Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hyperlinks, relationships and expectations


It has been exactly a month since my father passed away. I did not lose my father ... in some ways, I found him. We received amazing support during the last couple of months, and I’ve been thinking about the relationships we nurture.

In recent news, HP decided to drop Palm, and Cisco got rid of Flip. These were reasonably short-term relationships - you’d think they’d at least need some time to evaluate the relationships. Nope! These are corporate relationships. These are relationships with expectations! If one doesn’t meet the expectations, the relationship is in jeopardy.

Some relationships are like hyperlinks - they only go one way! Other relationships can be two-way streets, but sometimes there are only homes on one side of the street. Yet others are two-way, but there are expectations on both sides, like a toll you have to pay to enter the street. Try mapping these relationships to those in Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook and Google+.

A few relationships mature over time so that they are not only two-way, but more importantly, have few expectations on both sides. You can (almost) take them for granted. My relationship with my father was like this - at least that’s how I perceived it. Maybe he had expectations that I was not living up to, but I did not know of them.

Over the last couple of months, some relationships stood out. The support I received from some of my friends was amazing; there were people I could count on, and although I did not have any expectations, they came through in surprising ways. I did not expect a friend to visit my father in the hospital  the day I informed him of my upcoming trip to Bangalore due to my dad’s illness - he was there, representing me when I was still in San Jose. I did not expect a friend to travel from a different city for just a day to see me and my father - he did! I did not expect a friend to travel from a different city and stand by my side on the day my father passed - but he was there for me without my asking! I did not expect a friend to stay for 4 hours with my sister at the airport because she was unwell, but he did and I am not surprised. I did not expect a friend to offer me his driver when I needed him, but he did. These were all friends who I’d not spoken to for months. I did not expect that a friend visiting Bangalore from the Bay Area (traveling back the following day) would take the time to come be with us during the ceremony - she did, representing all our Bay Area friends.

These actions were unexpected, but they mattered!

The truth about relationships is that when you have expectations, it is extremely easy to fall short, disappoint, and devastate. Many marriages fall apart because of this, although, in many cases, these expectations can be tempered. The importance of the relationship needs to trump the expectations. Parental relationships are full of expectations, and many of them are justified.

Strong relationships evolve, and they shed expectations as and when, in some strange sense, those expectations are met. So, meet those early expectations, and scratch them off the list ... or choose not to nurture those relationships.

Remember, the world doesn’t just work like hyperlinks!
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