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The Upside-Down

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

How do you react to change?

Do you face Change head on, or do you feel anxious, sad, depressed, confused and in many cases angry when faced with a Change in personal life or worklife?

“One of the most undeniable facts in life is Change. Change is inevitable, and those who accept, cope and adapt to change, survive, while others perish” – Jasveer Singh Dangi.

The most familiar example of change and the confused feeling it brings along is at a workplace.

You have been doing a particular thing or performing a specific duty in a certain way. Suddenly, someone wants to change the way you work, or you are moved to a new department or assigned a new responsibility, or a new technology merits a Change in the way you did things.

Have you ever noticed how seasoned employees are always nervous and doubtful when a considerable Change is implemented at a workplace?

Have you ever noticed how the attrition rate increases when there is a takeover or management change? Many employees quit when there is a Change in the functioning of an office or have a hard time getting used to the new way of working.

Ever noticed how we feel uncomfortable when we move to a new place? Or how uncomfortable we feel when someone unknown moves into our home or we move into an unfamiliar house or a place with a bunch of strangers?

Such situations leave us confused and probably fearful of the most dreaded word, Change.

In this article, I wanted to discuss the situation where I took an informed decision, yet there was this feeling of discomfort and possible fear of failure & doubt.

I made the most significant decision of my life when I decided to leave my established life and career in India & move to Canada. I was already a published author in India, and I was at the peak of my career in training & development and health & safety, yet I chose to immigrate to Canada. Everyone around me was baffled by my decision. Notwithstanding, I moved to Canada in August 2020.

As I arrived in Canada, my first thought was, ‘Did I make the right choice?’

I did my research before taking this decision; I was very well aware of the situation I was getting into, so why was I in doubt now that I had finally reached Canada?

Did you ever feel that you had reached the wrong place even though you were on the right track? I am talking about that confused state when you think you made the right choice, but you still feel that you’ve made a mistake?

Change, such as going to a new country, can raise doubts. Change can lead to an uncomfortable feeling, and I call this feeling the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is gender independent; it can apply to any gender because the Nut in Nutcracker refers to our brain going into a state where negativity takes over.

Anytime we face an unfamiliar situation, we all have our Nutcracker moments, and my nutcracker moment took over my brain the day I landed in Canada.

And, just in case you are literally comparing a brain freeze and the pain of getting hit in the nuts, then you are absolutely right. In both cases, the pain is the same; when the Nutcracker takes over your brain and you are hit in the nuts, that is (Pun intended).

In the case of Nutcracker, the pain may not be as much, in a literal sense, as when you are hit in the nuts, but it indeed leaves you with the feeling of not being able to breathe, think and ultimately fall on the ground holding your groin (Well not literally in this case). In both cases, the Nutcracker leaves you with an unbearable feeling that leaves you in a state of utter shock.

Change can do this to the best of us.

These questions, fears and doubts can be as painful as a blow to the nuts, mainly when you have just made a big transition giving up everything you had achieved. The Nutcracker ultimately leaves you in a state I like to call the ‘Upside-Down’ state, as in Upside-Down from the ‘Stranger Things. The Upside-Down state is scary, creepy, dark, and downright confusing, and if you don’t control your mind, the beast in the upside-down will take control of your mind & body.

How often do entrepreneurs experience Nutcracker when they leave their established jobs to start a business?

How many times does a newly married person feels Nutcracker after marriage?

There can be many situations where we experience the Nutcracker and swirl into an Upside-Down state. We generally feel that we don’t belong while in this state, which can be frightening considering that we just gave up everything for this Change.

Whether it is immigration, marriage, new school/college, or starting our own business, these can be nerve-racking, especially when we just took the 'leap of faith.

Fear of the unknown is the biggest reason people don’t take risks. Most will experience the Nutcracker and swirl into the Upside-Down state even before they take the leap. These are called Daydreamers; they take decisions in their minds and back off because they perceive some risk even without taking the first step. So, they are the kinds who experience failure because they could never dare to convert their thoughts to reality. But, if you feel the effects of the Nutcracker after taking the first step, then be proud of yourself. I know there would be a time when you might feel lost and bad about giving up everything and curse yourself for taking this decision but know that: - you are better than the countless others who never dared to take that first step. You are much better than those daydreamers who will probably sulk when you succeed in your new life/role. They will be stuck in unhappy and unproductive situations forever while you dared to take the risk and crossed over to the other side by taking that step. So, feel proud of taking the first step.

