TEDxBrooklyn 2013: Atomic Living

Atomic Living is the notion that spontaneity can be used to create productivity and success in life instead of chaos and deterioration. Instead of constructing a 10 year or 15 year plan that prevents unexpected events from playing a natural role in life, Atomic Living suggests instead knowing what matters to you most, and accommodating various moments and opportunities in life according to those pillars. When you have a 10 year plan, you make decisions according to a hypothetical, instead of according to a real opportunity, that actually exists, in the moment. My current 4 pillars are: gender equality, drumming, innovation in the music industry and my friends and family. As daily opportunities come into my life, I try my best to say, does this have the potential to nourish any of those 4 pillars? If the answer is yes, I go for the opportunity. If the answer is no, I reject the opportunity. I find this enormously helpful – so many times when I was growing up I would go to an activity or an event that I felt like I had to go to, but I didn’t want to be there and the truth is that no one else cared if I was there or not. With Atomic Living, the ideas is that because you want to be there, because you made an active, thoughtful choice to the moment, that very energy makes the moment its most productive – those around you can feel that you are thrilled to be there, and it is more likely that something profound is to come of it. In living this way, most of my most cherished joys and successes in my life have come about atomically – not because 5 or 10 or 15 years ago I said I was going to do this one thing. In fact, my 16-yr-old self, for example, would have a narrower scope of vision for my own personal goals because I wouldn’t have even seen enough of life to know what to wish for. In the same way, I find it limiting for my 26-year-old self to dictate what my 36-yr-old self might be capable of. I prefer Atomic Living much more, as it allows me to nourish what matters to me that day, in that moment, and prevents regret since I was serving the Kiran of that time. That purity that comes from being content in the moment has always powered me forward – in fact, my only times of regret are when I am spending my time making decisions that didn’t bring me joy, didn’t allow me to serve others or were when I wasn’t being my authentic self. Atomic Living also allows your passions and priorities to change in real time – if in 10 years I am no longer able to play the drums, I can shift one of my pillars, and re-orient my atomic choices in alignment with that new passion. Maybe a child or family or new commitment that I can’t even think of right now!

Atomic Living has also been covered in the following articles:

IVI Magazine: Jessica Quinn covers what Atomic Living means to her.

The sky is crystal clear and the city lights are glistening back at us as we sit down and play catch up. This is actually the first time we have met, but there is something about Kiran that makes you feel like you have known her forever. She starts discussing her theory of atomic living. I have heard her speak about this before and as someone who has to plan every moment in life, I am completely fascinated by her ability to live in the moment.

“Atomic living is using spontaneous moments productively to create happiness in your life,”

She says as she takes a sip of her beer. “The notion is that as long as you know in your heart what your biggest passions are, in my case they are innovation in the music industry, writing music, gender equality, and my friends and family, then when opportunities come into my life that have the potential to nourish any of those things, I always say yes, let’s do it. But, if the opportunity does not have a potential to nourish those things, I say no. That way I do not feel like I have to plan ten years in advance, I can use all of the wonderful opportunities in that moment and I can live a far more present life than constantly trying to get to the next win, or the next mountain, or the next success. It allows me to live holistically and presently, it prevents regret.”  

Georgetown College: Lauren Ober outlines how Atomic Living can help shape a young college grad’s decisions! 

February 10, 2014—Before you can understand Kiran Gandhi (C’11), you have to understand the theory of atomic living. It’s a theory that Gandhi devised, and it’s what has allowed her to be both a graduate student at Harvard Business School and a drummer touring with the British musician M.I.A.

In its simplest form, the theory of atomic living goes like this: when you are faced with a choice of doing something serendipitous and doing something quotidian, you must always choose the former, assuming it feels right to do so. In her recent TEDx Brooklyn talk, Gandhi used the example of running into a friend at the farmer’s market. You want to have coffee with her because you haven’t seen her in a while, but you really have to clean your house and get your laundry done.

“Atomic living says you have to go [with that friend] because in that moment, there’s so much meaning in that interaction and so much good can happen,” she said during the talk. “Who knows what can happen really?”

Gandhi certainly isn’t advising that people drop all obligations and rather only do fun things. She wouldn’t have gotten as far as she has thinking like that. But recognizing the importance of chance and the opportunity that lies therein has been a guiding principle of her life thus far.

