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RELATIONSHIP MASTERY: Building a Winning Ecosystem

By December 2010, our son Doctor, had graduated from pre-school. Our younger son Mr. Chairman, was ready to commence playschool. Zeenie and I were so immersed in our careers; we essentially delegated Doctor's upbringing to his grandparents and Mr. Chairman to his nanny.

Then one day, we did some soul searching and realized that while we were chasing money, furthering our careers and other material pursuits, we forgot to notice our wealth that lay right under our noses - our sons. The decrepit feelings of neglecting our two pearls caused us to take immediate action. But we didn’t want a knee-jerk solution to our problem. We sought a sustainable answer.

Zeenie and I decided to put them at a school that had opened its doors a year earlier. Classes were small, and we received great reviews about the school, even from competitors.

Our next order of business was to implement an exciting yet disciplined culture in our home. We read about how great Entrepreneurs and Leaders had become great by imbibing discipline in themselves, their homes, and their families. Confucius inspired us when he lyrically waxed that the strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home. The genesis for us to achieve this was the dinner table. But we didn’t like the notion of our smartphones, tablets, and TV being part of our dinner experience, so we placed a temporary ban on these devices so that we could afford to savor the sumptuously technology-less experience. Sure, there was a time and place for them, but dinner time was certainly not the epoch for YouTube, Facebook, and Fortnight.

Rather than isolating our sons from the world, we desired to insulate them by preparing them to fully integrate into her kernel and make a meaningful, significant, and sustainable solution to the world like Ahmed "Kathy" Kathrada did.

When we talk about building a relationship with our family, we are referring to our immediate family. Those of us that lived under the same roof. In our case, this was me, Zeenie, Doctor, and Mr. Chairman.

THE FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER

Zeenie and I discussed that to start with; we would have dinner at the table. While at the table, the TV is switched off, and all electronic devices are put away. Then we decided to read at the table. Read what, you may ask? We read from various books on Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Innovation, Money, Heroes of yesteryear, and ways of building and expanding our minds. The boys also wished to learn about bravery, steadfastness, and how people overcame adversities. We tried to keep the content sweet and short, usually to a maximum of five minutes. We also played word games, where each day, one person would get a chance to present a new word. Doctor whimsically suggested words like facetious, that simply meant flippant, teasing, and frivolous. Facetious is also the only word in the dictionary with all the vowels in order. The next day, Mr. Chairman teased us that Doctor's word was cathartic. Cathartic means providing relief through the expression of emotions. The game effused us with inspiration to expand our vocabulary. We calculated that if we played LakhiWord daily on weekdays, we could learn over two hundred new words a year.

Zeenie cooked in ways that would nutrition our minds and bodies with energy, vivacity, and vitality. That year, we made simple lifestyle changes by moving from white to brown or whole wheat; brown sugar, brown rice, brown cake flour, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-wheat flour. We also changed dairy products to either low-fat or fat-free. We inserted four fruits, four vegetables, and two liters of water per day into our eating plan.

We decided to use the following formula when satiating our bellies: we allocated one third for food, one third for water, and one third for air. It reduced our food intake. By chewing our food at least thirty-three times and interjecting it with bouts of water, digestion became more efficacious.

As food was dished out, we chat about our day, especially the highlights and lowlights. We loved the substance that we drew from this exercise. Through this, Zeenie and I learned who the boys' friends were, who their teachers were, their likes and dislikes, their favorite day of the week, their favorite color, and their innermost thoughts and feelings. We found this to be a powerful way of connecting, understanding each other, our habits, thought processes, thought patterns, fears, and hopes. Many breakthroughs, discoveries about us and each other, and good came out of this exercise.

Without the boys knowing it, we looked for substance abuse signs, like lethargy, incoherent speech and red eyes, and behavioral irregularities by monitoring their sleeping patterns.

Through all these exercises, that we diligently and continuously repeated, we started seeing the age-old adage that the family that eats together, stays together come to life, right in front of our very eyes!

Towards the end of 2011, as the holidays approached and everybody started winding down after an eventful year, we took a break from reading at the table.

By February 2012, we had still not resumed imparting and partaking knowledge at the table when Doctor asked us out of the blue if he could read at the table. Did we hear correct? It was incredible, for the baton was already being passed on! But there was more to come.

One day while out in the mall, Zeenie’s mother was with us. As grandparents like doing, she took them to a toy shop to spoil the boys. They ended up buying a microphone that could be connected to our DVD player, and through the surround sound system, worked as a PA system.

With his School Speech Contest coming up, Doctor commenced reading his speech at the dinner table through the mic. For one month, he practiced his speech repeatedly, and by the time the big day arrived, he showcased his value proposition to his Teachers and Classmates with the finesse of a seasoned Orator...

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