Magnificence

Chicago’s one uncanny aspect excited me as much as the Riverwalk did. It was the Mag Mile. Of course, this excitement came about while I was still at home zooming in on the city’s streets.

However, the idea of an entire stretch of the bustling city street filled with vanity stores made me—the least expectant shopper—wait with bated breath. What was so magnificent about the Mag Mile? I craved to find out.

Mag Mile, Chicago 1

My spine tingling with unfamiliar curiosity and eagerness, I found myself walking towards the infamous street. The sheer number of people hit my eye right away. Although I’ve lived my entire adult life in a city of 4 million people, that was still a sore sight. All around, buyers flocked to the streets, shuffling in and out of stores, sipping soda, scraping ice cream off a pint tub, biting into a burrito, and chit-chatting all the while.

Overcome by the overwhelming sight, I had to take a few minutes to regain my composure. Once I’d gotten accustomed to the sluggish crowd that wouldn’t go away anytime soon, I began noticing other elements in the street.

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Every few feet, for instance, was a five-feet tall a lighthouse. They were aplenty and on both sides of the street. Each had on it a graffiti, a painting, or a remarkable event etched in ink. Passers by passed by without so much as a third glance, while I lingered, going round and round trying to discern their significance. I couldn’t. But I did enjoy spotting the lighthouses amidst the sea of unstopping shoppers.

A little further down the road, I found Ghirardelli. Imagining my teammates’ glares, I entered, only to exit 30 minutes later feeling proud of myself. I’d stuffed a box full of the most chocolates anyone else had done that day. It wasn’t an official record, of course, but I gleaned that from the sales people’s faces. And how thrilled they seemed that I took so many chocolates for only a fraction of its price. Nevertheless, I’d found happiness in the Mag Mile.

As if to dampen my ego-driven joy, before my eyes flashed the not-so-magnificent part of the Magnificent Mile: the people of Chicago who had neither a roof over their head nor medical insurance over their waning health. Within seconds the balloon within me punctured, jerking back to the harsh reality of the world. The Mag Mile wasn’t just for those who could splurge, but it’s also for those who had no choice but to scavenge. While people purchased additional clothing on one side, on the other side people clothed in rags, writing out holdings, too tired to speak. It wasn’t an unfamiliar sight—both in San Francisco and my city, I’d seen thousands of pitiful scenes and people in dire situations. But that didn’t make Chicago seem any better.

I’d been too distracted to expect what I saw. Of course, it’s obvious. In a million-strong metropolitan city of a capitalist nation, it’d be a surprise not to encounter poverty and homelessness. Although that neither justifies it nor makes it less hard to digest.

Mag Mile, Chicago 5

I walked around more, but everything looked different now. Sure, the magnanimity of Mag Mile remained, and the throng didn’t fade away, but my perspective had. I’d seen the cruel reality of our society, and I cringed at my helplessness. There’s nothing I could do to change the way the world worked, and even if I could, there’s no one right way the world should work. There always will be someone higher and someone lower. That’s the design we are born into. I could stay and complain or I could move on. I decided to move on.

The Mag Mile was magnificent in every sense. My jaw dropped at the grandeur but also, my thoughts popped at the ungraciousness.

Well, it is what it is.

 

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Let’s forget

Forgetfulness gets a bad reputation.

Of course, loss of memory is a bad thing and no one should say otherwise. However, for the last couple of days, I’ve been fiddling with the idea of mindful forgetfulness.

The more I think about it, the more I feel its validity. When we’re conscious of what we want to forget, we forget memories that aren’t worth clinging to anymore. Like a bitter breakup, an embarrassing presentation at work, an ungrateful argument with family… all those incidents that we wish had never happened will fade away when we choose to forget.

But even as I write that, I know it’s not just about forgetting. Humans don’t forget the bad things so soon. In fact, we sometimes may never forget, letting it rot inside our mind, poisoning our being, and making us more miserable than we deserve to be.

That’s why we should forgive.

We should forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made. And forgive others who’ve wronged us. Because once we forgive, it won’t affect us anymore. When we forgive ourselves for messing up the presentation at work, we set ourselves free of the bitter memory. We’ll work harder next time, and not let the failure hang over our heads as a threat.

This way, we are free from harrowing thoughts, and our lives will fill up with positive energy. With the negativity gone, we’ll have more time and willingness to remember what matters most to us and cherish the small things in life.

Perhaps mindful forgetfulness isn’t so bad after all.

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Thanks for the muse, Kumud Ajmani and #SpiritChat.

