I'm really sorry to say, not that easy. I'll count one, all of you clap once. On the count of two, clap twice. On the count of three, clap thrice. Just try making it sound like one sound in the room, and not fragments of it. Let's see, how that goes. Let's get started.
00:34One. Together. One. Two. Very good. Three. Three. Two. Zero. Let's try that for you, again. One. Two. Two. Zero. We can spend all day. Trust me.
00:58This activity that you just did is based on the life lesson of a seven year-old girl who said to me, almost in this tone, "Concentration is the most important thing, but balance is above that." This activity helped a fourteen year-old boy in class ninth, prepare for his exam. He understood that while, he was reading everything before exam, revising things with concentration, he lacked balance. He would, finish one answer in 15 minutes and then spend two hours finishing the next one. Never being able to finish his portion on time and revising for the exam the next day. You see? Concentration is the most important thing but balance, is above that, according to a seven-year-old girl. A seven-year-old girl helped a fourteen-year-old boy she doesn't even know.
01:50What do I know? I know you should talk about what you know. I know that, love, not because it's possible but because it's necessary. When you are done using the jar, remember to close the lid. And, never leaving home is not the same thing as coming back. Recognize your feelings. Don't be in denial.
02:10Oh! By the way! These are not quotes that I have downloaded from the internet or have forged from some high end self-help book. These are life lessons of people like you and me. How do I have them? Because I collect them. Just like some people collect coins and stamps and tickets and love letters of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. I collect life lessons. With that I must confess, I was a weird child growing up. I would ask anybody I could find, "Hey! What's the greatest piece of advice you can give me?"
02:42And I would note that on the back pages of my notebook and on the margins of the diary my dad got from office. I could, I would ask anybody. Even the guest who were invited home for dinner would not be spared. I would jump before the food was served and say, "You only get to eat in my house if you tell me what your life lesson is." I was crazy. Crazy enough to call customer care numbers random people. And say two minutes into the conversation, after my cellular device was fixed, Hey! What's your life lesson?" It ceased, until one of them called my dad back and said, "Uh, we have been receiving calls like twenty five times a day from this number." Please tell us what's the problem? Because some random girl calls up, and says, "What's your life lesson, after two minutes into the conversation." So, i figured out, it won't work that way.
03:28So much so was I fascinated with this idea that, if a handful of people in my humble setting of Dehradun could help me get inspired, forgive easily, move on, whatever, I needed at that time. The population of the world is 7.125 billion. Which means, there are 7.125 billion mistakes to learn from. 7.125 billion heartbreaks to associate with. 7.125 billion stories to get inspired from. Basically, 7.125 billion life lessons available. Thank you.
04:03Everytime life slammed me down, made me call it ugly, I took refuge in those backpages of the notebook and, tried finding inspiration and whatever I needed at that time. The same belief of my teenage self now, helps me drive, an organisation called 'Project FUEL.' FUEL stands for Forward the Understanding of Every Life Lesson. And, what we do in Project FUEL is collect life lessons from all over the world and design them into interactive and performance based exercises. So that, people just don't get to read someone's life lesson but, experience it, and interpret in a personal way.
04:40Now, for the longest time I can tell you, growing up I would read people's life lessons, and I would like them, and, just that. Didn't get to experience them. Until the day my counselling teacher back in class 8th, said to us, "Talk to yourself and un-clutter your mind." Now, I mean, growing up as the teenage self I was, with all my hormones rising, I really needed to talk to myself. So, I went back home, sat in front of the mirror, and tried talking to myself. Uh, didn't quite work out. Not even in the school bus, not on the terrace. So, I stormed into the staff room the next day and asked her, "How do you do so? How do you talk to yourself?" And, she replied, simply "Write a letter to yourself. Not as you. Just think what would you say to Deepak Ramola if you weren't Deepak Ramola?"
05:33That struck me like a bolt of lightning. I understood I didn't have to memorize somebody's life lesson, I could actually experience it. But that letter really helped. The flood gates opened for me. and, I started collecting more and more life lessons, and started being creative with them. Using poetry, theatre, creative writing and performance art.
05:53I collect life lessons from everywhere. Not every life lesson, though is easy to interpret and design into an activity. Like a twenty one-year-old girl telling me, 'Life has taught me to french kiss.' I'm not sure how to pass that on to the students I teach. So, we are struggling with that one, still. But, I'm sure we will manifest something out of it.
Any, any clue about, how I passed on the life lesson, of a thirty three-year-old woman, I met on the Delhi metro ride. And, it was early in the morning, I looked towards her, and I said, "Hi!" What's your life lesson?" And she gave me that, 'That's too heavy a question early in the morning.' And replied, that if your face can surprise you in the mirror every morning, you're still having a good life."
06:38She helped a girl in Punjab, dealing with low self-esteem, with her life lessons. How I passed it on? Don't worry, using 300 pieces of mirrors. And here's the video. These are not just a bunch of girls, admiring themselves in the mirror. What I have asked them to do is write 40 new things about their faces using that mirror and see if it can surprise them. One of them counted all her eyelashes. Another, all her lip folds.
