“They are different and they don’t care. They are happy.”, said my ten-year-old daughter. Sounded rather profound coming from someone her age, but she surprises me with her wisdom now and then, so I quizzed her a little. “What do you mean? How are they different and why don’t they care?”, I said.
She was getting impatient, but explained, “They are fairly simple and down to earth. They know that they are different from the other people around them – People who want to show off that they are sophisticated and smart. They are simple and it doesn’t matter to them what others think about them. They are happy together.
I was stumped! For the next several seconds, all I could muster was, “That’s the key to real happiness.” She was describing a couple, who we are very close to, and interact with quite often.
The lockdown has turned many of us into philosophers – even the ordinary – go to the office in the morning, work hard and reach home late – folks like me haven’t been spared. It being a Sunday, I marvelled for a while at what she had said and then decided to write my ten commandments. Don’t let a good crisis go waste, they say! And I have been using the lockdown to brood over my raison d’etre if there is supposed to be one. So, I decided to make a gist of the ten things that should drive my life hereon and act as the true north to guide my future choices. In a two-part article, I have decided to share it with you in the hope that some of you may find it useful.
- Dare to be different: I am not suggesting that you dress like a hippie in a business gathering where the dress code is formal suit with a tie. I am carrying forward the thought that I started this article with. Be comfortable with who you are. We spend a large portion of our lives trying to impress people who do not matter, trying to get their approval. And in the end, we lose who we are. That’s counter-intuitive but we all go to great lengths to do it and frankly the social media and the associated Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) aggravates this problem. My first lesson: Don’t seek acceptance or approval at the cost of losing your true self.
- Livelihood is not life: For many of us, life revolves only around our jobs or business. And I have been a culprit myself. People transform into their designation – VPs, Founders, Accountants, Owners, etc., and their life starts revolving only around their livelihoods. I know people who were very interesting human being and used to have hobbies when they were younger. However, now they so engrossed in their job that they have no time for anything else. What will happen when they retire from the job or are forced to quit? They will become very lonely and depressed as their only identification is their designation or the company they work for. I am not suggesting that one should not work hard or not aim to be successful. However, one should aim for a balance and have a life outside of work as well.
- Family comes first: In tough times, one understands the importance of family and the coterie of friends. In the hyper-connected world of social media, everyone has thousands of FB friends who will only provide lip sympathy. When it comes to helping someone in need, it’s only the family (immediate and extended) and the very close friends who you can depend upon. However, in our day to day lives, we fail to nurture relationships. I have come to realize that it is the biggest blunder to make. Spending time with family and friends is the best investment that one can make. It pays you twice – by way of making you happy when you are spending time with them and also by improving your credit for encashing when you need them. So, if they need you, make time for them.
- Learn to live with uncertainty: People of my vintage and those born in the 80s and 90s in India have mostly seen the upward swing of the Indian economy. A majority of the people that I know have had stable careers. Some career graphs have been steeper than others but most of them have primarily been going northwards. There are always exceptions but let’s look at the broad trend here. We have seen the economy slow down a bit in the last few years but have not necessarily witnessed any large-scale layoffs or long periods of economic depression. Now, COVID 19 and the resultant lockdowns have suddenly thrown us into a situation where the economy is likely to take several quarters to come back to normal. This will mean that several people may lose jobs, businesses may go under and business models which were looking robust till a few months back may suddenly become unviable. It’s difficult to predict how things will pan out in the future. This period of uncertainty is new for all of us and we are in different boats but in the same rough seas. The waters are going to stay rough for a while and we will have to take each day at a time, anticipate the new normal and adjust to it. Things may continue to be fluid for a long time so all of us will need to learn to live with this uncertainty and make constant adjustments.
I will cover the commandants five to ten in part two next week.