Shashi Bellamkonda grew up in India in a competitive environment, pitted against his peers to see who would get into the best schools and get the best jobs. But instead of adopting a cutthroat mentality, he took on a different attitude: “Smiles are free and priceless.”
Shashi thanks his father for that lesson, which came in the form of a book: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, perhaps the most famous “networking” book of this century. From it, Shashi learned that a smile goes a long way – whether that’s in the midst of a crisis or on the street.
“The communication between two human beings can actually create some energy,” he says. “If you’re walking into a place and you’re smiling and you’re happy, you’ll find that the whole world also starts becoming happy.”
Now, Shashi lives in the US, teaches at Georgetown University, and works in digital marketing. When something goes wrong at work, you’ll probably find him smiling and trying to solve the problem – not assigning blame.
“You can train yourself to say, ‘How can I be the nicest person and at the same time get my message across?’” he says. “When you’re dealing with other people, your goal should be ‘How do I get this done?’ more than ‘How do I tell people that they’ve done something wrong?’”
A question of perspective
Positivity is an evaluation: seeing the world and pronouncing it good, or at least expecting good in the future. And the way we evaluate depends largely on us. To most adults, a rainy day is an annoyance; to many kids, a rainy day means fun, colorful boots and jumping in puddles. It’s a question of which perspective we take.
Shashi has a few tips on how to look on the bright side of life and avoiding honing in on those dark corners. First, start directing your eyes and heart to the good things you already have.
“Happiness is a state of mind,” he says. “You can think you need $1 million to be happy or $10 million to be happy, or . . . people seem to be happy even if they’re not living in the biggest mansion ever.”
Then, go about your day with an eye for those bright spots – in essence, stop and smell the roses. But these days, he says, that expression needs a bit of a digital update. “It’s now become stop to smell the roses and take a photograph – which is okay because you want that memory,” he laughs.
Next, take 15 minutes to clear your head, whether that’s meditating or just sitting quietly. That should clean out your mind of its negative ruminations and make room for the positivity to flow in.
And one of the ways to fill your head with positive thoughts is to seek out positive stories and news, Shashi says. If he ever started a nonprofit, its goal would be to get every media outlet to produce 10 percent positive news – a huge change from the 24/7 cycle of negativity that we find on most networks. Positive news helps you put things in context – the economy may be bad, but people are still succeeding, innovation is still happening, and communities are still rallying together. Shashi even attributes some of his positivity to the stories of good triumphing over evil that he read as a kid.
We may not be able to control the news, Shashi knows, but we can change the channel. We certainly can’t stop the rain, but we can buy a fun pair of boots. And if nothing else, we can curve the muscles of our face up into a smile.