I find the above picture one of the most motivating. The beautiful flower is alone surrounded by dry grass. The sun is shining brightly and it’s taken during late afternoon today. The city is seen faraway as if no one cares for this alone flower.
Our life is like this flower. We are unique in this world. We are surrounded by all the problems and just like sun’s heat, life gives us shocks and surprises. There are ups and downs in life. Just like the city is faraway from this beautiful flower, similarly many times we feel that all the good luck, all the dreams and even our loved ones are faraway from us. Many times we feel to be alone in this world where everyone is busy in his or her own world, driven by money, fame and power.
But this flower teaches a very important lesson. Just like it has blossomed, and become a beautiful flower in spite of all the dull surroundings, and harsh weather, so do we need to keep moving ahead in life in spite of all the problems in life. We might be alone, but that shouldn’t stop us from achieving our dreams, or living a good life. Just like the city doesn’t even notice this flower, similarly our hard work, our aims might not get anyone’s attention, but that should not make us lose hope in life.
We need to keep working, and helping others, and keep glowing just like the flower! I am glad to took this picture, and learnt some life lessons from a small flower.
The heading of this post might remind few of the readers about the epic movie “The Shawshank Redemption”. That movie is one of my favorites! In that movie, Andy Dufresne tells Red, that “Hope is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies!”. I find this quote to be so much valuable in our life.
Because everything changes in life. Just like day and night, young and old, summer and winter, so does our situations, our successes, our failures all change with time. Similarly in life, we see events happening, and some events are so deep, that their effect remain with us for a long time. We feel that this will never change. We start losing hope, and then suddenly, out of utter darkness, there comes a ray of light which makes darkness disappear. That ray of light is the hope. A small good event can change the entire situation. We ought to keep faith in that ray of hope.
I particularly like the Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. It is one of the splendid books ever written. For me, that book is something which charges my battery with renewed hope and faith, whenever failures or setbacks bombard me. That book is like a charging station of positivity and synergy. The book is very simple yet heart touching. The author had to undergo the worst experiences in Auschwitz, yet he managed to not only survive but also find hope and faith in such a hell. He even helped several of his colleagues to overcome depression and losing hope in life. The author simply argued that “Life can have meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning. That we humans have a power to choose our response to situations, however gruesome they might be, And in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I find this to be so true even in our daily life. Thank God we are in much better situation as compared to the infernal concentration camps. And we have the same power to respond to the situations we face in our life. Stephen Covey quoted ” Look at the word responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling”. Isn’t the message by Viktor Frankl and Stephen Covey resonate on the same note?
The Peter Parker principle says “With more power, comes more responsibility”. I would add on to that, No power does not mean no responsibility. Because, whether the situation is good or bad, we all are “Response-Able”. Our response does not depend on the power. Rather, I find with positive or pro-active response to any situation, comes more power to beat the problem!
We all have the power and freedom to choose the response. We can either give positive or negative response. Everyone has the ability to respond. And this power to respond is a hope for us, that every situation can be changed. If some of us remember the movie Cast Away, we can relate how Tom Hanks desperately tried hard to get away from the island to reach civilization, but the stormy ocean waves destroyed all of his attempts. Until one day, he finds the same storm delivers a metal enclosure, and suddenly Tom receives a brainwave! He finds hope that he can escape using that part, and finally he builds a much stronger boat that can withstand the waves, and sails across the mighty ocean to get noticed by civilization! That’s hope and faith, my friend!
So, never lose hope, never lose your response, however dark the night may be!
How an interesting story can tell us a lot about life!
There is one beautiful story of a professor and the boatman. I assume many of us might have read about this in school. But I guess with time, we often forget the good things we learnt before. So, let’s start this post with this interesting story.
The story begins with the professor, a very erudite and learned man, who decides to cross the river to reach his destination. He sees a boatman, and asks him if he could cross the river. The boatman agrees and thus begins the journey of the professor across the river. The river is huge, and due to recent rains, it is flooded across its breadth. The professor soon gets bored, and starts talking with the boatman to pass the time. He asks the boatman ,”Do you know about science and engineering?”. The boatman is confused, and tells the professor, he does not know anything about it. The professor tells the boatman,”Your 25% life is wasted as you do not know about science and engineering which is so important in today’s technological revolution”.
Then, the professor asks the boatman, “Okay, then tell me, have you read about geography, climate, and environment which is necessary to understand the earth and its wonderful seasons”. The boatman is again confused and just nods his head. The professor laments on the boatman, and says “Oh no, you have wasted 50% of your life. Anyways, let’s keep this aside. Just tell me, do you know anything about economics, how money works, and about banking, finance etc. anything?” The boatman by then is extremely sad and says, “Sir, I do not know anything about this either”. The professor sees the boatman’s situation as pitiful, and tells him, ” My dear, you have wasted 75% of your life!”
