I wish I had known before..Part 1

I wish I had known somethings early in life such as …….

Today, I am writing about few things in life which I wish I had known before….But I think most of us get to know this only through experience, or maybe few of the lucky ones might get this wisdom early in life as well. But here’s my first wisdom I wish I had known before…..

Early success in life is not really a big thing

Yes, this is because when we are in school and university, we often are very disciplined and studious. We take our study and academic life very seriously ( atleast many of us, and I took it pretty seriously). So, with that hard work, we get the good grades and marks. And we think that is success. Because, after all, in school and college life, marks or GPA is the only yardstick to judge if we are progressing or failing, isn’t it? But that early success is really not a big achievement. Why?

Firstly with that continued success ( I say this because I used to be either a topper, or always amongst the top five in class), we become complacent, and even limit ourselves to our studies only. We form a fortress around ourself, with what is called as comfort zone, and then we are happy with that success inside that comfort zone. We make friends who are just like us, either toppers, nerds, or achievers. That’s when groupism starts, as we limit ourselves from getting to know the other things in the world. Now, I know studying is one of the important parts of school and college life, as it imparts the future perks like good college, scholarships, good job and lots of nice things in life. And I agree with that, as my life would not have been as comfortable ( atleast to a certain extent) had I not studied and got good grades.

But the problem is we often sink ourselves into that world of success early in life. And in that process, we miss out a lot. Because schooling, teenage and early 20’s life never ever come back again, once its gone. And once we are adults, we have to work, there is no escape except if you are born in a Kardashian or Paris Hilton family. And the adulthood brings with it all its own set of perks like responsibility, stress, work pressure, deadlines, financial obligation, relationship commitment, marriage, kids etc etc. So, failing in adulthood is not a good option. We have to work and achieve some degree of success, depending on our ambitions and goals.

So, only childhood and teenage life has that advantage when we really don’t need to work so hard. Because as I had seen in my generation, and it continues till today, that kids, teenagers and collegiates are so much stressed out regarding their grades, homework, assignments, exams, projects and what not. The coaching classes have created even more mess into their life, by having 6 to 8 hours of classes. They not only have to study in school, but also at home, almost till they go to bed. And with the ed-tech companies and digital apps, now, there is no longer any restriction to study for x number of hours only. With apps and online education, 24×7 classes and coaching is ON…. Even kids as small as 6 to 8 years old are introduced and forced to do coding by a startup in India. The rat race for IIT coaching was there at that time, and now it has worsened. These poor kids and teenagers have to spend their 5-6 precious years just to get the early success in life, by cracking a particular exam, or getting 5.0 GPA to get into MIT, harvard or even become like mark zuckerburg.

Hence, I think that early success and working until getting exhausted is really over-rated. There is no need for all this. Because later in life, they have to work until they get retired. There is simply no escape. And I think that if they work too much in their early life, then the possibility to get burned out and hence, lose interest in life is more. This happens, and I am also a part of it. Sometimes, I just dont want to work anymore, even though I like to work. Why? Because I have been doing that since my school or college days, and so I am not only bored to do that again and again, but also I miss my old days for not having done few things which were easily possible. Like playing a particular sport, video games with friends, going out for trekking or cycling with school buddies, dating a girl whom I liked ( but not possible now as she is either married or dating someone else or away living in some other country), or even reading books of famous authors like Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, or Isaac Asimov.

And I miss doing those activities, as I was just busy at that time in persuing that early success which no one cares today. That success made me miss other things which could have made my life more enriched with experiences. That early success made me live in a bubble, where I felt academic or college accomplishments is all that mattered. Oh Boy, I was so wrong! That early success even made me lose the opportunity to spend quality time with my family, friends or even the girl which I liked. And most important of all, that success made me unaware of what failure is. Because as said by J K Rowling and many successful people, that it is failure that teaches the lessons which enable us to grow in life, and not success. As J K Rowling said.”…that I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.” But even she realized later that her early success could not prevent her from spinning down into poverty, committing some mistakes and getting depressed. Because she admits that she had been avoiding failure, and had been in an illusion that her early success will enable her to ride the journey of life. But later did she understand the importance of failure, and how it teaches the vital lessons of life.

That’s why it is said that “Failures are stepping stones to success”. Hence, I wish I had known earlier that it is OK to fail early in life as life is always simpler when you are living with your parents, and you are not bombarded with colossal responsibilities. And you have time, and space to fail, and rise again, again fail at something else, and learn from it to rise again, when you are 16 or 20 years old. But once we enter the field of adulthood, I do not believe the world opens its arms to embrace you with your failures. So, the room for improvement is highest when we are very young. Ofcourse, it does not mean we cannot fail at later age. Yes, we can but just that the efforts to climb up amidst all the paraphernalia is not very welcoming.

Hence, I would say that just as we were taught the poem “Early to Bed, Early to Rise…..when we were kids, I think we can tweak that a little bit, such as “Early to Fail, Early to Rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise!”