And one of them, not even a student, a teacher in the class, found the courage to smile for the first time, without being conscious. Here's the letter she wrote to me post the session. "I was thinking smile does not suit me, but, after the session, I found it looks awesome on my face." And, I'm very glad to tell you, she's smiling in some other part of the country without being conscious, as I speak here, with you, today, this afternoon. Thank you.
07:54There are life lessons being passed on using these art forms, in many ways, like, this one where, I taught 800 students to keep moving even if the music in life wasn't playing right. Or this one where we passed on the life lesson to let it go, using a drop of water on the palm of every student in the class. Or this one where the life lesson that each one of us can claim, only the share we think, we deserve. was taught through the circle. And this one where Hitler's face taught us that we're judgemental too soon, and I don't think so, I can take you through all the twenty thousand people I have taught, and all the activities we have done.
08:35But, there are many examples I can take you through, but, I wanted to tell you about this one boy, who found the courage to tell his story, after a friend of his leaned in to say, "Don't worry about what they say. Own your story." That boy was me. And that life lesson, and those three words, to "own my story," did not only encourage me but, also gave me the courage to write my first spoken word piece, "Being vulnerable."
09:02That piece is titled, "I have been an adult all my life I've been an adult all my life. Trust me, I've never been a kid. How could I be? When they shouted out bitter names, in empty allies, and the class monitor wrote my name in expletives and in derogatory ways on the blackboard. It really takes an adult to explain to oneself, that there are no bandages to fix heartbreak and pain, and there are no pills to subside the adversity of being mocked in classroom in corridors, in tuition classes, on the roads everywhere you go. A kid would not know what to do with this! An adult would know, therefore every new session when I was stared at by spiders I thought I could befriend or mosquitoes who I thought would not bite me. I told myself, you have been umpteen number of times, get over it. Get over it. Now. Tears have been sent back, and smiles have been summoned, every now and then, every now and then, every now and then. I had to be strong when my best friend was no longer sitting with me back in class 10th as I returned back from the lunch break. The reason was clear. My voice was a problem. He did not want to be seen or heard with somebody who sounded like a kid or a girl, or a kid or girl both. He never told me who I exactly sounded like but I'll figure that out someday, but otherwise, I have eaten solid food. Faked heavy voices, ladies and gentlemen. Did it work? You can ask! Not really. You can see.
10:16And now, I teach visually impaired children, all across the country. And the funny part is my students can't see me, they can only hear me. So every time I say something in the class, someone goes, "Deepa Ma'am." "Deepa Ma'am, I have a question." I ask myself, "how does it matter?" How does it matter how I sound? Given the fact that I can be heard, loud and clear, loud and clear, loud and clear. How does it matter? Given the fact that I can be heard, loud, and clear. You see? So, everytime someone in the class goes, "Deepa Ma'am!" I lean back, bounce back, and say, "How can I help you?"
10:52You see? I've been an adult all my life. I've never been a kid. And, I can tell you that's been fun. Well, uh, I kid you not. If not for that life lesson to "own my story", I would have never written that piece. Never would have found the courage to perform in front of you. But I did. The question you can ask is, "Don't we already have, too much 'worldly wisdom', packed in the best of quotes and proverbs and idioms and statements. Almost about everything? Yes, there is.
11:26But, there is something so imperatively expedient when an eleven-year-old, Neha Praveen Kadam says,"Do your homework on time!" Or a hundred-year-old, Mohini Sharma says,"Life has taught her to stay curious until her last breath." Hundred years. We lost her. Two to three weeks after she shared that life lesson. And it resonates with people all across the world. To reflect back and say, hundred years has taught somebody to stay curious, Well, might as well try it at twenty-three, and thirty, and forty five, and seventy five, and, ninety nine.
12:01I loved that. I loved that because it gives inspiration to people with authenticity. The credibility of having lived a life, condensing it into an advice, and, giving to somebody. There is no research that can back that more up, than all those years of living. I have taught people from age 4 to 96, from all walks of life, all across this country. More than 23,000 people, single-handedly, on first name basis. And I can tell you, that the only reason and the only conclusion, I have reached is that each one of us has so much to learn and so much to teach, if only we have the courage to share the understanding of our lives with other people.
12:48The vision with Project FUEL is to establish Project FUEL communities all across the globe. That will allow people the space to learn from each other's life lessons, and each other's circumstances, and mistakes, and success. Really, who knows? Who knows maybe you have cracked the code, of how to get out of a failed relationship. You have discovered or invented the theory of how to be successful, in a particular job prospect! Or have found a solution, an incredible solution to an incredible problem, that the rest of us are still struggling with.
13:23Share your story. My point here is, share your story! As often as possible, with as many people as possible, as many times as possible. Because the truth of the world is that each one of us really wants to know,'We're not the only one.' Not the only one who don't like that mayo sauce in that burger, not the only one who are afraid of the dark, not the only one or extremely nervous to be speaking in front of so many people, not the only one.
13:51Share your story. So that, someday, someone will pass you by on the street, and you will not even know, that you are the reason, why that person is happy, is content, is inspired, or simply, alive. This. This is my life lesson. What's yours? Thank you.
A project to collect life lessons from the world
What if we could document a life lesson each from all the anonymous faces around us, and leave this ocean of human wisdom open to access for anyone when they needed it the most? That’s Deepak’s idea, and his quest for documenting and sharing life lessons has taken him around the world. projectfuel.in