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Here’s Why Following Your Passion Can Be the Best Decision You Ever Make!

In today’s world, choosing a career can be confusing with so many options, but fear not! Pavan Soni’s Design Your Career offers helpful advice from his experience leading over 550 workshops in five countries. Soni aims to help you understand your talents, encourage you to follow your dreams, and find fulfillment in your career.


Read this excerpt to discover how pursuing your passion can be the best decision you ever make.

Design Your Career
Design Your Career || Pavan Soni


Till about a few years back, talking of ‘following your passion’ in an Indian context would have been futile, for you really didn’t have much of an outlet for what you liked doing. But that’s no longer true. The market has truly opened; people are willing to back you, especially in tier-1 cities, and your mistakes can be overlooked, at least by others. But all this still demands excellence. And excellence, my friend, is in doing the boring stuff well.


Following your passion starts by knowing your passion and as Robin Sharma quips, ‘People who study others are wise but those who study themselves are enlightened.’ So, let’s delve deeper into this seven-letter word.


Here’s my definition: Passion is anything that you do without any external motivation. Put differently, passion is something that you don’t get tired doing. It doesn’t have to be profound or noble. Watching movies, gossiping, cleaning your house, chatting with friends, window shopping—any of that could be a passion. The interesting thing, however, is that ‘passion is blind’. While it can drive you, it can also quickly exhaust you.


Passion without reason can certainly waste you. A teacher is passionate and so is a murderer, but for entirely different causes. Said Khalil Gibran, ‘Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.’ While your passion propels you, your reason directs you. Passion comes from heart, reason from mind. We need both, especially a true, internally inspired passion. ‘Passion that is not the result of some commitment or attachment, passion that is not lust,’ suggested Krishnamurti.


Your passion can be infectious—for your team, organization and even customers. Identifying himself as someone who is excited by ideas and grounded by empathy, Satya Nadella is passionate about putting empathy at the centre of everything he pursues.16 As he took on the leadership at the struggling Microsoft in February 2014, the company was deeply fragmented, characterized by a ‘know-it-all’ culture. But over the years, Nadella turned around the once-pioneer into a technological magnate and into a ‘learn-it-all’ culture.


Nadella deems a company as a vehicle to channelize individual passion for the larger good, and in the case of Microsoft, it’s about building products that empower others. So, you see, passion is not just a private affair; it can rally troops, provided you display it viscerally.


Kalanithi was passionate about writing, for he always contemplated between excelling in neurosurgery-neuroscience or becoming a full-time writer. But the diagnosis of cancer at age thirty-six changed his calculus, and what he produced in his last few months is arguably one of the finest pieces on spirituality. His memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, left Bill Gates in tears. It’s almost of the same gravitas as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.


But let’s see what passion looks like towards the end of your otherwise very promising career. On Kalanithi’s writing regime, Lucy, his estranged wife, remembers:


Paul wrote relentlessly, fueled by purpose, motivated by a ticking clock. He started with midnight bursts when he was still a neurosurgery chief resident, softly tapping away on his laptop as he lay next to me in bed; later he spent afternoons in his recliner, drafted paragraphs in his oncologist’s waiting room, took phone calls from his editor while chemotherapy dripped into his veins, carried his silver laptop everywhere he went. When his fingertips developed painful fissures because of his chemotherapy, we found seamless, silver-lined gloves that allowed use of a trackpad and keyboard. Strategies for retaining the mental focus needed to write, despite the punishing fatigue of progressive cancer, were the focus of his palliative-care appointments. He was determined to keep writing.


Only passion can take you through the most difficult phases of your life. Passion gives you a sense of joy, a drive to pursue something bigger than yourself. And this joy is very much personal. Others may wonder at your enthusiasm as unwarranted, but don’t bother; you don’t owe anything to most others. While I play my guitar at street corners for it delights me, most passers-by don’t bother with a first look. Perhaps that’s how I developed a thick skin.


