Relationships are the place where we thrive.

They are also the place where we are challenged the most.

One of my favourite books, The Courage to be Disliked states that all problems are interpersonal relationship problems.

I’d not disagree.

And, it all begins with having the right relationship with the most important person: YOU.

Hope these reflections of mine help you, as much as they help me as well:

Would you be friends with your own self?

Would you marry yourself?

Would you be your own boss?

What version of you would you rather not be?

Why do you still continue being that version?

There are some flaws in you that you would never like to see in anyone else.

Yet you keep living with those flaws.

If something is unacceptable to you in others, it must be something that must be unacceptable to you in yourself in the first place.

The change we want in others is the change we need to begin with.

We invite what we allow.

You can neither choose your parents nor what they end up doing to you psychologically. Be prepared to heal yourself, if you have to.

The only thing we do not choose is the family we are born to.

The only thing that has the maximum impact on us as kids is the family we are born to.

This may be good news for some. And tragedy for others.

Most people choose to live with this tragedy. And call it fate.

The bold ones choose to change what happened to them by actively healing themselves.

What’s stopping you from making the bold choice?

Healing isn’t an option. It is a necessity.

Holding a grudge against someone requires a lot of effort.

Think of all the wasted time spent being mad at someone.

Someone broke you into pieces. And now you have decided to trade your peace for seeking revenge.

When we hold a grudge against someone, we do the same thing they did to us: hurt us.

They hurt us once. We hurt ourselves 100x by repeating it in our head.

Every problem in this world can be traced back to a point of miscommunication.

All relationships thrive on communication.

Feeling upset with someone? Why not talk?

Feeling upset with yourself? Why not talk to yourself?

Once we know how to communicate and we do communicate, problems move from being problems to actions to be taken.

There is a big difference between saying thank you and feeling thankful.

Saying ‘thank you’ to please someone. Or saying ‘thank you’ because you were truly grateful.

One shows obligation. The other shows admiration.

We create our relationships by what we choose to give.

Nothing teaches you better than teaching others.

When you learn anything, you make it a part of you.

When you teach anything, you make it a part of others.

To make others understand things, you simplify them further.

Break down what you already know.

Through which you create your own breakthroughs.

To start with ‘you’re right’ is great.

To do so in public, when you don’t have to is greatness!

Your kindness might cause you pain, a sense of betrayal, heartburn. Be kind anyway.

Not everyone is going to reciprocate your kindness.

Some are even going to play with it.

Some are not going to care.

Some are not going to acknowledge it ever.

Yet, kindness is always the right thing to do.

Not for anyone’s validation.

For your own.

Because who would you be, if you are not kind?

Unpopular opinion:

Empathy cannot be taught. You are either born with it or not.

Empathy = I understand what you are going through.

From so many years of meeting and

interacting with people, here is what I know for sure: Empathy is either your innate quality or it isn’t.

No one can teach you to understand others.

No one can teach you to put yourself in others’ shoes.

You either have it. Or you don’t. There is no work-in-progress.

When you realize the truth of this statement, you get to decide who is worth spending your time on, who is your tribe, and whom to say no to.

Sympathy: I feel sorry for you.

Empathy: I can understand what you must be going through.

Respect: I admire the way you are handling this.

Respect >> Empathy >> Sympathy Sympathy is a form of pity.

Empathy is rising above it and thinking at par with someone who is going through.

Respect is rising beyond what they are going through, and letting them know that they are doing a beautiful job.

No one is useless.

Everyone knows something you don’t.

When we approach people with the mindset that they don’t know anything, we close all doors to learning something new.

Only when we shut the door of our ego and be open to learning something new do we realize how much we don’t know!

Everyone has stories.

Stories that create their filters.

Filters that create their stains or clean them.

And almost every story, comes with a knowledge that you don’t have.

That isn’t surprising, rather relieving.

Knowing that you don’t know much, is the best knowledge!

By not appreciating someone for their vulnerability and truth, all we do is encourage lying.

Remember the time you did something wrong as a kid?

And instead of lying, you decided to own up and tell your parents about it?

However, you got scolded, instead of being appreciated for speaking the truth.

That becomes your worldview. That is how you figure how the world works.

Are we doing the exact same thing with people around us?

And subconsciously telling them that speaking the truth is not an act of courage?

Truth, as scary and scarry as it is, comes with the courage to speak up. And stand by it.

True respect is when you respect someone even after you’ve got to know them.

It’s easy to respect someone online or from a distance. But that isn’t respect. It’s infatuation.

It’s hard to replicate that respect when you know them beyond the perceived persona.

