As I walked back home after dropping my daughter off at school – an enjoyable thing I’ve done off and on for 9 years – I had an interesting internal mini-conversation.
This morning, I was reading a news story about Apple Inc’s succession plans. Co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was credited with turning around the company from near bankruptcy in 1997 to one with the “highest valuation of any technology company” in just 15 years.
It got me wondering. Jobs has so much media coverage today. But will anyone care (or even remember) 100 years from now?
Now, that’s speculation. But easier to validate by looking backwards. To one hundred years ago.
Who was the tech CEO darling of 1911, do you know?
Or which business barons have lasted long enough in the public memory to be iconic after so long?
I Googled 1911, and found this on Wikipedia.
On April 8, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovered “Superconductivity”, the concept that powered development of MRI scanners and mass spectrometers and particle accelerators.
On December 29, Sun Yat-sen‘s revolutionaries overthrew the Qing dynasty to become the first President of the Republic of China (and he became the ‘Father of modern China’).
New Zealand-born British physicist Ernest Rutherford deduced the existence of a compact atomic nucleus from scattering experiments that year.
But even mighty Google has precious little about business leaders and entrepreneurs – though there were no doubt dozens who hogged the media limelight and were ‘today’s heroes’ even in those early years!
And that got me thinking –
Who matters… 100 years later?
Obviously not the media superstars. That flash vanishes fast. So who does?
Look at yourself in the mirror.
Go on. Do it now.
What do you see grinning back at you?
That’s the composite (and evolved) result of real people who lived one hundred years before.
And their parents.
Their genes live on in YOU. You probably remember them as people. If not, you’ve heard things about them from your own parents or relatives.
They matter – because they live on in you.
In your memories.
In your genes.
Just as you will… in future generations to come.
So… EVERYONE matters – 100 years from now.
Yes, even you.
And me 🙂
They are the most enjoyable moments of my crowded day.
The pleasant, cool evening breeze caressing our faces, we stroll through the streets and bylanes of our neighborhood hand in hand – my daughter and I.
I am intimately familiar with Death.
As a heart surgeon, my professional work involves a delicate dance with this deadly partner.
Some years back, I was at a lecture by Capt. Raghuraman. The topic: “Leadership at 20,000 feet”.
It was about soldiers who guard the God-forsaken no-man’s land on the Indo-Pak border, in the rarefied heights of the Siachen glacier – one of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth.
Temperatures are at 50 C… BELOW zero. And that’s not counting the wind chill factor!
The brave, daring heroes who patrol this post are typically in their late teens or early twenties. It would be physically too tough for ‘older’ soldiers to handle that stress.
Their clothing and gear weighs over 35 kg. Snow falls 12 to 18 inches deep. Moving through the powdery whiteness is like wading through molasses.
“Patrolling is the most physically exhausting task – and it is what takes most of the time of the day. If you’ve had jaundice do you remember how much of an effort it was to move from one place to another? These soldiers operate in a similar physical state… for almost a year!”
All the while, they carry their heavy load as they trudge several miles every day.
To guard a ravine on the border between two nations. To serve their country and do their duty. To justify the trust their leader placed in them.
Yet how many regular citizens know about this?
Today is a special day. It’s marked in red on our calendars. Let’s take a moment to care – and show them that we care.
Send a Siachen soldier a card on Independence Day.
Write a letter of support to our brave troops. This is the address to which anyone can :
To the Officers and Men of
102 Inf Bde
C/O 56 APO
I wrote them a letter some years back. My daughter also sent them a card. To our delight, she got a reply back from the army!
Isn’t that lovely?
We adore and evangelize our corporate, entertainment and political ‘heroes’. We idolize them and devote meaningless and wasteful hours to debating their shenanigans and escapades.
But we ignore the real heroes who patrol and guard our borders, and make it possible for us all to observe with joy and celebration a special day – every August 15th – as Independence Day.
As a society, we’ve got some serious re-thinking to do on our priorities. And they are individual to each one of us.
I’m not saying you MUST place certain things on a higher scale than others. But I do hope you’ll THINK about it.
After you send a Siachen soldier a card on Independence Day.
Here you go. A free time management tip guaranteed to make you more productive and efficient.
Stop Talking, Start Doing
I know, I know. It sounds absolutely obvious. But here’s the thing. ‘Analysis paralysis’ is a serious syndrome that afflicts many people.
So stop over-thinking stuff, hesitating too long, and waiting for circumstances to be perfect. Start doing things. Small things. Inexpensive things. So you start gathering momentum.
The journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step. And the first step is often the hardest – because you have to get over inertia. Once you’re moving, it is far easier to go back and start over again.
What has this got to do with a free time management tip or secret?
Well, if you waste hours and hours on planning and thinking about stuff, by the time you get down to action your environment might have changed or altered significantly – making more planning and strategizing necessary. You’ll waste more time than if you simply did something.
Tell me that isn’t a nice time management tip worth taking to the bank!
Now I don’t mean behave rashly or entirely without thought. No. That’s a recipe for disaster. But what I do mean is that you shouldn’t waste more time thinking through every minor detail of a huge project – without ever taking the first step.
When you first launch any new initiative, you’ll have no idea of how things work. You simply cannot foresee all eventualities. You cannot prepare for each and every hurdle or obstacle. You cannot plan for every contingency. You just get going.
And as things evolve, you’ll learn many intricate things that you would not have known (or had a chance of observing) before. Often, if you had known that things would be so difficult, complicated or time-consuming before you begun, it might even put you off starting!
But once you get going, and have already invested hours and hours of time and tons of effort doing those preparatory steps, you’ll consider it worthwhile to take the extra trouble of following the process through to the happy ending. That’s what makes this an effective free time management tip.