Stem.is: Shanna Jade explains how Atomic Living can be relevant to the artists her company, Stem.is, serves.

Kiran Gandhi uses Atomic Living to connect her passions for feminism, music and business

What exactly is Atomic Living? According to Gandhi, it begins with identifying what is most important to you. For her, this includes feminism, drumming, the music industry, friends and family. Once the important factors of one’s life are identified, Atomic Living suggests that a spontaneous action should be pursued if it can nourish one or more of these factors.

Consider the idea in a real-life example. While at Harvard, Gandhi often felt pressured to go out and socialize:

“They say, ‘Oh, you have to network. You have to meet all these people…’ And I would say, ‘No, I don’t want to go to a bar. There’s 80 people talking, none of them can hear each other, and they’re definitely not gonna remember this conversation with me, let alone my name. I would prefer to sleep tonight and get energized for my class in the morning, which does have the potential to nourish my passion for the music industry.’ This is how I think about Atomic Living. It makes my choices a lot easier.”

Filmmaker Mag: Elaine Sheldon and Sarah Ginsburg of the SheDoes Podcast highlight why they think Atomic Living can be applied to many fields. 

Kiran Gandhi toured the world as M.I.A’s drummer, earned a business degree from Harvard, and trained to run a marathon, all at the same time, but there’s a lot more to her than that. She’s an outspoken, ambitious, radical young woman who pours herself and her skills into gender equality, especially within the music industry. Kiran made headlines, both positive and negative, after she ran the 2015 London Marathon as a “free-bleeder,” or without a tampon. This week on She Does Podcast we talk about how to handle pushback and criticism, about her wholesome but unconventional upbringing, about living spontaneously, about the role of gatekeepers, and how to find your own “inner Madame.”

Atomic Living is a methodology Kiran developed and uses each day:
Atomic Living is the ability to use spontaneity as a productive way to move forward in your life. I try to think of my current passions and right now it’s three focuses: feminism, drumming, and the music business. And as spontaneous opportunities arise, if I run into a friend who wants coffee or literally any kind of spontaneity that happens throughout the day, if it has the potential to nurture any of those three things or enable me to grow in any of those three fields, I always say yes. Atomic living works both ways where there will be days when nothing happens and that’s OK. And if the decision or opportunity is too far from any of those three things, I just say no. If you are scattered and you’re always doing something completely unpredictable, that really isn’t Atomic Living. That’s its own thing. If you’re consistent in the couple of things that you decided are your passions, even if they seem completely different from each other, I do think people start picking up on it.

Wondering Sound: Zoya Mohan, an extraordinarily gifted graduate of the Berklee College of Music and fellow collaborator described the impact of Atomic Living on her life. 

You collaborated with drummer Kiran Gandhi on the track “Lunar Eclipsed.” She developed a concept called “Atomic Living,” and I read that you have a tattoo on your foot inspired by her ideas. What, specifically, is Kiran’s philosophy?

Kiran is one of the most amazing woman I have met; she’s so inspiring. When I first met her, she spoke at Berklee about her life as a touring drummer and a music-business entrepreneur, and how she balanced both acts. After the clinic, I felt so drawn to her philosophy of Atomic Living that I asked if we could go get a drink. She explained to me that it’s basically the idea that our world is filled atoms and, just like humans, atoms bounce of each other and create new connections. She said to pick three to six things that are most important to me — my passions or pillars. For me, it was traveling, family, art, learning, things like that. She said that I should always make decisions based on those pillars instead of looking to the future and making decisions based on some job I want to get five years down the line, or making decisions based on what other people are telling me.

She said then there will be no room to regret any decisions and the “atomic moments” that form are so much more true than if I followed a path just to get to Point B. Instead, I should be open to numerous paths that may come out of my “atomic decisions.”

So my tattoo says “step atomically” in Greek (since the Greeks were the ones who first discovered the atom), and that’s why I got it on my foot. So with every step I make in life, I keep her philosophy in mind.

HashTag Hero: Super Ivi Talks about how Atomic interactions help her find her Hashtag Heroes!

Atomic Living: You must know what matters to you and go with the flow of related meaningful interactions. These micro interactions will lead to an atomic moment of pure euphoria.

After watching her TED Talk, I went with an atomic impulse to reach out to her. I let her know that the day we met was 100% atomic living and that her theory was truly #HEROstatus!



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