Here’s a real testimony of passion. Twelve North American writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature between 1901 and 2015, and yet none of them had an MFA (Master of Fine Arts). Four of them never even got past high school. Neither Quentin Tarantino nor Christopher Nolan, two of the finest directors of our generation, ever went to a movie school. Maybe that’s why. ‘I’m a self-taught filmmaker. I never went to film school. I never studied filmmaking,’ admits Nolan. ‘I started making films when I was seven years old. Making films using my dad’s super 8 camera and action figures doing stop-motion films. A little bit of animation and a certain amount of live-action and I just carried on making films as I grew up and, over the years, they got bigger, hopefully better.’


Acknowledge that passion drives the purpose, and not the other way around. If you are driven, then you will find the means, including expertise, if necessary.


Get your copy of Design Your Career by Pavan Soni on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Is Failure the Ultimate Path to Success? These Outliers Say Yes!

Here’s your chance to defy the ordinary with Against the Grain by Pankaj Mishra, a book that celebrates those who dare to be different. Through engaging conversations with notable outliers like A.R. Rahman, Uday Kotak, and Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the book shares real stories of success, failure, and the pursuit of dreams.

Read this exclusive excerpt to discover how the Chandrayaan-2 mission turned setbacks into breakthroughs, capturing the true essence of resilience and innovation.


Against the Grain
Against the Grain || Pankaj Mishra


The concept of ‘successful failure’ resonates deeply in the story of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission. It was a bold leap, aiming to explore the uncharted south pole of the moon. Despite the setback in the landing phase, the mission wasn’t a loss. The orbiter continues to gather valuable data, contributing significantly to our understanding of the moon. More importantly, with lessons learned from Chandrayaan-2’s challenges, Chandrayaan-3 could land successfully on the moon.


This journey transcends the bounds of space; it’s a metaphor for outliers—to find poetry in problems and to reach for the moon, quite literally, even when the first leap falters. And that’s what I love about these conversations. These outliers talk about their failures with the same pride they have for their wins. Because, let’s face it, owning your failures is a kind of success.


When you sit with someone like Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, you can’t help but feel the gravity—no pun intended—of his experiences. Here’s a man who’s been to space, but what’s more fascinating is his down-to-earth wisdom on failure.


‘If you can be yourself and not feel that you have to measure up to some image somebody else has of you, that’s liberating; it frees up a lot of energy for you to do
other things.’ —Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian in space.


Rakesh’s words resonate deeply with me. The freedom to be yourself, to not be confined by others’ expectations, is liberating. It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me throughout my journey.


How has life’s unpredictability played a role in your journey, Rakesh?


Rakesh Sharma: ‘I must tell you that I am blessed and extremely lucky, because I got a chance to do everything in life. I was barely twenty-two, and the air force decided to run an experiment. We had just got the MiG-21 supersonic aircraft—they wanted to catch young guys, and I got a chance. I joined the air force young, and before my twenty-third birthday, I had flown twenty-one operational missions in the 1971 war. Then, I got selected for the test pilot course, and despite not being all good in academics, I managed to become a test pilot. A fighter pilot and a test pilot—fit and young—and I then got a chance to go to space. Things have happened to me.’


Rakesh, how do you view failures in your life?


‘As far as failures are concerned, it depends on how you are looking at them. For example, most people think that when they set the bar for themselves and do not achieve it, that is a failure. But when you have constantly striven to get what you set [out to achieve] for yourself, and even then if you fall short, you will, in the process, improve yourself, right?’


Indeed, striving itself is a form of success. This is a perspective I’ve often found comforting.


‘So, I made mistakes during combat, and that’s part of the learning—I wouldn’t really put that down as a failure. That is just a learning experience. As a test pilot, I have had the chance to eject from an airplane because the engine backed up, and I would call it learning, not a failure. The important thing you need to ask yourself is: How do you remain invested? Do you have the passion for the job you are doing?’


Passion is a recurring theme in our conversations. Rakesh, how did you deal with the daunting tasks in your career?


‘In my case, whenever I looked at a daunting, challenging task, my first reaction was, “Hey, I will not be able to do this.” At each stage during my flying career,
when I went from slow to medium to faster to supersonic aircraft, at each stage, I felt, “Oh my god, this is too fast. There is no way I can hack it.” But when you actually get into it, you find that things are not half as difficult as you imagined them to be!’