There are many more like it scattered across this site. Be sure to browse other sections and learn them. You can also order the Ming Vase Time Management series of guides which go into greater depth and detail about these matters.
My sister had come to visit. Late at night, my daughter and I drove her to the station to catch a train home. On the drive back, as we often do, we chatted about stuff. Yesterday’s discussion was about being happy.
On our long evening walks, we thrash out several thorny, complex and exciting topics through debate and discussion. I wish we’d documented those conversations. Because I have learned much from a child’s wise insights, and the self-exploration her probing questions prompted.
This time, I decided to publish a ‘transcript’ of our chat. It started this way…
“There are only two ways you can be happy all the time” I declared.
“And they are…?”
“The first is…
To Get All That You Want
“Just imagine. If you want something, and get it, won’t you be happy? (Well, at least within reason? Remind me later to tell you the story of the gambler who died!)
But that isn’t practical. Not all the time. No matter how rich, powerful and influential you are, you cannot peg your quest for happiness to always getting whatever your heart desires.
In fact, that’s a surefire recipe for being unhappy – because the human state is to constantly desire and seek more than what it has now.
When you have one pretty dress, you’re happy – for sometime. Then you begin to think how nice it would be to have another… or ten more. And you see a friend who has many, and wish you could be more like her.
Before you realize it, you’re no longer happy with your one nice dress… you’re unhappy about it!”
“Ok. That route isn’t going to work. What’s the other?”
To Like All That You Have
“If you have only one leg because you lost the other in an accident, you’re still better off than a guy who has none because he was born with a defect.
If you’re having spinach or broccoli for dinner – and you just HATE spinach and broccoli – you’re still lucky, because many people don’t have food to eat.
If your parents are divorced, or always fighting, you’re still in a position which is envied by another child who didn’t ever know her parents.”
And then I told her the story of the billionaire who killed himself after the stock market crash. He had a massive personal fortune of over $1,000 million, most of it in stocks. When the bottom dropped out of the market, his losses mounted quickly.
When he woke up one morning to realize that he had lost $300 million in wealth, the loss was too overwhelming – and he committed suicide.
He chose to die because he lost $300 million.
He could have chosen to live because HE HAD $700 MILLION MORE!
“This is an extreme example of the distorted perspective that keeps many people unhappy. But on a smaller scale, it is everyone’s life – including you and me.
We steadfastly refuse to acknowledge and appreciate the blessings showered upon us, and focus instead upon the things we don’t have – but want.
And that makes us unhappy.
The good news? You have the choice (as do I, and everybody else) to decide to like all that you have.
That changes everything. And leaves you happy all the time.
The nicer part is that this second option puts all control into YOUR hands.
You get to choose how you react to all that you have.
You can decide to regret, dislike, suffer from, choke beneath and suffocate under the burdens that life placed upon you.
Or you can decide to see things from a different perspective and appreciate, feel grateful for, nurture, treasure and love everything because it’s more than what some others have (or ever will).”
My daughter had been listening quietly, nodding her head at intervals. Now she spoke:
Won’t That Kill Any Ambition?
If I’m happy where I am, why would I have any desire to improve or change? I’d just stagnate and waste my talents!”
“Not necessarily,” I replied. “Because, while you are happy with all that you have, you can choose to be happier if you also get something else… making that desirable, motivating you towards it, fueling change.
With this difference.
You’ll always succeed, even before you begin.
Because, measured one way, success is about being happy about whatever you do – and you are already perfectly happy exactly where you are, with only the upside potential of being happier still if and when you attain your next goal!
It’s nothing but an intelligent way to frame your goals and targets. Too many people choose to focus on how unhappy or dissatisfied they are with their present condition, circumstances and status in life, making that their ‘powerful motivator’ for change.
Unfortunately, that mindset of discontent often persists even in the new, changed life they attain – so they’re merely unhappy somewhere else, with someone else, or something else.”
And then I told her this favorite story of mine.
The Wisdom of a Gatekeeper
A man arrives at the outskirts of a village, and is stopped by the gatekeeper.
“What do you want here?” he asks the man.
“I’ve left my village and am looking for a new place to settle down. Tell me, what kind of people live here?”
The gatekeeper gives him a long, hard look, and then asks:
“What kind of people lived in your village?”
The man paused for a moment, and replied:
“Oh, they were the worst kind of rogues. Cheating. Lying. Petty-minded. Always saying bad things about people. I hated it. That’s why I left.”
The gatekeeper looked grave.
“You’ll find the people here just the same.”
The man shook his head in disappointment, then turned around and walked away.
A few hours later, another traveller arrived at the same village, with the same question. Again the gatekeeper asked him:
“What kind of people lived in your village?”
“Oh, they were wonderful folks. Kind, generous, warm-hearted. I was torn to have to leave the place. I wish I could have stayed there forever!”
The gatekeeper said:
“You’ll find the people here just the same.”
… and smiled a welcome as he unlatched the gate.
The world ‘outside’ is just a reflection of the world ‘inside’ us. It’s like a mirror, projecting back to us the attitude, feelings and worldview we have evolved over years.
That’s why trying to change one’s inner state – like happiness – through a focus on external events or possessions or situations is usually a losing proposition. True, lasting change begins on the inside. It then (almost magically) manifests on the outside.
Inside each of us lies the seed of our personal greatness, and all that we need to attain it.
To the extent that we seize our opportunities and maximize our potential, we will fulfill our greatness.
And be happy as we do.
But when, instead, we obsess over other people’s achievements, or what they have that we don’t, we tend to lose our inner balance, grow unhappy and desire change for the sake of it – which never brings deep, inner joy.
We end up shifting the arena, never the game.
Instead, play the game.
Play to win.
Aim to be happy… no matter what.