When I came to Canada, I was told that it would take two to three years to get a job in your own field because Canadian companies require homegrown experience. Experts (been there done that immigrants) also gave me a list of acceptable professions for an immigrant. I don’t want to get into the specifics, but this is how I was received in Canada by the wellwishers and experts. Hence I, too, experienced Nutcracker and was pulled into the Upside-down state. Notwithstanding this, I managed to get a job in my field within eleven months because I made those eleven months count, and that became the basis for me getting a job in my own domain; training and development.

So, now that you are here on the other side and experiencing the Nutcracker and probably on the verge or already slipping into the Upside-Down state, here are a few things you can do to overcome this natural reaction to change. These are based upon my personal experience and may or may not work for you:

1. Accept — It is natural to be afraid and nervous because of a Change. Fear is a natural reaction to anything new and unknown around us. Our brains have been designed to alert our body about any danger around us, thereby creating the physiological responses in our cells to safeguard the body through physical and psychological changes (A mouthful, isn’t it?). Accepting the fear and apprehensions & denying them went a long way in soothing my nerves and making rational decisions. Try it; acceptance can ease the anxiety to a great deal.

2. Listen to all but make an informed decision – So, I listened to the experts intently, but I made my own choice when it came to my first job in Canada. I researched and found a suitable job that wasn’t precisely from my field but was linked to it. I worked in a call centre making calls for eleven months, and this became the basis for me getting a job as a trainer with another call centre. Do your own research, and find ways to find a job of your choice as per your skills. If you can’t find a job in your own field, then at least look for something that compliments your profile and maybe sometime in the future, you might get the job of your dream. Don’t just blindly follow the herd, create your own neiche.

3. Take risks – Change will never occur if you don’t take chances. “Success lies beyond your comfort zone in the unknow spectrum” – Unknow. Coming to Canada was the most significant risk, but I took it nonetheless, and it paid off. Another chance I took was to start my own business in the very first year of moving to Canada. I was told that a job is the safest bet for an immigrant, but going against this logic, I have set up two companies in Canada, both in the nascent stage but growing steadily. With both HSD Ascent Services and IndoCanadian Height Solutions going full steam, I foresee being a full-time entrepreneur in the near future. I know this will be a reality because I believe in taking risks. Taking calculated risks is what gets you what you really desire.

4. Appreciate — This is something I do a lot (Too much sometimes, as per my wife😊), but self-appreciation goes a long way in instilling self-confidence and self-belief. Regularly, give a pat on your back. I literally do that standing in front of the mirror every day to take the leap of faith. Remember that you are much better than those who continuously procrastinate and don’t even dare move out of their comfort zones. I took the risk of leaving my comfort zone, which is quite commendable (As per me). Find a reason to congratulate yourself.

5. Review — Back in the day when I had to travel to an unknown place in the absence of a smartphone, I would often stop and check with the locals if I was on the right path. Even though I knew I was heading in right direction, I would double-check and review the journey so far. Now, of course, I have Google maps, but I do stop once in a while to check and see if I can find an alternate, faster route. Reviewing is a crucial part of any plan. It gives you a way to find out if there are ways of doing it better, or maybe there is an alternate strategy. It gives you a chance to create pitstops to look back, appreciate the progess you have made so far and set new short term and long term targets. I constantly reviewed what I had achieved and reminded myself about the outcomes I was looking for. This also gave me an idea to see if my strategy was working or do I need to make a change or chose a different path.

6. Time — This is the simplest of all the things we take for granted and we feel that it's abundant. We never appreciate time or work on making it worthwhile. Remember that change takes time to shape up. To effectively utilize time, I created a planner to ensure I could use my leisure time effectively. I am into a full-time job, and along with my fulltime shifts, I had to devote time to writing, making business decisions and having some fun. Setting short term and long term SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timebound) goals helped me use my time effectively. For example, my long-term goal was to set up my literary company over the next 2 years, offering editorial, ghostwriting and publishing services. My first short term goal to achieve this long-term goal was to register a company within one year of my moving to Canada. I encourage everyone to always include SMART goals in their plans. Don’t lose patience before the timelines you have set. During the review phase, ensure that you also review the timelines.

