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Spot the Differences Around You – Celebrate Them

Renuka Kamath

Author: Renuka Kamath

Date: Mon, 2017-01-02 22:33

Spot the differences and likely you will end up seeing many more similarities, quite like the two pictures game we play even today. What do we do? We carefully look for the differences and count them, usually six.

Isn’t life similar? Stop for a moment and look around. I did and found around me very similar beings, more a validation of who and what I am. There was a time it comforted me, it still does. Isn’t there something very comforting in seeing a validation of who we are? Reassuringly so.

All through childhood in school then college, I found myself making friends who were like me. It was so heartening when in a crowd I found at least one person who could speak the ‘language’ I did, laugh at the same things and pun away (a quality I still find stimulating in people) much to the incredulous look of others. Moreover, if what they read matched my list, that person skidded to the top of my chart! It was interesting to talk about life’s philosophies and judge people unlike us. That’s what I thought was the best yardstick to making friends – if it matched mine, we’d stick around and the bond would be stronger. At times when there was a crisis, I’d run to them and they assured me that my decision was the best and that they’d do it the same way. I argued with those who didn’t agree with me and marked them for future reference to see a pattern. 

Work life began and that was when utter strangers became my travel mates, month-end target mates but sharing the joys and travails wasn’t easy any more. Even then I found good buddies whom I could relate to, some of whom became friends for life! But slowly a change was happening. There were people around me who were so different from me. Some of them had a passion for things alien to me that left me fascinated and curious. I learned to read books that were completely out of my genre of reading. I watched movies that were uncomfortable. Did I begin accepting the differences? No! At least not obviously so.

Some of the best lessons I have learned are (and these are only a few):

  • From the cashier of a retail store on Park Street, Kolkata, who told me how the bill book works or doesn’t and let me into secrets of accounting
  • From the coolie who loaded refrigerators onto trucks, when while smoking his much needed beedi told me how stocking at the warehouse could be optimized or manipulated
  • From the theatre artist I met in Lucknow who told me how she interpreted Mirza Ghalib’s pain in his poetry
  • From the 8 year old child who told me why he holds secrets from his parents
  • From my go-getter pushy, confident sales officer, who showed me how being in sales can be fun…a riot!
  • From my student who told me why she hates going back home from the hostel
  • From another student who taught me how to enjoy the joys of sketching small stuff whenever you get the time or when life gets you down
  • From yet another student (a very special one for me) who made me go back to reading history (I detested it as a kid), made me re-visit World War II, read Greek mythology (and so much more).

...and so on. Can the people on this list get any more different? As different as they can get, somewhere the change had begun and I began accepting differences. It wasn’t easy. I look back and realise I was severe with people who were unlike me; didn’t agree with me, but they are the ones who made me who I am.

I’d say, surround yourself with people who are different and celebrate the differences. Learn to patiently accept that life can’t always give us a slide that is smooth – much like the play ground slide we glided on, during our childhood, where there was a bend or a bump to make us slow down so that we landed with a soft thump!

Let a different new year begin….




We learn so much from so many people without realising it. Thanks ma'am for expressing your views on this. It's already a different day after reading this.
rkamath_226's picture

Yes Piyush, it is indeed amazing isn't it....little by little. Bit by bit...

This is something I discovered and fostered since I have been to SPJIMR. However, this article just doesn't reiterate but makes it a policy to be practiced for life. Can't thank you enough Renuka ma'am for putting it so well. You will always be a favorite professor, guide and mentor...

Dear Renuka, You can write. And how ! So, let one more person tell you Start Writing ! Waiting eagerly for your book on "This that and the other ! " Happy New Year !
rkamath_226's picture

Thanks sooo much!! Your comment means a lot to me. You have always supported me ...I know many times silently :)

Thanks for the very thoughtful blog Ma'am.We do encounter many different people on daily basis and each day teaches us a different experience. Life teaches us so many things.Every day is different and we should know the art of celebrating it.I do encounter many peoples who are very enthusiastic and have hunger & zeal to be successful in life.For them success means money.They are sacrificing many things specially their youth and social life with aiming at success and having intentions of making more and more money.For them,the aim of life is only competition. They may be right in their thought-process because in present scenario,money matters a lot.But in my opinion,if you move your focus from competition to contribution,then your life will be celebration.For me,the definition of contribution is spending time with your family and friends,having a strong social life and celebrating each day of life with your loved ones.This is real success,in my view. :)