You know, this idea of passion being the driving force, it’s something that has come up time and again in the conversations I’ve had. But hearing it from a guy who has been to space and back just hits differently. It’s like all those talks I’ve had over the years suddenly get this extra layer of, well, gravity. Rakesh, you echo something we all know deep down but sometimes need a nudge to feel. It’s fascinating how we often overestimate challenges.


‘So, when opportunities come your way, don’t get intimidated. Of course, be prepared that you might not hack it, but no need to get intimidated. Either it will
happen or it will not happen. After all, when I went for the selection as a kid, there was no pilot aptitude test. Now, there’s a pilot aptitude test, and if you fail it once, you will never become a pilot in the Indian Air Force, so there is tremendous pressure on you. If you have it, you have it; if you don’t have it, you approach it like that—you can’t prepare for something like that!


Indeed, some aspects of life and career are beyond meticulous preparation.


‘Similarly, when you are doing test flying, the best you can do is your best. You can read up all there is to read. You can de-risk, but you signed up for it. You are honourbound to go and do it. Even if you are scared, you go and do it as best you can. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out—that’s part of the landscape you have chosen to be in.’


Choosing our landscape, our path, comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.


‘So, this is one life lesson we really need: never back off! Failure is not the end of the world. Pressure is something that we bring upon ourselves. We should give it a bash. Just be yourself!’


So there you have it—wisdom from a man who has seen the earth from a point most of us can only dream of reaching. But what strikes me most is how grounded his insights are. ‘Just be yourself,’ he says.


Simple, yet profoundly liberating.


Get your copy of Against the Grain by Pankaj Mishra on Amazon wherever books are sold.

Demystifying Needs, Wants, and Desires in ‘The Autobiography of God’

Learn the true meaning of self-discovery in ‘The Autobiography of God’ by Lenaa Kumar, where desires go beyond mere wants and needs.  In this book, Lenaa shares her remarkable story spanning eighteen years—a journey of overcoming anxiety, depression, and the constraints of the rigid psychiatric system. ​

Read this exclusive excerpt to uncover the keys to profound self-discovery and unlock the answers to life’s most pressing questions.


The Autobiography of God
The Autobiography of God || Lenaa Kumar


A major side effect of Self-Realization is the loss of any need, want or desire due to the experience of One-Self as all-there-is!


Many have stopped at that level of mind where logic and reason become unnecessary.


This is where I am grateful to my family and friends for putting me in psychiatric care. Due to this, Desire could arise once again, and I am living out my potential rather than wandering as a bliss bunny!


As long as one is in a body on earth and identified with the body, the experience is always ‘duality’.


That of knowing I am One and whole, Infinite and Eternal and yet experiencing my-Self as separate and individual, finite and mortal. Mastering this balancing act is the Mastery of Life.


In the rest of this book, I will share with you all the techniques and tools I used to balance duality and reach a high integration of Conscious and Subconscious, Body and Mind, Energy and Consciousness.


Some basics first:
Need signifies the lack of something.

Want signifies the choice to have something.

Desire signifies a deep wanting, hopefulness and wishfulness with the added emotion of longing and imagination of having it.


The Paradigm Shift of Desire
Where does desire come from?
Putting aside the commonly believed idea that desire arises from within the mind, let us look at desire as a command to achieve or create or experience something, coming into the mind, in the form of vibrations, from the unknown or rather from the I/Life, and being translated by the intellect as an idea that then becomes a desire, that is then sent as an impulse in the body to Do something.


This paradigm takes away all the stress of having chosen a particular decision and instead the mind is able to focus on the task that it has been entrusted with by Consciousness/ I/Life.


This leads to a clear alignment of body, mind and I. I/Consciousness/Life gives a command to the mind that appears as a desire, which then prompts action from the body so that the being, moves towards achieving that desire which leads to the experience that I wants the mind to have, so as to break the identification of I with body/mind/intellect.


Every true, deep and intrinsic desire one feels is a command from Life itself to this mind so that the body may do what is needed for Life to experience itself, as Consciousness Bliss.


Desire vs Need
If you find yourself living in a box of needs, then you are in one of the boxes in Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs.


