But Am Glad To Know Today!
As I cruise into ripe ol’ middle age, I’m growing wiser. Every day. And wonder… what took me so long?
I mean, so many of these powerful lessons are blindingly obvious – once they are learned. I’ll talk about just three of them today.
1. Security is a Myth
I have a diary from the 1980s. On one page of it, I see notations, in rows and columns, of figures, estimates and calculations. They are the fruit of an exercise which took a few weeks, trying to estimate how much money I’d need to save up to live a retired, comfortable life.
The computation factored in inflation, “reasonable” interest rates, income growth, and such like. It didn’t factor in reality, though. Or the scary, roller-coaster nature of change.
In the last couple of weeks, with the Indian rupee plummeting to decades’ long lows and stock prices crashing, the value of my investment portfolio sunk by over 10%, literally overnight.
But that doesn’t bother me too much. Because I’ve learned this lesson.
Security – especially financial security – is a myth.
You don’t scrimp and save today just so that you can live “in peace and comfort” some other day. No. You live today.
Sure, you should stow away a bit for a rainy day – just don’t get obsessed about it and put your life on hold for a tomorrow that never comes. Otherwise, you risk becoming like the captain of a cruise liner who dreamed about retirement all through his career – and on his last trip, had a heart attack out at sea, and died!
2. Control is an Illusion
We engage in mighty struggles and fight impassioned battles at home and at work, just to gain “control”. Nations arm militarily and go to war for the same reason.
We crave control. Authority and influence over others. The dream of having people jump to fulfill our slightest wish is a seductive constant in many of our lives.
Yet, when you consider it in cold blood, just how much control do you really have over what truly matters?
You walk carefully on the sidewalk – and a rotten branch from a tree could crash down and break your neck. You drive cautiously, following every rule in the book, and an angry or drunk maniac, or text-happy teen, might smash into your automobile and put you in a hospital – or in your grave!
Control is an illusion.
There’s one thing you can control, though. It’s not outside. It’s within you. Yourself. That’s who you have control over. (Sadly, too many aren’t looking for that – or want to get better at self-control.) Without it, everything else is a waste.
3. Happiness is a Choice
A ubiquitous and pervasive media advertises the price of happiness as being ownership of a gadget, brand or asset. Mindlessly, we believe the shrill, insistent marketing – and feel miserable.
Until we manage to get hold of what was advertised.
That’s when we realize, for a fact, that it doesn’t really make us happy (It did? Lucky you!)
We don’t learn the first time. Or the second. Even the third, fourth and fifth times are ignored in the heady pursuit of newer, costlier and shinier toys. But sooner or later, it dawns upon a weary mind and body that happiness ought to be different.
It is. Happiness is a choice.
There are people living in hovels that would horrify the most tolerant and broad-minded of us, who still manage to laugh and smile, enjoying their time on earth. And we’ve all known or heard about mega-rich, super-famous, hyper-successful depressives who do outrageous things in a desperate search for happiness. Or even end up killing themselves when they can’t find it.
It isn’t necessary. You can choose to be happy, wherever you are.
Those are three lessons I wish I’d learned when I was in my twenties. I’m glad to have learned them today. You?