7. Patience — Again, a simple word yet hard to come by and it goes quiet well with point # 6. It is pretty rare in my generation and the one’s afterwards. It’s getting lesser and lesser in subsequent generations (As someone from the previous generation might say). I tend to differ with this. Patience is not something you are born with. You learn to harness it as per your experiences and social settings. Even before I landed in Canada, I was very well aware that getting back to my field or starting a business would take time. I was patient, yet I had set tight deadlines for myself. While I was earning much less than others who were much younger than me, I was patient and worked at my own pace. I didn’t rush into highly paid professions simply because they were not from my field of work. I remained focused and patient in my field of work. While you take risks, do bring along some patience as well. It’s easy to make timelines ‘Realistic’ (remember the ‘R’ in SMART Goals). Unrealistic deadlines will always keep you on your toes and anxious, hence the lack of patience. Whenever you feel anxious and lose patience, remind yourself of your goal and change your timelines.

8. Flexible — Rigid things break easily while flexible things don’t. Upon arriving in Canada, the first thing I did was to be flexible and mould myself in the way things worked here, the culture here was a total contrast to how we did stuff in India, and I accepted this fact and adapted. A simple truth I learned in physics was that flexible material doesn’t break when you twist them, while the rigid ones break easily when their shape is forced to change; life is precisely the same. Ensure that your plan has plenty of room for flexibility. Remember, the keyword here is unknown, and when you are dealing with the unknown, you have to ensure that you are flexible. Flexibility is the key to survival.

9. Learn — Learning is a continuous process. What worked for me earlier may not work now because conditions and people might be different; I was very well aware. Learning new things was something I had always done in India, and Canada was no different. Even though I didn’t need a Canadian qualification, I still chose to pursue a diploma to enhance my profile, and while I was at it, I also ensured that I learnt from my mistakes. Believe me, the ride hasn’t been all smooth so far, and I have made occasional mistakes along the way. I bought things I shouldn’t have, enrolled in courses I shouldn’t have and invested money where I shouldn’t have, but I don’t regret my mistakes; I have learned from them. Remember, if mistakes were a deterrent to success, then the likes of Ratan Tata and Steve Jobs would have never achieved the greatness they achieved later on in their life. They both failed in their ventures early on, yet came out better and stronger and are legends in the business world. Don’t be scared of mistakes but make it a point to not reapet them and learn from them.

10. Stay healthy — Remember that everything else fails if you are not healthy. Your mind cannot think clearly if your body is sick or hurt, and vice versa. If your mind is hurt or ill, your body is affected accordingly. So, if you plan to make a change and take critical decisions, then ensure that your health is in place, both physically and mentally. I have kept myself engaged in a lot of physical activities ever since I came here; biking, brisk walking, cricket etc. I am always searching for new ways to keep myself mobile, although the size of my tummy doesn't bear witness to my attempts to stay fit 😊 but I have tried to keep myself fit with different activities.

11. Stay humble — Actions talk louder than your words. Don’t boast about your plans even before you start. While I did mention about self-praise, discuss about your plans with only those who are critical to your decision and not the entire world. Stay humble, stay silent, do your bit and let your success be the medium of communication.

Remember, fear is natural; how you react when you are afraid will decide the outcome. In self-defence, I used to teach females in India to keep calm and make situationally appropriate decisions. Panicking doesn’t get you anywhere, and the first thing I do before making any decision is to calm the hell down. I have learned that when I panic, I only react, and, oh contraire, I tend to act logically when I am calm.

There is a big difference between ‘act’ and ‘react’, and the best way to overcome the effects of the Nutcracker and stop yourself from going into the Upside-down state is to stay calm, think and then act.

I am a massive fan of the Stranger Things series; you would’ve guessed it by now. Remember that the Nutcracker will put you down and push your mind into an Upside-Down state, but you will bounce back quickly if you follow these points or at least whichever resonates with you. Like in the series, the Upside-Down is all around us, and it just needs an opening to merge with our reality. The Nutcracker is bound to take place in a new environment around new people; it’s natural and unavoidable. By practicising these points, you will be better prepared to deal with it and ensure that the doorway to Upside-Down remains shut and the beast lurking there doesn’t harm you.

Whether or not my businesses are successful, I know that I have given my best and handled the most significant Change in my life really well.

Cheers and all the best for the change you have made or are planning to implement in your life…


Disclaimer – Reference to upside-down and Stanger Things is purely for storytelling purposes, and the rights to both the show and term upside-down belong to the producer (s) and the creator (s).

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