Pyramid of Needs

One must have a clear idea of one’s needs. However, desire is the thing that makes one get out of bed in the morning (especially, to go to work). To beat depression, one must desire something.

The desire for self-esteem is a paradox. We try to impress others with our material possessions and with how worthy they should think we are of their holding us in high esteem when the very need is for self-esteem, which only you can give to yourself.



Two modern-day issues with this area are:
1. Self-esteem is confused with social standing or status. This has to do with borrowed desires. They are the root of all misery. You can never enjoy their fruit, because the seed wasn’t yours, to begin with. If social media or peer pressure is the source of your desires in life, anxiety, stress and depression come free with it.


2. Not knowing what you truly want. Unless you take time with yourself to cut out everyone else’s desires that are filling you, your true desires will not surface. They are buried somewhere deep down along with your childhood memories.


While biological and psychological needs demand their fulfilment rather drastically, aesthetic needs are just as painful as all others when unfulfilled. Here, the dilemma is that it doesn’t look as important as a need, but it is an overwhelming personal need.


The desire for creativity, freedom and expressing authenticity and knowing the truth is the highest of human needs. Existential angst and the heights of anxiety about the unknown accompanied by the depression of not fitting in, not knowing how to evolve, confusion about truth and searching, without knowing what for, are the hallmarks of this stage. It is at this stage of our desire for deeper meaning that we feel most alone and at times lonely. This stage of anxiety and depression is a luxury. You get here only when the other levels of needs are satisfied and not escaped. Congratulate yourself if you are at this stage because desire takes on a whole new meaning from here.


Waking up to the meaning of desire from this stage we see it as a sign or force that rises within us to propel us in the direction of evolution, truth and destiny. Like all pure creativity, desire comes from a source beyond our limited perceptions of self. Then desire is seen as the fuel to unleash one’s true and individual potential. Desires are signs that lead to higher synchronicities, showing us the way to our higher self.



Get your copy of The Autobiography of God by Lenaa Kumar wherever books are sold.

Time for some tough questions with Deepak Ramola

50 Toughest Questions of Life invites people to have a conversation about themselves with themselves. Author Deepak Ramola’s quest began after he was inspired by the life lesson of a young girl who said, ‘Life is not about giving easy answers, but answering tough questions.’

Today we ask him some questions, to understand him and his journey a little bit better.

At what point did you decide to write a book with your experiences?

Last year, in February, while standing at the self-help section of a bookstore, I had an epiphany that most books were full of answers. I was curious to find out how people would respond to a book of questions. I had so many of them documented over the years, I started to give them shape and context for the book. I started writing in school for debates competitions and school magazine, I guess the seeds were sown there.

What is your favorite part about this book, and what was the most challenging question for you?

Front Cover 50 Toughest Questions of Life
50 Toughest Questions of Life || Deepak Ramola

Favorite part:

The stories that follow each question, encouraging people to put themselves at the centre of their life without guilt has been my goal with the book. I really love the story about the visually impaired girl who talks about the advantage of being blind along with the Mexican stories about the two trees of harm and healing.

Challenging part:

To keep it simple and honest. I was cautious to never over-impose my answers on to the readers but nudge them just enough to come up with their own. I had to go through a personal emotional roller-coaster with each of the 50 questions. Particularly reflecting on my toughest goodbye, how can someone make me feel loved was hard.

You started with around 500 questions, how did you come down to 50?

I followed my instinct on what seemed difficult to me and then, how people over the years responded to certain questions. I shuffled the list quite a bit with each draft. There are so many questions that I am yet to answer for myself, so I pulled them out in hope for a sequel to this book. Lastly, these 50 questions I feel are the ones we all need to answer collectively as the human race to be more kind and empathetic.

Who were the people that inspired these questions?

My mother never went to school but treated life as her classroom was a big inspiration for me growing up. Many questions emerged from our conversations. She taught me that literacy and education were two separate things and if we ask the right questions, we can educate ourselves beyond the infrastructure of curriculums. Apart from that Oprah Winfrey. Maya Angelou. Vishnu Kaushal. My team at Project FUEL. Interactions with Syrian refugees. My sister Deepika. And people I have learnt from and taught over the last 11 years. David Cooperrider once said, “We live in the world our questions create.”