Humans are social in nature. Persons with similar ethos make a group. Birds of same feather flock together. The world would have been a very dull place if we were all the same. Incredible diversity amongst people throughout the world has made it such a fascinating place. However, it is one of our basic human nature to align with people of the similar thoughts and way of thinking. “Flow with the flow”. It probably gives a feeling of being understood. But in order to grow and be different, one needs to learn to accept other’s thoughts as they are even if they are opposite in nature. This will happen only when we come out of our old prejudices and orthodox ways of thinking and tagging a situation. It is the inner zeal of a person that enables to accept the difference of opinion. This is an inherent trait of good leaders. Reasons of having difference in opinion can be governed by circumstances, customs, rituals, skills, knowledge etc. which differs from person to person. Respect given to such opinions and view points, benefits as it allows possibility of evaluating new line of vision and approach to a situation. No one can be sure that in a discussion, which idea may turn the table. “Ek idea jo zindagi badal de”. The right thoughts can catalyze our ability to change outlook. It may reinvent one’s identity and personality. People who listen are trusted more than those who grab the talking stick and barge straight into chatter. Trust is the grease of changing minds and listening is the key. I believe that this might be one of the reasons for conducting group activities have been considered as a part of MBA curriculum. It rationalizes way of observing and perceiving things. I firmly believe that by listening, reading one can get different ideas, perspective and the same shall improve his/ her understanding. “Step on the shoes of different sizes and then realize the ease”. So we all should be ready to accept alternate opinions & ideas at all walks and levels of life.

We all have individual upbringing and experiences so it is completely natural that we will all have differences in opinions. The world would be a very dull place if we were all of the same kind and it’s the incredible diversity among people throughout the world that makes it such a beautiful place to live in. It is very natural for a person to align with a person who is having same thoughts as his, whose views are similar. We always categorize ourselves and others continuously knowingly or unknowingly. We fall into a trap of dividing people and form perceptions about them based on our view. Whenever I feel I become judgemental, I remind myself of Shakespears quote “ Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so”. The world is a neutral place to live in, it is our interpretation about the things which leads to the thoughts about the things which we possess. Following benefits we obtain by having different kinds of people in a group or community, 1. We learn new things - People with different opinion have different thoughts. So we learn new dimensions of thinking and learn new things. 2. We make very interesting good friends - When we make friends from different culture or different country, we learn interesting facts and things from them. This froms a special bonding with them and we make interesting friends. 3. We feel better - When we resist any individual due to differences with him, we continuously engage ourselves in a cold war leading to uncomfortable atmosphere and relationships. Instead, when we accept the difference of opinion, we overcome resistance. So we feel happier, lighter, joy and satisfaction. 4. We create Win-Win situation - From the childhood to professional life, we are running through a race of life, always comparing ourselves with others and trying to put others down to grow up. Knowningly or unknowingly, self or by others. We don’t accept others so easily. But life is not a sport in which one wins and the other have to lose. Many a times both can win and both can grow. Respecting the difference of opinion and views and overcoming resistance leads to Win-Win situation and we feel happier.

Dissimilarities are the sources of knowledge. Different colours are necessary in life otherwise life would be like black and white. Dissimilarities are the colours of life. There is a word called “white torture”. Imagine that there is no colour around you other than white. In olden days, this technique was used with enemies. It was to torture them mentally and they were purposely kept in white cells where there was no other colour. Thus person would become mentally unstable to such an extent that he would lose his memory and would not be able to identify people around him. Same is the case with similarities. If everyone sings the same song, there would never be melodies. If everyone had the same story, there would never have been great epics. If every writer or philosopher had the same thought, world would never had such a rich literature. This reminds me of one of the training I had attended where we were asked to sit in a group of five. All five of us were from different domains of work and we were asked to list out as many uses of rose as we can. I could just list out seven uses with individual effort but when that activity was discussed in group of five we came out with sixty nine uses. It was everyone’s different thought process which came out with this result. All of us are unique and it is because of this uniqueness that the world has variety. Absolutely, not necessary, that we all should converge at one point. But yes, we all should agree to disagree.

