My older daughter came running when I was getting ready to leave for work and shared with a lot of earnestness and enthusiasm, "Daddy, could you get me more crayons today?" I promised to get her a new box of crayons. My response quickly brought a wonderful smile on her face. Kids and their joy in simple things is a marvel to behold. At the same time, I was intrigued. This summer, both my daughters have been steadfastly focused on coloring. I am always interested in what they do on their own volition when school is not in session.
Children showcase the world in vibrant ways and their indulgence in colors inspired me to write this blog and share my own dalliance with colors. Just like my daughters, colors have fascinated me, the unspoken link that transcends my daily life -- from self-expression, understanding others, propelling my career and above all bringing out the best inside me in relation to others. Here is my personal odyssey.
Colors, Rainbows and my Early Years
First memories are usually pristine, here is mine. I was in the car when my mother shook me up and urged me to look out through the window. I was completely awakened by the splash of colors forming an arc - a fully developed rainbow. Now, I wanted to know why I do not see them every day. She patiently explained that rainbows are rare moments of nature when rain and sun coexist. In high school, when light beamed through a prism in my science class, I was left with crystal clear imprint on what I saw on the other side of the prism.
Even today, whenever I chance to see a rainbow, I look around. Irrespective of which part of the world, people pause a moment from their hectic lives, pull out their smart phones and click with glee. The childlike thrill when they capture the rare beauty is truly a Kodak moment. The universal upbeat mood that a rainbow creates will be an enduring legacy that will fascinate me.
Beyond the rainbow, a collation of colors brings out some very personal and wonderful memories. I recall many Indian weddings I had the pleasure of attending. The warmth of a welcome is only surpassed by the jolt of colors from jasmine to marigold that elevate the merriment. Within the confines of my home, at the heart of the kitchen, just before I enrich my food with spices, a gentle glide of my fingers through the tapestry of the spices brings out my inner smile. The kaleidoscope comes to mind when recalling shared moments growing up with my siblings. We took turns to shake the kaleidoscope, the colorful patterns inside brought the beaming smile of the young, inquistive explorers inside us.
Sometimes, colors guide my analytical side on spotting unique trends. During my early working years in India, I noticed a recurring theme - most machines built with iron were painted green. I enjoyed the great splash of color in an industrial setting. Exploring the reasons, I soon learnt that green is a great visibility color. Spotting of rust was much easier with green when compared to other colors of the traffic light -yellow (amber) and red.
Colors and My Career
Beyond the personal side, colors seamlessly morphed into my professional world and amplified my success in understanding others, fine tuning my communication and in the long haul propelling my career. Here are three such touch points.
1) Colors, Decisions and Leading Indicators: Steve Jobs, in his later years, kept to a simple dress code - black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and sneakers. I have also read that President Barack Obama tries to have structure to this morning ritual. Their mantra is one less decision to make daily. For most of us, dress is one of the choice decisions early in the day. What to wear is usually driven by the nature of the meetings for the day, what color to wear is usually a self-expression of the inner mind. Of course, color is contextual and cultural. Sometimes, when I observe others, I find color to be an interesting leading indicator before words are spoken. For example, during my corporate roles in America, my antennas are up when I find someone wearing black shades of shirt on Mondays. More often than not, I have found it to be one of the earliest sign of dissatisfaction at work and precursor to impending exits. As a team leader, this cue has helped me immensely to have pre-emptive candid conversations.
2) Color as a Dimension, Beyond Body Language: In sales, people are coached to mirror the client's body language. Same is true for interviewers, they are often encouraged to reflect the body language of the interviewee. Such techniques can be effective but are fleeting. Colors with co-workers and bosses, that is another story. It is said that a picture is a thousand words - a pictorial graph is a great communication tool but mostly two dimensional in a sheet of paper. For me, color adds one more dimension seamlessly. I often observe what colors my colleagues naturally gravitate towards and I often mirror their colors in my presentations. This has propelled my communication immeasurable times - a true confluence of science of content and art of presentation.
3) Colors and Depth of Simplicity: My early life was filled with black and white images on TV. When I was exposed to the color TV, the very first experience is still chiseled in my heart. The contours that the shades of colors have brought to my life have been immense. Yet, through time,I started to roll back the clock and appreciate the elegance in the simplicity of the black & white. Deep messages that black and white portraits radiate and the first impressions of the predominantly blank landing page for Google have enlightened me. In essence, colors have also refined me. Truly a color tribute that shaped my career is "Less is more from conversation to communication."
In trying to understand people better and communicate more simply, colors have propelled my life in immeasurable ways - from jubilant moods to more self-awareness.
When my older daughter shows me her wonderful pieces of colorful self-expression, I record these snapshots of her journey. My daughter is taking her first tentative steps in her tap dance with colors. These first treasures with crayons are the best I can partake. Just like my personal experience, these simple pleasures of life can be the building blocks that profoundly impact her joy of success. For my part, my odyssey with colors has been enriching, evocative, and richly rewarding through the years. I thank my older daughter for inspiring me to share it.