What was the first question you ever wrote? And what is your next question going to be?

First question:

How would you introduce yourself with love?

Next question:

Have you ever given up on something beautiful and why?

If you are Facing a Burnout at Work (or ever have), this Article is for You

Almost all leaders go through a phase in their career where they feel demotivated, uninspired, lost and not on top of their game. This could be triggered by various internal and external reasons like lack of stimulation in their roles, misalignment of their goals versus the organization’s goals, resistance to unlearn and relearn, personal factors, and so on. If this phase is not addressed, it has a negative impact on the leader, his or her team and the organization. An uninspired leader cannot inspire others.

The purpose of this book is to give a name to this phase—leader’s block— and to help leaders recognize and acknowledge these patterns, and work on overcoming this phase and preventing derailment and burnouts.

Read what leaders have to say about their experiences of leader’s block.

  1. Karen, senior manager of a boutique risk consulting firm shared, ‘It was the time when I was really frustrated in my job and wanted to get out of it somehow, and when my prospective employer came with a fancy designation and lucrative offer I couldn’t resist. Looking back, that was a temporary fix, as that decision was not made with the right mindset or frame of mind. And I do regret it!’
  2. ‘I think my combative nature was probably new to me. I was not only defensive but also combative at work. It was one of the few times in my career when I took home very negative feelings. What you take home are the things you talk about, and if what you are talking about is all negative, you build up a significant amount of animosity towards the individual and environment.’- Frank, the executive vice president of a midsize energy company in Europe
  3. ‘It was not my usual style and the team expected me to behave as per my reputation of a fast executor. I was more circumspect during this time and there was a little uncertainty for everyone.’- Nancy, a senior leader at a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company.
  4. The product head of a big technology major, said, ‘I feel that some of the structures or approaches that I took and some of the messages that I delivered were not allowing those around me to succeed, and it really stifled creativity; it became all about executing a plan and not about achieving excellence in the business. It created a culture where we were managing expectations versus excelling, not being transparent about our business and not being inclusive about how we managed our business.’
  5. ‘Honestly, I think externally nothing is visible, my team doesn’t see anything, they see me as engaged and focused, but that’s because this is a practised skill. The dilemma is inside, it’s all internal to me, and I wonder how much I am challenging myself intellectually and how much I want to learn something new. I feel like there’s a strong yearning in me to learn new things,’
  6. ‘The big disconnect was that I didn’t feel I was trusted or valued for my contribution. I felt that instead of positive reinforcement, there was more of a fear factor that was instilled in the relationship around performance. Those things, over time, drew energy away from me, and my inspiration and my commitment to my job at the time was probably less than optimal.’
  7. ‘My new role had a lot of personnel challenges where we performance-managed people. It’s never easy to fire someone. Even if you have done it before it’s hard. But if you haven’t done it before, it feels almost impossible. I had to make business decisions which had a direct and significant impact on the business and the people. That got me very nervous. I was leading a division of 300 people and the feeling of being watched closely was quite overwhelming! I started to doubt myself and felt totally blocked.’
  8. ‘My internal talk was am I being too neutral, am I not taking a stance? It was like my confidence was shaken. I also knew that I didn’t have the cover from either of my bosses, so I was constantly convincing both of them about what I wanted.’
  9. ‘I couldn’t believe I was doing this—I was snoozing my alarm a couple of times every morning and would refuse to get up till my wife would literally pull the covers off. My wife started to get worried; she thought I was not well. It felt like the days when I didn’t want to go to school. You wouldn’t think you would hear this from a senior vice president of a multibillion-dollar company.’
  10. ‘I felt as if one of my bosses was waiting for me to fail, so I had to constantly prove otherwise. I became quieter and more cautious as I didn’t want to be proven wrong, I was not being myself. It was affecting me personally, my confidence was shaken. I was afraid to try new initiatives or take risks as I didn’t want to fail.’

Identify when you are getting into Leader’s Block and learn how to break out of it in Ritu Mehrish’s book, Leader’s Block!

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