During this conversation, the boat has crossed halfway. Then, suddenly, the boatman sees something and asks the professor” Sir, do you know how to swim?”. The professor laughs and says, “No, I never got the time to learn it, as I was busy studying the world, science, politics, philosophy and economics”. The boatman tells the professor “Sorry sir, we have a hole in the boat, and the boat is going to sink!”.And then before jumping to save his own life, the boatman says to the professor” I think you have wasted 100% of your life!”.
Now, what’s the moral of the story? Well, this is a very interesting story, and it’s one of my favorites. I find this extremely relevant in our modern day life. We all are to a certain extent living the life of the professor. We study in school and college about the wonders of the world, about history, about science, but then do we even apply them in later life. We slog and work hard the whole life in earning money or making a living, but we forget that money is made for us, and we are not made for money. We have harnessed the power of science to solve physical problems which has reduced efforts, in other words made us lazy and dependent. But we have not harnessed the power of our mind and brain to the fullest. That’s why we worry too much for small issues, get nervous or depressed easily, stress out our life over petty relationships or serve our big ego. We forget that we are social animals, who are expected to care for others and live together. But we just maintain our animalistic instincts which can roughly be scaled down to eating, sleeping and mating.
So, what has happened, in short, is we are wasting 100% of our life, in spite of all the learning, earning, fighting, gossiping. Because, like the boatman, we are not learning how to swim, which means understanding what life is about, and how to live it beautifully. Books can be written ( or are already written by famous philosophers and writers). So, “Not learning how to swim means not learning how to live”. That, we are not living our life to the fullest. That we are working on those things like money, house, or car which ain’t going to save our life, on our deathbed, or even save our life, when we are depressed. Only by understanding the importance of life which means having a disease free, strong body, a stress free mind, a social and caring personality, by loving nature, family and country is going to help us swim the vast ocean of life, which is filled with enemies like sharks, ups and downs like surface waves and encompasses a depth of uncertainty and problems which needs to be overcomed to keep ourselves afloat! That’s the moral of the story!
I have always been perplexed by the pandemonium created by the thought: What should one do in life- Should we like what we are doing, or should we do only what we like? Hence, the tagline- Do what you love? or Love what you do?
Our mind never stays in the present. It has a tendency to either flock to the past or to the future. That’s why it is said our mind is flickering. The idea that we like or dislike something also is reflected in our mind. Our mind is not something which just resides in some corner of the body. We often confuse ourselves that mind is our head, or forehead. No, it isn’t. In fact, our body resides in our mind. Strange isn’t it? Bhishmaraj Bam, famous sports psychologist said ‘our body is an instrument of our mind‘. What we think we are is what is reflected by the mind. Everything first gets created in mind, then it reflects in reality. That is why Steven Covey said in his book, ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’ that all things are created twice. We also call it consciousness. In simple words, it is what we are conscious/aware about. Like for example, if it happens that we see a snake in front of us, we feel threatened. This is because of the consciousness imbibed within us which brings us emotion of fear in order to save our life. And the interesting thing is this consciousness is also subtle.
Now, when it comes to a particular interest or inclination towards something, it is also because of our mind. Our mind plays games with us. We erroneously believe that we can do something only if we like doing it. We think that we cannot give our best if we don’t like it. We read or listen to famous speeches by Steve Jobs, which tell us to simply follow our passion. And by passion, it means what we like doing. There isn’t anything wrong in it. It’s good if we know what we enjoy doing. But the problem is that it also gives a message that if we fail at something, then we easily blame that we did not like it, and so we failed. We think that it wasn’t my passion and so I failed. Then, we search for another interest or passion, and then another, and keep doing this. We give aptitude tests and the test results tells us something. But our mind tells us that it might not be what it likes. We look for the right job, right partner, right environment, and we rarely find it. As Steve Jobs reminds us in his speech, that he was incredibly lucky, but all may not be fortunate as he was. Then we get confused, and we waste our time in life. This attitude is a real problem.
The idea of ‘Do what do love‘ depends a lot on our mind. And the fact is mind never stays in the present. The mind easily gets influenced by past experiences or future outcomes. Like for example, if someone tells us that by learning a particular skill, we can become rich quickly, then we start liking it. But if that same skill becomes outdated or doesn’t make us rich, then we lose interest in it. Hence, our passion, our liking, our interests depends on a lot of factors such as social status, past experiences, peer pressure and future gains.