Now they’re not acting.

They are without their mask.

Bare and barren.

That is when your admiration turns into either loathing or respect.

Run away from those who are trying to run away from themselves.

Those who are not willing to heal themselves.

Those who do not want to know their deeper parts.

Those who are not okay and do nothing to change it.

Those who do not want to have difficult conversations with themselves.

Run away from those who never run towards themselves.

Do not show up for every argument you are invited to!

An undeniable life hack for your peace.

The nature of arguments is that they thrive on more inputs.

If your only input in every argument is your silence, peace follows naturally.

Respect doesn’t come from the title.

It comes from conduct.

Respect doesn’t come if you are a CEO, founder, leader, manager, or senior.

Respect comes from what you do and who you are.

And you don’t need any title to get there.

What you do becomes your title.

How you treat others is your business card.

There are people who tell you that you are wrong.

There are people that help you see where you are wrong.

Guess which ones are more important?

The ones who tell you that you’re wrong are the ones imposing their beliefs on you.

The ones who help you see where you are wrong are the ones encouraging you to form your own beliefs.

Some impose. Others show.

Some poke. Others make you more awake.

Some show you how you are wrong. Others teach you how to be right.

It takes effort to find love.

It takes effort to feel fulfilled.

It takes effort to be fit.

It takes effort to be happy.

Which is why most of us do not have love, fulfilment, happiness or fitness in our life.

. . .

We all accept the love we think we deserve.

Love is contingent.

Not on the ones loving us.

Rather on our definition of love.

And how much we love ourselves.

If we think we are not worthy of love, we will subconsciously deny it.

If we truly believe we are worthy of love, we will take the smallest compliments with grace and ease.

People who are loved the most, are the ones who BELIEVE that they are worthy of love.

We don’t have to agree with each other as long as we understand each other.

The best relationship doesn’t necessarily agree on everything.

The best relationships have the best acceptance despite their differences.

When we want only our say in relationships, we miss out on the bigger picture.

When we respect our differences, we love people for who they truly are.

Who you decide to spend your life with.

One of the biggest decisions you will make in your life.

Don’t take it lightly.

The partner you pick will directly or indirectly decide your free time, work, finances and most importantly, your happiness.

This is the one decision that could be painful to reverse.

This is the one decision that will influence almost all your decisions.

This is the one decision that will either make you feel proud or suffocated every morning.

Your parents are first humans. Then parents.

Which means they too can be wrong.

They too can be toxic.

They too can be unreasonable.

Do not think they are above all of this.

As long as you are financially dependent on your parents, you are answerable to them.

If you wish to be independent of them, while still respecting them as your parents, buy yourself financial freedom.

Whenever someone says ‘You will never know how I am feeling’, remind yourself that they are telling you life’s most fundamental truth.

We will never know!

We will never truly understand what the other person is going through.

This might hurt, especially if you love them dearly.

However, true love sometimes means understanding that you don’t understand.

Your true friends are those who are TRULY happy for you when you succeed.

Be that true friend for others.

Most people say true friends are the ones who are there for us in our tough times.

I believe that’s wrong.

Anyone can be there for us in our tough times.

What we truly want to have are friends who are never jealous of what we have achieved, rather celebrate us for that!

However, it is rare to find such friends.

Most either gossip in private groups, or are never truly happy.

But we all wish we had one.

What if we became that one?

When you give what you desire the most, you don’t desire it any more.

If you share because you are expecting something in return, it is not sharing.

It is a transaction!

Wanting to maintain a distance from someone you do not relate to any more doesn’t mean you don’t care about them.

It just means you care about the relationship you have with yourself more than the one you have with them.

We change courses.

Some don’t.

We learn to let go.

Some don’t.

We grow more positive.

Some don’t.

It’s okay to not relate to them any more.

It’s okay to be emotionally away.

It’s okay to respect your growth while they don’t respect theirs.

It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

It means you cannot care about anyone unless you care about yourself.

Stay away from relationships that suck energy out of you.

These relationships are rarely give and take.

They only take. And you have only so much to give.

How we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves.

It is rare, almost impossible, for a mean, conniving, hurtful, racist, bigoted person to truly love themselves.

We bring people down because we are feeling low.

We make fun of them because we are not in a self-respecting place in our lives.

We don’t think twice before hurting others because we are hurt deeply.

We may not want to admit that.

People who are truly pierced within are rarely seen having inner peace.

However, truly happy, fulfilled and soaring people never ever make others feel bad about themselves.

The inner world drives the outer. Period.

We are not the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

We are the average of the five thoughts we spend the most time with.