“My experience is that the teachers we need most are the people we’re living with right now.” ~Byron Katie You are a unique individual, and the lessons you have learned over the course of your life make you a unique teacher. I have always been of the opinion that the people around us are our teachers. Specifically, I have always seen what I perceive to be negative traits in others as opportunities to develop patience or kindness toward them. I see it as a struggle they are going through, and if I can be patient or kind, then that helps them. It also teaches me how to embody those qualities even when I don’t feel like it. It gave me the opportunity to develop on my other qualities. We should learn to celebrate the difference as the things will not always happen your way. If we appreciate the difference and learn to respect them, we will realize that unknowingly we are progressing. High achievers learn from every experience, not merely from formal learning opportunities, such as attending seminars or reading books. The lessons you can synthesize from your many experiences are invaluable. By being willing to share what you have learned and by listening to others whether through informal chats or more formal encounters, such as seminars, you’ll contribute/gain greatly to the success.

Ma’am you have the hit bull’s eyes as your narration reminds me of one of the most important experience of my childhood, where I was always fascinated by the kids who were different from me by way of their sense of humor, their skills of storytelling, their outspoken nature etc. But I could never mingle with those guys and always found myself lagging in these skills. Maybe, I was living in my comfort zone and was ignoring the lessons, life was offering to me but now when time has come and it’s a question of sustenance I have to come out of my comfort zone and have to do something different …the “different” I was ignoring earlier..

Well thought ma’am, we always want to be in comfort zone, accepting differences and aligning would be wonderful whether in politic, business, family & personal life… in a broader sense the society we live in should have been progressive and constructive had there been alignment of differences, through SPJIMR blog let us take this powerful message to the masses…

If a person is made to eat same food over and over continuously for days, eventually he will get fed up of it, even if the food served was his favorite once. Same is with life any one will get fed up of a redundant life. All of us need different changes and experiences to be able life a joyful life. Even the pani-puri wala around the corner serves 6 different flavors of pani... For my PGEMP from my organisation, I had two offers to select from one with a top B school of nation, a program designed specially for L&T employees and second from SPJIMR, where the batch in which I will be studying will be a mix batch with participants not only from L&T but from other organisations also. And I choose SPJ, not because of its name, the other B-School is higher ranked, but for the chance to learn from DIFFERENT experiences of participants coming from different fields. And yes after 6 months into the course I am happy i took the correct decision...

I would like to compliment the way how you presented this topic which some way or the other is related to everyone’s life. When we grow older, we gradually get disconnected from the surroundings and try to disassociate ourselves from the others whose way of thinking deviates from ours. Though we meet different kind of personalities, we unknowingly get attached to the person/group that has similar views and style like ours. But I can recall from my own experience that the majority of the learning comes from the strangers or from the people having completely contrasting personality than what we have. We should not purposely miss a single conversation with a new acquaintance or any learning experience because these are the opportunities which we may not get later. I believe that we can learn something from every person we meet. Taking a cue from this, hope I will be more open to new personalities in life and keep the learning spirit high in this New Year.

Its a mind boggling thought from you ma'am, It is obvious that learning is continuous phenomena and one can rejuvenate its learning skills and knowledge only by engaging with different people with different knowledge and skills. It imparts exuberance when we deal with different personalities both in personal and professional life which bolster our knowledge level in different field. Someone had rightly said " Explore yourself by exploring the differences around You"

The subject of the blog is so relevant that I couldn’t stop myself reading it. And the content made me feel tempted to add something to it, in whatever measure I could. The title of the article consists of 2 stages in itself – one is to spot the differences in the people around you and two is accepting the differences, celebrating them and moving on. The easiest co-relation with the subject is something that we have been taught since our childhood – to look at our own fingers, identify that none of the two out of five are the same, accept the fact that it is how they are supposed to be and move on. The same philosophy applies to the people around us – the ones whom we live with, the ones whom we deal with frequently or infrequently, the ones we work with. The earlier we understand this, the better. And believe me it does affect our behavior, our approach towards a relation, our attitude towards somebody. The differences that we see and experience with the people around us can mainly be attributed to the differences in the basic nature of each person, their upbringing which moulds their thoughts, attitude, etc. Quite a number of times, it happens that a person behaves in a manner which is not natural to him, but he is forced to do it by the situation that he is in. Even such differences can be accepted by giving people space to react to their circumstances. Rather than trying to change people the way we want them to be, lets absorb the differences cheerfully and keep moving. It would be easier to appreciate the differences if we could tag them as a VARIATION…not differences.