‘Do what you love‘ represents a rebellious attitude as well. Maybe, that’s why it suited Steve Jobs and his charisma. This is because we then tend to select only those things which we think we like, and discard the rest to be unworthy of our talent. Though this might make us focused on a specific skill, but often the parameters to choose the subject of our interest are based on our limited understanding of the world. As mentioned, if social status or money makes us select a particular profession as our passion, then it certainly won’t be our true passion. Also, the age to become aware of our passion is usually either during teenage or early adulthood. And the problem lies in the fact that our experiences about life, our knowledge about self is usually very limited until that age. It is more common for peer pressure or career aspirations as conveyed by society to act as a catalyst to influence our decision making.
On the other side, ‘love what you do’ is more accepting and not rebellious. It makes us start liking things that we do. It does not depend on the rewards or end result to be gained from the action. If we simply love what we do, then we do not care about the final result. Because it is the action which give us joy, and not the fruit which happens in case of ‘Do what you love’. Though both seems to convey similar idea, but the approach of looking towards it is different. We are more free when we love what we do. We do not depend on the societal expectation or peer pressure. We have more options and many times, in the world, it is not always a luxury to select the kind of work we might have to perform. When we have a ‘Love what you do’ attitude, it gives the confidence that we can do anything in this world. Nothing can stop us. We have the capability to achieve anything. We come to an understanding that in this world, everything can be achieved, and to do that, we need to put efforts. And efforts can only be put once we have to aptitude to like it. And the most important thing is this aptitude can be developed by this principle of ‘love what you do’.
For example, during the war, no one likes violence. But the soldiers are made motivated to fight and kill the enemy. They are inspired to love to fight and kill, even if they won’t like doing it. Because that is the need of the hour. Similarly, anything can be done, if we convince our mind about the importance of doing it, and why doing that work matters. That’s all is needed to make things work, and with this attitude, anyone can move mountains!
Hence, it is better to ‘love what we do’ which will keep us inspired to keep working, and with consistent efforts, we will get what we want.
Finally, even Steve Jobs came to this understanding as expressed through his 2005 Stanford commencement address, “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Taking decisions has always been one of the most complex actions. When we take certain decisions, we hope that change will turn out to be a good one. But in reality, we also fear that this doesn’t happen always. We hope for the best things to happen, and try to avoid the obvious risks and difficulties. But still, even the best thought decisions sometimes take us on the other side of the course.
However, we should not fear taking decisions. It is said that just like public speaking is the most dreaded action for most of us, similarly taking decisions and facing its aftermath is equally feared by many. Naturally, human tendency is to stay safe, not take risks and be stable in life. This comes out of concern for the family, societal expectations and the uncertainty in future. Generally, any changes impacts the state of our family. It might even bring certain vicissitudes in life. But with the supportive family, this can be overcome. I feel the more pressing inhibitor in taking decisions and embracing future challenges are the societal expectations. In Hindi, we call it “Log kya kahenge”, which translates to “What will people say”. Yes, even though we prefer individual freedom and liberty, but this societal impact has not vanished from our life. Maybe our social genes still play a role to cater this need, or it is not in the best interest to stay on the barren grass, when our friends and colleagues are on the greener side!
So, what happens is we prohibit ourselves in taking the decisions which might alter our lives ( good or bad), and try to stay on the regular path which the whole world is following. Only few risk to break the society created shell and venture out on their own path. One of the famous examples is Elon Musk, who inspite of earning millions in the dot.com bubble during 1990’s, bravely decided to start companies in automotive, solar and space, where no one was investing, and these paths were considered more so a failure. But Elon was stubborn and he not only withstood the 2007 recession but also had to live in basement for a while when he was unable to pay his rent. As it is said that the fortune favors the brave, so did Elon soon climbed the ladder of success with his world famous companies, Tesla and SpaceX. He certainly must not have thought about societal expectations, or family comfort as well. But he only truely believed in his passion and determination to make his companies successful. That’s the true spirit of an entrepreneur!