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Professor and the boatman!

How an interesting story can tell us a lot about life!

Boatman vs Professor – RonelDamian
Source

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”.

Steem Cartoon : The Professor and The Boatman — Steemit
Source

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!”. 

Steem Cartoon : The Professor and The Boatman — Steemit
Source


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! 

Poking nose in our affairs!

Why Indian relatives, neighbors or few friends like to poke their noses in other’s people’s personal life.

I have always wondered why our family/relatives love to interfere in other people’s affairs? Why don’t they mind their own business? Being an Indian and having lived abroad as well, I guess this is more so seen in Indian families. Nothing to be proud of, though!

Yes, Indian relatives can be really irritating. Like recently I watched “Never Have I ever” and Devi illustrated the definition of “Aunties” as being a specific group who are allowed to have opinions about our life and our shortcomings! In other words, they simply poke their nose in other people’s affairs. Just to clarify, this is no way resembles only a specific gender, or community, but is widely seen to be a characteristic of Indian genes!

Now the question is why don’t we Indians mind our own business? Like sarcastically, most Indians in real life hardly do any business, and so maybe we like to interfere in other’s business! Anyways, jokes apart, but this is a real fact that Indians often get bombarded by questions on their personal life from their relatives or even neighbors to quite a large extent. Like, for a school going boy or girl, the obvious questions are how much marks did they score in exams, or even practice tests! Who is coming first in class, and why he/she failed in so and so exam? Why the heck are they concerned of other kids exams or performance?

Similarly, the relatives love to add fuel to fire by asking about any on going love affairs for a college going guy, or when is he/she going to start a job? Or if they are working, then how much are they earning? Then, even if in a rare case, all the above questions are diligently answered, but their appetite for curiosity doesn’t stop there. It continues with when is he/she going to get married? When are they going to have kids? and it goes on and on and on….

This is the only problem in Indian society, which is not restricted to any community, or caste, or religion or state. Its universal! I wonder why the relatives are so much interested in others affairs. I mean seriously, what are they gonna get by asking such stupid questions? Why does it matter if someone is dating, or not working, or not marrying. Its their individual problem and as long as its not directly related to whoever is concerned, I guess the relatives or neighbors should learn the basic decency to stay away from other’s affairs. Because this is not only highly unproductive and time wasting, but also leads to increase in frustation or worries for those who are being tormented with these forceful pressure to answer such senseless questions.

As far as I know, the western society is far more mature and advanced, when it comes to interfering in other people’s affairs. I have never seen anyone asking about grades, or job status, or about relationships to me, and neither to each other publicly. Ofcourse, such conversation do happen between parents and children, or between people who are in serious relationships. But still, their relatives or neighbors never ever ask such questions. I did not even knew who my neighbor was when I was living in the States. I just saw them few times, but apart from occasional hello’s or exchanging smiles, no conversation happened. While on the other side, in India, even the family living two floors above me keep on asking what am I doing. Those relatives with whom I never talked in the past 5 years, suddenly start asking about my personal life. This is preposterous!

I am not saying that Indian society should start following like western society. This ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. But the underlying fact is that there has been a huge change in generation in Indian society. My generation ( Millennial) who are born in 90’s or early 2000’s, who grew up in a country which was liberalized in 1991, who spend time on western created social media, and love to watch Hollywood movies and TV series, and some of us who are even educated abroad, have been tremendously influenced by some western concepts like individual freedom, having personal space or privacy, and with a tendency to stay busy in something, be it work, surfing internet, watching netflix or playing video games. We find asking questions about others life, unless it matters to us, to be a violation of personal right of freedom. Hence, we abhor to intrude in other people’s personal life.

But the relatives are one or two generation older to us, and they were brought up in society dominated by socialism, patriarchy and centuries old religious propaganda. Their life or career choices were limited ( for which I feel sorry for them), they had a difficult upbringing, often in strict conditions, bound by family virtues or so called family prestige. Also, they did not have many options to spend their time like social media, Netflix, internet or video games. All they could do was either reading, listening to radio or gossiping. I guess the gossip part was the easiest and entertaining, due to huge population and dense neighborhoods. Even privacy was something of a luxury for them. The walls seemed to have ears, and everyone knew or wanted to know about other’s life. That’s why asking questions about other’s personal lives, or giving free advice became kind of la coutume.

But now our generation being different, and with the world changing so rapidly, I think its time that relatives, neighbors or friends understand this, and learn to accept other’s personal space. There is already a lot to worry about, as life has become more complicated then ever. Our generation is going through a lot of uncertainties in life, be it job security, or relationship issues, which inadvertently makes us stressed out and concerned about future. Adding the incessant bombardment of gossips, or questions from relatives is simply unbearable!

Atleast, I have decided to listen to my favorite scientist advice, which is

Richard Feynman

Do what you love? or Love what you do?

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.”

The tree and the mountain

I clicked 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).