is expecting contrarian behavior from the child. I too have 'shouted' these words several times and now I laugh at my folly because the words and action never matched. I wonder, was I telling my child or myself to be calm.

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