Does it make you smile?

Life is hard enough, choose pursuits that make you smile. Or choose to smile in your pursuits…

About a decade ago, I was in the US, fresh out of grad school, trying to make my mark in the world. What made me tick at the time was to do something that others said was impossible. With my background in computer engineering and sport psychology, I had the idea of creating software to help people stick to exercise, and loved it!

My pursuits to create the software took me to an entrepreneur’s meet up in Gainesville (my adopted town in the US). Over drinks, one of the more experienced entrepreneurs asked me what I wanted to do and I launched into my It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting2-minute elevator speech with gusto! He seemed unimpressed, so I started to embellish it with my background of playing basketball in India. I told him how I wanted to ultimately move back to India and share my experiences, guiding a new generation of athletes. Using what I thought was great skill, I maneuvered the conversation back to my current topic of helping people stick to exercise.

“Go back to that” he interrupted my maneuver.

“What?” I asked, somewhat surprised.

“India. Tell me more about what you want to do in India”.

I was confused. “What could he possibly want to do with India?” I thought.

“You were smiling when you were talking about it” he explained sensing my confusion. I hadn’t realized.

“That smile is tells you what you believe. Yes the other stuff is interesting. But this, back in India, is where your real interests lie.” The night went on, as did the conversation. Eventually we exchanged info and left.

What he said stayed with me though.

The first question was if I really believed in what I was doing? Second, if I am not smiling thinking about it, is it worth pursuing? Although I didn’t know it at the time, or perhaps did not want to believe, my heart always lay here, back in India. That was my purpose.

Now I am back in India, and pursuing my real purpose and my dream. It took my sometime to make the real plunge into attempting it. And I smile thinking about it. About the possibilities. And this is my litmus test for things I want to do (along with Steve Jobs famous, “if you had one day to live, would you do what you are doing today?” If you haven’t seen or heard his commencement address at Stanford, check it out below)

I still think my other idea was great and it still is there in the back of my head. But my real purpose is what I am working on. We do this a lot, don’t we? Choose goals that seem worthy and interesting, but they don’t make us smile. Whether the goal is to lose a certain number of pounds, or gain more money, or a better relationship, or a fuller life. If pursuing them already does not make you smile, then learn to smile. This is not about smiling when the goal comes to fruition, but in the process itself.

I’ll get into some more details of the psychology of this in the next post but until then, I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Peace be your journey! Cool runnings!”

Are you pursuing what makes you smile? Please do leave your comments.

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11 thoughts on “Does it make you smile?

  1. I know what you mean! I think somehow Dad’s have a huge responsibility in showing us the way. I remember when I told Dad that I wasn’t loving my comp eng MS. His answer was simple, “then do what you love”. There wasn’t even a question in his mind. Befitting for this day, thank you for helping me recall that memory :)! Happy father’s day!

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  2. Very well written, and so damn true! And so stunningly simple! Explains a lot of stuff (like why I make all those resolutions and never work on them); and yes, makes one smile! 😊😊
    Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Lovely write up Amitoj…i guess challenge is to find what u love…most ppl dont know that. Once u know its farily easy run. Im so glad u know yours…Good luck

    Your deligent student

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  4. So true!! Doing what you love is the hallmark of happiness and excellence. When your interest becomes your profession there is no holding back

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  5. Great thought Amu! Reminds me of Prof Higgins of Pygmalion: “I am one of those lucky people who have made their hobby their profession.” But there’s a catch: you weren’t aware you were smiling when that guy pointed out to you. So how will you know unless someone else volunteers? And the smile must be spontaneous,… So shall we call it a lucky accident for you? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about Flow: when you don’t notice time or effort when doing something, you know it’s your natural calling…. One last observation : one also needs tremendous courage to follow one’s heart when easier and safer alternatives are available. Congrats & kudos for putting your neck on the block for what you love!

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  6. I think life is always a mix bag, of bold decisions and of unplanned compromises, of living the day and of living through the day, of speaking your mind and of speaking for others to mind. I think inherently most of us are programmed to strive for that illusive ‘have all’ satisfaction, of doing what makes you smile and of smiling at what you have done. But I believe it takes courage to stick to either side for a long period, forget permanently. kudos to you for trying that, not a first for you anyway. All the best dude, and as his excellency air Jordan said ‘I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed’. Enjoy the roller coaster, well, you have asked for it.

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    1. You’ve been there through most of it, and done quite a few of the same thing 🙂 I think somewhere we are still romantics at heart, and love to hope against hope

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