On creativity

Creativity isn’t a solo job. Think about it—writers, painters, sculptors, chefs, card makers, weavers, and craft makers all fall into the small business category. They’re all creatives at heart, and by job, trying to earn through their craft. Regardless of how alone they are in making their craft, when it comes to doing anything with what they make—refining it, marketing it, distributing it, and selling it, they need partnerships. They need others who can think in the same creative manner so they can do their part in the process.

And so, while a writer creates the first draft of their next greatest creative piece, an editor or a proof reader guides them through to the next draft. And during that process, they brainstorm, discuss variations, consider alternative titles, and work together to create the perfect piece of copy. Writing a book is no solo job.

Once the piece takes shape comes marketing and distribution. Think of a painting for example—the artist is proud of it, their teacher and mentor is satisfied, and they even got a few ideas and compliments from their contemporaries. The next step would be to promote it so more people can appreciate it. That’s no solo job either.

As for the marketing, distribution, and sales teams, they can’t work in traditional methods. If they’re to market, distribute, and sell a creative piece of work, they need to conceptualise newer, innovative ways to do their job. That takes a lot of creativity. A bottle of Coca Cola is just an unhealthy beverage. But by relating it to happiness, to sharing, to being wanted and accepted, the company’s writers, designers, marketers, and distributors all contributed their share of creativity. And they did it together.

Without the designer and copywriter collaborating with each other, a print ad wouldn’t have perfect alignment.

Without the copywriter and editorial teams collaborating, the ad copy wouldn’t ring as great as it could.

Without the sales and marketing teams collaborating, Coca Cola wouldn’t exist today as we know it.

Creativity isn’t a solo job. A multi-national conglomerate or an indie seller, to create anything worthwhile, everyone needs another’s streak of creativity.

Power to the right people

With great power comes great responsibility.

Whoever says Spiderman is for kids doesn’t know the reality of the world. As far as I can tell, that quote from the Marvel world of fantasy is one of the truest statements about our society.

When someone has power over others, it’s their responsibility to exercise that power in a way that benefits all parties. But the biggest hurdle in leadership is that there’re two kinds of people in power.

One, the vain kind that craves the spotlight, the extra commissions, and bargains that come with being a leader.

They have no respect for their team, they abuse their authority for personal gains, and they revel in self-absorbed obsession. Such leaders are worms in the organisation—they nibble their way through cracks, widen communication gaps, isolate people, and think themselves an impeccable leader.

The second is kinder. Society thrusts power onto them, and they have no choice but to accept. Apart from feeling it’s unwarranted, they also get scared. It’s only natural. However, that’s what makes them good leaders. Regardless of the few who fail unable to handle the demands of the role, great leaders rise to the occasion to do what they must.

Situational leaders who struggle at first to delegate, inspire, and guide others, will not long afterwards learn by doing, evolve through mistakes, and shine through the darkness.

It won’t happen overnight, though. As with any good thing, leaders need time to achieve their potential. No one can step out of college and walk into a managerial role in an organisation. Those who do that, those who think a fancy degree is all it takes to be a successful leader, in turn become snobbish, detestable, namesake leaders who no one looks up to.

A leader who climbs their way through the organisation—from being a team player, to becoming a mentor, and then becoming a leader—will understand the nuances of a leadership role and the importance of humility. That makes them all-serving decision makers who prioritise the greater good before anything else.

And that’s a powerful leader.

Flowing

Go with the flow, people say.

As if it’s so easy. As if it comes to us all without trying. But to get to that point of going with the flow, of making it look like it’s no brainer to be in the moment and letting things run their course, we need to make constant and conscious effort.

It’s anything but easy.

When I read a book or cook for myself, write something I care about or just walk down a nice road, I feel my inner self at peace. My mind and body will be calm and I continue. I flip the page and read another chapter, sprinkle some extra cilantro on my food, make my writing a little better, and take another turn instead of turning back. When my inner self is at peace, I let myself go, I feel myself going with the flow—even without trying too hard.

However, to find the inner peace within me, I had to discover what made me happy. I had to understand myself, try different things, persevere, and experiment every day with an open mind so that I know what makes me tick. I realise how contrary that sounds—who else would know our preferences better than us, right? Well, I think even we won’t know ourselves unless we test ourselves.

This testing process is trying. I often get stuck trying to understand what works for me. For example, when I’m under pressure to finish a certain task within a deadline, I can do it well. At the same time, though, when I have to finish a task within unreasonable time frames, it stresses me out. I won’t be able to do it as well as I could and that blocks my flow—my inner peace. And the only way I know this is because I’ve been there. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was helpful. So in a way, through consistent trial and error, we can understand ourselves better and do more of what makes us happy.

And that’s how we go with the flow.

Thanks for the muse, Kumud Ajmani and #SpiritChat.