Really interesting blog maam. It reminds me all my childhood friends with whom we used to search similarities. It is true that we realized later in life that differences will be the way of life and accepting them makes our perspective wider . There are lots of things from different people, we can learn, to make our life more meaningful.

First of all, a big thank for taking through the childhood days. You have narrated a very simple way for not only accepting the differences but also to enjoy it. Change is the only permanent factor where we observe differences in our daily life. We can celebrate our life more meaningfully when we welcome differences. In our busy life, we must practice this consciously. We must spread the wisdom of love to everyone instead of counting the differences. Life is short, love all and get loved. Let the celebration happen on every day of our life.

Great article madam. However small or big the differences are, spotting the differences and embracing those are the way of growing up to next level. We, the human being always search for similarities in everything, ignoring the enriching knowledge lies in differences. We should learn from the passionate teachers across all sects of society whose true words/wisdom is accrued through setting a learning curve.

Thanks for taking us back to our old golden childhood days and reminding us how we used to enjoy identifying differences in the picture (which sometime I do now as well but secretly), with time we have started living with people, situation which are similar, we like to go out with same set of friends (even FB says I have 500++ friends), taking same route to office (which has more traffic or even bumpy road), eat almost same coffee during breaks, I believe this is because we all like to remain in our comfort zone and not to try different or do things differently and yet many complaint about monotonous life, if we break that monotony and start doing new things we will see a different prospective of things. Once we come out of our comfort zone we start experiencing more, gaining more, I believe by doing things differently we increase our horizons of learning and experience. As rightly said by Shiv Khera “winners don't do different things they do things differently”. Thanks for the insight :-)

The idea of the blog is very thought provoking, beautifully written and I would like to present my views on this subject. Why it is always the case that, we prefer similarity yet aspire to be different? We always try to find similarity amongst the diversity. But why is it so? May be it is because we trust what is known. However brave we are from body and mind; deep in our heart we always seek the warmth of known. Gradually we build a world of our own by selecting all that we trust. We feel safe, we feel comfortable, and we feel protected. Protected from what? From adversities and uncertainties. Then why do we want to be different from others? Is it just because we want to be successful or because we seek superiority and recognition? The answer in my opinion is No. The relentless thirst for learning something new which we acquire right from the day we take birth guides this trait. Then how do we resolve the apparent paradox. We trust similarity, we trust resemblance because they build our strength and we seek to stand apart, because we want to exploit that strength and become stronger tomorrow. Though it is the nature of a person to sink into a comfort zone by spotting similarities, the inner zeal of learning which is imbibed into one’s upbringing drives the person to be different as the learning medium is different for everyone.

Mam, your article is one of the few which made me read it completely in a stretch in recent times. The detail in which you learned from the most common things is the one which most people miss for obvious reasons relating to dissimilarity. Also, this particular sentence - “I look back and realize I was severe with people who were unlike me; didn’t agree with me, but they are the ones who made me who I am.” – has actually struck a chord with me. As a social animal, we learn many things from others and interests are the ones which make us alone. We mostly spend our time with people who are in sync with our interests. This does more harm than good. This narrows our knowledge horizon to a level that we don’t even recognize. Life teaches you more than what you learn in a typical learning environment. We would learn new things only from people who are very different from us and every new learning should be a celebration for us. This is one main reason why most B-schools insist of learning from diversity. Accepting difference is actually the key to a happy life. This comes up with least expectation and makes us more accommodating.

