In some versions of Hindu mythology, the Goddess Parvati creates her son Ganesh, out of her own body’s dirt. The name, Ganesh means ‘Lord of the People’ and he is celebrated by the masses at every Hindu festivity throughout the world. As he is the remover of obstacles, everyone loves to celebrate Lord Ganesh. A prayer is offered for him before any other prayer offering can be done for any other Deity in any Hindu Festival.
I first heard the story of how Ganesh was created as a child, sitting on my grandmother’s lap during one of these Puja’s. My memories of these celebrations as a child are now sweet glimpses of highlights from an old movie reel. Blurry and hazy but full of nostalgia and warmth. If I close my eyes I can picture myself there.
Strings of bold orange and yellow marigolds and white jasmine flowers strung together scallop the threshold of homes in a festive and jubilant welcome to all guests. The sweet fragrance of the flowers and freshly prepared savoury snacks permeate the air and flirt with your senses. Black speakers spaced throughout the compound blast the latest Hindi movie songs of the time.
Outside, laughter and shrieks take turns intermittently while children and even some adults light firecrackers in the street. Oil lamps light up entire neighbourhoods and people parade around in their newly sewn attires all freshly pressed. As the day progresses, you notice a few isolated grease spots from accidental touches to the clothing. After indulging in the cornucopia of pakoras friend in ghee, warm and fresh handmade samosas, orange laddus and white, spongy rasgullas floating in sugar syrup, it is only inevitable to leave evidence of some of the delicacies you’ve tried on your clothes!
I remember eating mishti-dahi (sweet yogurt) out of a small clay pot, listening to my Grandmother and being amazed by the fact that Parvati (who was more like my aunty living in the upstairs flat, rather than a Goddess) created something, some-one so special purely by herself. As mere mortals we cannot even conceive of something like this, but it did plant a seed in my saccharine-filled body about our ability and capacity to create something out of nothing. This element in the story spoke to me most. And to be able to create something meaningful and valuable that people around the world can celebrate, relate to and that elevates their lives’, well wouldn’t that be a great way to spend my life?
As human beings we aspire to create, be it in the form of a tangible object or an intangible service or feeling. Whether it is building sandcastles on the beach, a snow fort in the schoolyard or a pick-up game of soccer with the kids in the park, it is in these moments that we are bringing and living in joy. Children understand this.
Yet as we grow older, rules, pedagogy and institutional hierarchies come into focus. This, alongside our historical evolution from an agrarian society to an industrialized one requires that we each do our ‘part’ so society can be optimized. There is no arguing that the industrial revolution required creativity and has been tremendously successful as mass production has allowed us to fulfill necessities and luxuries at unprecedented rates and helped to decrease mortality rates and increase our longevity. But there is always a cost for any benefit, and multiple risks embedded into any potential for reward. (As a previous Fixed Income rates and options trader, I fully appreciate this as much of my success has been in identifying the different risk/reward payoffs and how to manage them)
In this case, as many societies saw higher standards of living, others experienced worse livelihoods. It has left some sub-groups alienated and others feeling hollow and empty. Now, as we evolve again from an industrial civilization towards a technological and sustainable society the call for creativity is once again in heightened demand.
The time to respond and create is now.
As sentient beings driving this evolution, our success lies in our motivation; our desire to create our best work to address this moment. If we cannot be motivated from within, our work, our production, our creativity will fall short of its potential.
So, the question then becomes, how do I find or create that fire in my belly? Since I’m talking about fire let me borrow a little from science. I recall from middle school that the fire triangle includes 3 elements. Oxygen, heat and fuel. Put these elements together and you create a fire. (Some refer to a fourth element, chemical chain reaction renaming the shape to a fire tetrahedron). Put another way, if we remove any one of the above 3 (or 4) elements, we destroy the fire. Kill the oxygen, fire goes out. Neutralize the heat, fire goes out.
If we apply this analogy back to us, I see the oxygen as the element that lies within us as we live and breathe. It is who we are and the choices we make day in and day out. The second element, heat, is our effort. It is the proactive energy that we invest towards building and creating. Lastly, the third element, fuel. Our fuel is the stuff we are intrinsically good at or naturally inclined to do better than other things. Some are called ‘natural performers’ or ‘wired towards tech’. Others have photographic memories or a flair for languages. WE all have a few natural talents and so we must use them. (Finding them out and combining them will be discussed in further detail later).
If we work these 3 internal elements together; our choices, our labour and our talents we too can create the fire inside our bellies.
The application of creating something out of nothing but your decisions, effort, and skill, is what I refer to as Creating Your Alpha. It is something we all have the capacity to do, and it brings us great joy in being able to create and share our alpha with the world. It is through this process that every one of us can bring value to others and in turn receive feedback, gratitude and rewards.
There are real tangible ways to figure out your triangle of fire, and physical tactical methods you can apply. We will go through them step-by-step. But before we do, take some time to think about the Oxygen part for you. Who are you? Do you make the right choices for you? How can you tell if you do? We will discuss this next month.