I would get mad at myself whenever I meet an interesting person and I can’t fully connect with the person because I couldn’t express myself. In other words, I couldn’t communicate even though I wanted to. This has been a burning desire since I was a kid. I always wanted to be able to communicate with anyone and everyone in the World whether it is Obama or a stranger I just met.
As a teenager I had crooked tooth, pimples, a fat face and used to be mocked at and made fun of by my friends. At age 19, when I was at a gym with my friend the trainer asked us if we are brothers. I was so happy to hear that but my friend on the other hand got so embarrassed as he got compared to an ugly me and so he thought of himself as being ugly. The embarrassment experienced by my friend is one such scenario where my self confidence got buried in the ground and made me feel unworthy of having a conversation with people whom I wanted to connect to. But I still had the desire to be able to talk to anyone I want without having any inhibitions.
To address this, I protested and forced my parents to get me the goddamn braces to fix my crooked teeth. After getting their approval and going through 2 years of ordeal and pain fixing my crooked teeth, I got some of my confidence back. By this time I am in America and I have also added more cardio to my workout to develop Lean muscle and ate healthy. Soon enough I had the first date of my life. Ooo, braces and changes to my lifestyle actually worked and I felt like a king experiencing the thrilling moments of having a girl friend at age 22. Lesson learned: Do whatever it takes from within your center of influence to achieve the goal you desire. In this case my goal is to develop my confidence and while I couldn’t change my facial features which are out of my center of influence, I focused on what I can change within my control – diet, exercise and the braces which my parents could afford.
The first girl friend experience boosted my confidence levels which made me embark on a new Journey going out with more girls. After a while, I had a roadblock yet again. Because of the several jobs I switched, I have realized that there are not as many Indian women of my choice. So I had to cast the net wider and be open to women from other cultures but realized the limitations in my english to be able to communicate with them confidently. My incapability to express myself fluently made me go for Toastmasters where I learned Public speaking skills. It took about 4 years to gain the full confidence in my communications skills and cleared the way to connect with women from other cultures. At every point in these 4 years, I kept constantly going out with a goal to connect with more people especially girls.
Because I was constantly experimenting with what I learned by going out to bars, events etc…, I used to get immediate feedback and made changes accordingly by experimenting with different approaches. As an example, I used to have wavy hair and I never applied any gel to it which kind of made me look like much older than I really was. I came to know when multiple girls I met asked me if I was 30 when I was actually 24-26 years old. One of them told me if I changed my hair style I would look much better. So I started to experiment with my hair. I applied Gel and went to the Club – No much luck. I dyed my hair and went to the Club – REJECTED. I cut it short and went to the club – Woohoo, got lucky for the first time and I was able to repeat the magic. So I stuck to short hair permanently. Lesson learned- Keeping the end goal in mind, continue experimenting with what you learned without being discouraged and you will ultimately reach your goal.
After so much experimentation and failures, there came a time when I met a girl at Toastmasters. No offense but though I wasn’t a particular fan of Chinese girls, this girl had some kind of charm and bubbliness which made me look beyond the race. After a quick chat in the meeting room, we were ready to leave and got into the elevator. She is going to the first floor while I have to pick up something from the fifth floor. I told her I would be going upstairs and she offered to accompany me. The creepy dude in me gave fist bump to himself that I had this girl’s attention. But on the outside, I wouldn’t express any emotions as if there is nothing I am excited about. In this first encounter, we ended up talking for about 20 minutes after getting off elevator and that made my day, week, year.
In the next meeting, I have asked her if she would like to get an icecream. She said yes and we exchanged our ideas about what we want out of life. When we both opened up and had a terrific conversation, I figured she meets every “must have” quality on my checklist. I also learned from the conversation that her birthday is next week. So for the following week, I got a surprise cake for her at Toastmaster meeting even though it was quite uncomfortable for me to do so. Though I had several stories of being rejected by the girl and being outcasted by Toastmaster members because I bought the cake, she took it so well and thoroughly enjoyed the attention she got. All the members appreciated the gesture as well. Lesson learned – As long as you have the right intentions (in this case my real intentions are to throw a surprise to someone I admire and not really to make her my girl friend), get outside of your comfort zone and a magic might happen.
Very soon, I asked her again this time to go to a Hackathon event. She said yes and while at the event, we kept talking to each other fully disregarding what happened at the event. At this time, we both knew we are attracted to each other and so decided to go a bar instead. From there on, it was a terrific journey and in 1.5 years she ended up being my wife.
Improving my communication skills also led me to be a great networker. I no longer have any inhibitions or have fewer inhibitions when I am at a networking event or a company event where I have to meet a lot of people with different backgrounds. Just like I was experimenting by going out to bars, I was experimenting with my communication skills by going out to networking events. I also got immediate feedback at the networking events and so made several changes in my lifestyle like reading more articles to become knowledgeable in different areas, changing my dressing style etc…
It took me about 12 years to gain this level of confidence to be able to communicate with anyone I want without inhibitions. This is what I have been aspiring for since I was a kid. Lesson learned: Try to figure out what your calling is by listening to your heart. Even though I tried to convince myself that I am born to be an engineer due to my upbringing, I always subconsciously desired to be a public speaker and be able to express myself to anyone I want without any inhibitions. It is a great feeling when you achieve what your heart seeks to achieve and not what the society wants you to achieve. I still love my profession but it is just not my first passion.
Where do I go from here? My other burning sub conscious desire for the last couple of years has been to give opportunities to the people at the grass-roots level so everyone can live the life of their dream. Would it take another 12 years to get there? May be but based on my experience in the last 12 years I would like to make some predictions of my dream life. Only difference is this time I have a crystal clear vision as this is coming from the heart and not from my upbringing or fear.
In my dream life, I would have an influential voice like that of Obama or Gandhi or Pawan Kalyan (a famous actor from South India who is now a Philanthropist) or my Grand Father(a person his entire town would look up to for any kind of help or suggestions). All of these heroes empathized and provided for the less fortunate yet have the charisma that would draw people. I envision a world where everyone is treated equally and have equal opportunities irrespective of what color they are, how much money they make, what country or religion they belong to etc… This is a crystal clear vision I have for my future. How do I get there? I don’t know yet but just like my vision of being able to speak to anyone I want came true, I am sure the vision of being a voice to those without a voice will also come true. I would like to declare this as my ultimate destiny and calling, and would like to do whatever it takes to get there. Whatever I do in life will somehow relate to this vision and if I die in the process I would like to be known as someone who died doing what he loves doing.