Being comfortable with the differences around you is vital for success and more importantly happiness in life. This is a really deep message, conveyed and explained in the most lucid manner in this blog. We always look around for people similar to us in one or multiple dimensions. We feel comfortable around them as the tendency to have friction in thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, etc. are minimized. It allows us to be as we are and we love that. This phenomenon has been explained by a certain renowned physicist as the “State of Inertia.” To change ourselves is difficult and hence we resist it as much as we can and when this decision lies with us we mostly tend to choose the easier path. Hence when we are forced to take the difficult route i.e. the one where we are required to collaborate, interact and work with people different from us we feel uncomfortable which can eventually lead to poor performance on our part. We consider it as a bane when actually it is a boon for us. It gives us an opportunity to get a difference perspective of the world around us, it gives us an opportunity to learn something new and thereby an opportunity to better ourselves. Ma’am, you have given some great examples of how we can find a teacher in anyone we interact with, only if we keep an open mind. Some of the biggest ideas in this world has come from people who had been considered to be different in their times. If only we are able to open ourselves to such different viewpoints, we can acknowledge such rule breaking ideas and possibly learn a few things in the process.

Thank you madam for sharing such an insightful blog. Every person in the world is unique. It is not only our genes that separate us from other but it is our thought process which we develop over the years and is influenced by our upbringing & interactions with others. There is a saying “Opposites attract” but I disagree with this view. We always bond with the people with whom we share some personality traits. People feel comfortable in the company of persons who share their likes and dislikes which forms the basis of their relationship. As Birds flock together for companionship and to keep the predators at bay, humans form bonds to satisfy their primal need of sense of belonging and develop a comfort zone. However this causes our opinion to be skewed in a particular direction since we do not know any better. We tend to cling to our comfort zone where we feel most confident and often, least challenged. But it is necessary to change this attitude since from experience I’ve realized that only good can come from leaving your comfort zone. The feelings of initial fear always pass, and one likely accomplish something new and positive. If nothing more, one’ll experience a feeling of accomplishment for doing something he/she initially feared. It is only when we interact with people with contrary point of view, our horizon is expanded and our real growth commences. In school my teacher had explained strength in diversity by giving the example for our fingers. She had mentioned no two fingers are the same as each have a unique purpose but when they come together as a fist their strength multiplies. Similarly when you interact with folks having different point of view you gain new perspective and develop a holistic picture which improves your knowledge base and gives more tools to tackle any problem. Hence it would be a better world if we accept the differences of other and cherish them.

Dear Ma’am, your article is very representative of what I've experienced in my life and reiterates my belief. As a child, I made friends with those who I could find similarities with, those who shared the same interests, and anyone who was a little different – would be the odd one out. But even in the friends with similarities, I wanted to be the leader, the alpha male. Growing up with these similarities would turn friendships sour, as the majority would want to be the alpha males. Can there be more than one alpha male in a group? I did not feel so at the time. Moving to college, was what changed my perspective in life, I drew away from similar people, as I considered them competition. I met new disparate personalities, each having a uniqueness not prevalent in the others. Let me share some examples: I was in a boy’s school, talking to girls scared me, here comes “x” a charmer with the ladies. He constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone to take on something that I would have otherwise brushed aside. An army kid got me into the habit of running marathons, something that at that time was the last thing I would have participated in. Interaction with diverse people from across India during those four years completely changed my outlook and perspective on how I looked at things. I developed interests and traits that I possibly would not have if I had surrounded myself with people akin to me. Each one is an alpha male but more often it leads to fascination and curiosity because the personas are so different. Being with people who share different interests from me have helped me to gain a plethora of knowledge and opportunities that let me bungee jump off a cliff or skydive from 14,000 feet. Thank you for sharing such a lovely article. For a new beginning

Thanks maam for writing such a wonderful article. It made me realize how different kind of people have made contributions in my life and helped me to become who I am today. The thought always crossed my mind whenever I achieved or learned something new from a person who is completely different from me and that too when I least expected to learn anything from that person. People say that opposite attracts but when it comes to making friends, we keep running from people who are different from us, we feel uncomfortable with them but most of the life learnings come from these people because they help you to explore that part of your life that you thought never existed. They help you to explore new talents that are hidden inside you. Differences are the best teacher. One thing that I am completely convinced of is this that different people awaken different beasts in you. Sometimes the differences will be the key reasons for the existence of a relationship. It is always good to have a friendship with people coming from different cultures, social backgrounds, and belief system.