Hence, it would be unwise to be afraid to take decisions out of uncertainty about future as well. As no one knows what the future is going to be, and the only thing in our hands are our efforts and perseverence to stay firm on our decision. Ofcourse, sometimes it is prudent as well to modify certain decisions if we cannot see any worth in it. And so it is generally advised that a lot of thinking needs to be done before taking any decisions. But once well thought, then we should not hesitate in taking those decisions. Also, it is not good to modify it often. Because the fruits of our efforts takes time to ripe. Patience is a virtue in this arena. But more than patience, it is the commitment and belief in our efforts that matters. Whatever the decision may be, our efforts and belief that it’s gonna happen eventually does make it happen. Ratan Tata famously says
and Bhagavad Gita guides us with the verse“कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥” The meaning of the verse is—You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction. Hence, it is the law of nature what “As we sow, so shall we reap”. If we truely believe in our passion, and in our efforts, then we need not worry of its consequences. Hard work never gets squandered. Also, with that iron-willed determination, the result will always come, as we intend. That is why Edison mentioned that the harder he worked, the more luckier he got. Hence, taking decisions should not be feared. Even famous industrialist Neelkanth Kalyani remarked that risk taking is the most important skill in business. The problem is not in risk taking, but associating risks with failures. Also, taking uncalculated risks is foolishness. Infact the famous investors often take risks in which they have insight and confidence of its outcome in future. Either, we can have the vision of that field with our years of experience and knowledge, and then taking decisions yields greater percentage of success. Or if we lack the insight, and still decide to take the risk, then we ought to firmly believe in our strength, efforts and stay on the path, let whatever be the outcome.
Hence, if we find ourselves in a situation where the metamorphosis of events and situations happens beyond our understanding, then with the belief that things will work out all OK at the end, we should simply “Just do it”
Iclicked this picture in the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado. It was a pleasant evening, and when I saw this little tree in front of the giant mountain, many thoughts started coming to my philosophical mind. After all, philosophy is one of my hobbies and I have always loved debating on several philosophical topics with my friends.
So, I find this picture to be very interesting. First of all, its very beautiful. The scenic beauty with the red rocks forming a barren mountain and this tree being the only green vegetation in the whole picture. Wow! I know we can find this in many places around Arizona or Nevada or even Utah. But this Colorado pic clicked my philosophical mind somehow.
I feel this tree represents the human life and the barren mountain represents life’s problems, responsibilities and burdens. Human life is short just like this little tree, and is surrounded by the giant mountain of work stress and societal pressures. As the mountain is completely barren, so are the problems and stress in life. There is greenness in the tree, but not on the mountain. Similarly, it is our life which is good, enriching in itself and not the work or societal expectations.
Just as the tiny tree is standing straight in front of the tall mountain, similarly, we have to stand up and face the mountains of problems in life. This tree resembles the hope and faith in life. I remember the famous quote from the movie “Shawshank Redemption” that “faith is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies”, on the same grounds, this tree stands as an example to grow up in this barren land, in front of the mountain, proudly. So we have to stand up in life and even though there might be huge problems and anxieties,we got to have faith in our own abilities, that we can and we will face them successfully.
This tree also sets a living example that inspite of being the lonely tree in the whole area, so is human life. We come alone in this world and we have to leave this world, alone! Sorry to be so dramatic, but this is hard truth, and we have to bite the bullet eventually. Just as the tree has its short life, so do we. In today’s rat race to achieve so called success, fame, power, love and money, we often forget why are we working so hard and what are we running after. Because all the power, money, fame and human life is short lived, just like this tree. But unlike this tree,we forget to grow and blossom, and by not allowing ourselves to understand the basic purpose in life, we simply keep beating around the bush, and get involved in acquiring temporary pleasures in life. It is sad to say that we waste half of our health to gain the wealth, and then we spend half of that earned wealth to get back the lost health!
We need to find our true purpose in life, our genuine interests and live the life that will help us live the fullest, just like this tree does. It does not care of anyone’s opinions and neither does it stop growing or giving shade to the travelers, due to fear of being alone in front of the huge mountain.Then, why do we forget our work, our responsibilities towards society or humanity and why do we waste our life brooding about the past, worrying about the current problems and being anxious about the coming future?
Just as the tree doesn’t care of the depressing barrenness surrounding it, so should we not overthink or get too much involved in work stress or problems. After all, work or problems in life keep coming and going. We need to remember the famous commencement speech address given by Steve Jobs in Stanford in 2005. He did remind us that “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
Today, we are seeing the impact of covid-19 and fearing the possible recession, but similar fear had mounted up during 2007 crisis, but it did eventually subside. Similar was during 9/11 when the whole world was afraid of terrorism, but eventually, it got over. And same has been repeated so many times back in history, yet we fear, doubt our potential and forget the fundamental truth that “this too shall pass!”.
Hence, I conclude my philosophical thoughts and I am glad to have caught this picture during my travel in Colorado. It reminds me of my life purpose, my potential and gives us a message that no matter, how tall the mountains of fear, stress or problems might be in this barren cynical world, there is a hope and faith in the form of this tree which stands straight with pride to face all those anxieties and fears, grows and blossoms amidst all the problems and performs its duty/work without worrying about the surroundings (past or future).