And those thoughts needn’t come from people in our life.

Our thoughts come from people we follow on social media, the books, podcasts, anything we consume.

We aren’t with people any more.

We are with ideas, thoughts and identities.

Pick wisely.

Lessons I learnt from my parents

Papa joined a young company as a sales representative. Within a year, he got a call from another company. 2x salary plus a car. This was 1985. And a big deal.

He took the offer.

Two years down, the company shuts.

The company he quit, Ranbaxy, becomes a giant.

Dad was jobless for a year . . .

I remember sitting as a family, filling ballpen refills because he was paid for every 100 pens filled.

I remember days when Ma and Papa had just one meal a day.

But my sister and I went to the best schools possible.

We knew we didn’t have money, but were never made to feel so.

Papa took a risk. And it didn’t pay off.

He could never recover from it.

But he would take the same risk again if he had to.


Risk and failure are a state of mind.

There should never be any fear.

And no regret.

Ma is one of the most empathetic people I know.

Her sensitivity is her super power, because she has a knack for knowing what the other person might be feeling.

Whenever there was a conflict in my head or I was angry at someone, she always used to ask, ‘Woh kya soch rahe honge?’ (‘What would the person be thinking?’) Lesson:

It is just as important to ask ‘What would they be thinking?’ as it is to ask ‘How am I feeling?’

Papa struggled his entire professional life. His risks didn’t pay off, we were perpetually in debt, and went through some extremely tough times financially.

But one thing that never changed was how hard he continued to work.

I was always amazed. Always wondered what kept him going.


Nothing matters more in life than showing up every day.

To work, to assume responsibilities, to nurture relationships.

Whenever I won any award or did anything praise-worthy, Ma would of course be happy, but she would instantly shower her favourite blessing ‘Bhagwaan tumhe humesha zameen par rakhe.’

(‘May god always keep you grounded.’)


Never forget where you have come from.

Be it a family gathering, a wedding ceremony or even a normal dinner, Papa will always carry his book of Kashmiri songs.

In the hope that someone asks him to sing.

He believes he sings well (and he does).

So he can’t fathom why people won’t ask him to sing :) Lesson:

If you do not believe in yourself, no one else will.

I dropped out of my PhD and came back to India. At 24, I had no plans, no goals, no direction, no money. Ma and Papa weren’t too happy, but to their credit they did their best to hide their anguish.

One day, I still remember I was brushing my teeth when Ma came to me and sheepishly said, ‘Would you want to consider taking the IAS examination? You know, because I think you might make a good IAS officer’

It was a request.

For me to consider something.

I politely declined, but realized how blessed I was to have parents who would ‘request’ their kids to consider.


Respect doesn’t come from title, age or experience.

It comes from conduct.

I have lost count of the times Papa would step into a situation whenever everything else had failed and redeem the moment.

Be it as trivial as ‘wedding guests have arrived and the food isn’t even prepared’ to as critical as ‘where will we arrange money for his ticket to the US?’


Whenever everyone else fails you, you still have yourself.

Ma has always stood for perfection. But she has a very interesting and inspiring definition of it.

Perfection is when you do something with such finesse that people are left amazed at how you even did it.

But for you, it is not a big deal.

It is a habit.

It is natural.


Perfection is personal.

It is what makes others wonder.

But for you it is the only way you know!

Both Ma and Papa come from Srinagar, where they grew up with little privilege.

They did not go to any top school.

They did not have any stamp that would set them for life.

They just worked their way through. Like most others of their generation.

And it often makes me cry to realize how much they went through just to ensure that my sister and I got the best we could.

We went to good schools, we were given the freedom to live our lives, we were always loved and taken care of.

And I am convinced that much of what we are today is because of the upbringing we had.

We lived a life without money, in extreme conditions quite often, but we always made sure we had a good time.

Four of us on our Bajaj scooter, going to India Gate with a bag containing a pressure cooker full of peas pulao, a sheet to sit on, plates and cutlery.

And ending the evening with the 5-rupee ice candy from Kwality.

I guess this is where I got the courage to pursue happiness.

I knew what it was to live without money.

But I didn’t know what it was to live without happiness.

Today, one of my key goals is to give my parents all the money they need.

To do whatever they want.

They already know what it is to be happy :)


Ankur Warikoo is an entrepreneur and content creator whose deep, witty and brutally honest thoughts on success and failure, money and investing, self-awareness and personal relationships have made him one of India’s top personal brands.

His thoughts range from the importance of creating habits for long-term success to the foundations of money management, from embracing and accepting failure to the real truth about learning empathy.


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