The world is all but an eclectic blend of ones persona reflected by numerous moving mirrors that go by the adage “The world is all how you see it”. Yet how do we find something other than what we seek? The author uses a lucid illustration of a childhood pastime of spotting the differences to depict that we first find similarities while looking for differences. In this competitive world where every other tries to differentiate right from the grass root level only to find that it is all the same inside .I would recall the TED talk “Everything is connected” by Tom chi, who gives a scientific perspective for the divine connection between the higher humans and lowest of bacteria to reflect upon the similarities we share in sustaining life as we see it. We refuse to accept this initially and that keeps the quest alive to mingle with those of likes and validate ourselves. The author quotes the yardsticks of similarities are as conspicuous as speaking a common language, reading a common book and other similar hobbies which formed a base for gossips to strengthen her relationships with her similar peers only to realise later, that these physical traits are of little help to befriend a different set of people and the joys and travails diminish in the way. She mentions that she marks those who differ, only to check the patterns, moving on in future to find that whom she thought to be strikingly different went on to be her best buddies for life. This reinforces the fact we are all the same inside and all that needed was to peek into ones inner self to establish that divine connection. She quotes anecdotes with people whom she perceived as different offered her so much to learn and cope with their dissimilarities starting from a porter to that of students, kids and artists. Were they all similar? or in what way they were contrastingly similar, to strike a chord with the thoughts of the author moving her from her stereotyped zone. Every difference we perceive in the world is a manifestation of our contrasting hidden self, that occasionally stands out of our usual behaviour and make us realise that we are no more different while we experience it. I am sure the author would have such a realisation in at least a few of the occasions in her life to reach the point of indifference on the contrasting resemblances, which she rightly relates to the bumps on a slide to ensure a soft landing.

Mam, very thoughtful message is given to us. While going through your article, a thought just crossed through my mind, Does different matters? Are we really found similarity while spotting difference? When I bought a new car, suddenly I found so many cars like my car on road whereas prior to day I had never noticed such thing. I feel that human mind spots more for similarity and not for difference. In two picture game we put efforts in finding what difference is. What would have we done if game is of finding similarity? We befriend with person who is similar to us. We try to be away from different person. But is this possible every time? What can I do when unknown person came as my room partner on very first day of college? What can I do when I posted thousands of kilometres away from home? Facing to difference is part for life. Above said difference is actually changed, sometimes forced, to me be similar with other person. Some time I changed whereas sometimes person in front of me changed. Change is dependent on persona of person. In hostel, I changed my partner. In office, boss changed me. There is factor of power which also forces you to change. As you rightly said, did we accept the difference as it is? Obviously not! Many a times it happens as it is. This natural acceptance happens when we like the difference subconsciously. I feel that difference matters only when we see it differently. When I go in catholic wedding, kissing of newlyweds is different for me but it’s acceptable to me and everybody around me. When I go in Hindu marriage, kissing of newlyweds may be taken as something strange. Even though I like it but cannot say for everyone around me. I started to embrace & celebrate the difference. Sometime this accepted difference turns out to be harmful and I immediately shed it away. You will find many a times this accepted difference is positive and building you personally and professionally. If you started to see difference as a fun, it will not matter to you. It’s enjoyable, try it!

It’s so simple, had the rainbow been monochrome would we feel so romantic about it. I have been travelling around the world since I was 18 (I am a mariner by profession). Before joining each ship I would pray to have an Indian compliment, especially the cook. But as the years passed by I started enjoying interacting with different people. If I can use food as a simile, now I am so comfortable with all kinds of food, be it Japanese, Korean, Russian, Croatian or African. Similarly I am comfortable with different people, be it a Romanian fitter who taught me over head welding or a Turkish pump man who taught me to dismantle and assemble a pump. Difference is Cultures, Attitudes, workstyles evolve us as human beings, we learn different languages (we always start with the cuss words), different practices. When we start accepting these difference then only we can come out of our figurative well and not be the frogs. By accepting difference I, in no way mean to compromise with our self-esteem or morals, but to do a task there might be a different way if not better, and as humans we must recognize that and accommodate it to reach the common goal.

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