"Bahut Mazaa Ayega!"

Don’t look for rewards and recognition in Life! In the end, they don’t matter. What will matter is this: did you live the Life you were given – fully, usefully, purposefully, happily?

400+ wannabe entrepreneurs: “The adventure is the reward!”
Yesterday, I was addressing an audience of over 400 students, from different academic streams, on ‘The Spirit of Entrepreneurship’. They were an amazing audience. Full of Life! Raring to go!! Enthusiastic!!! My message to them was that entrepreneurship is not what entrepreneurs bring to the table. Entrepreneurship is what makes entrepreneurs! I said Life, at best, is a big gamble. And both success and failure are mere labels, imposters as the Bhagavad Gita says! So, go have fun, enjoy the ride, because, I said, the adventure is the reward!

Indeed. We must all learn to have fun in Life, enjoying it every moment! Because the challenges that Life throws at us, and which we invariably overcome and conquer, in retrospect are indeed laughable! In school, when I couldn’t get Math right, I would often feel defeated. Now, when I look back, I joke about it! Similarly, when I was out of work, 21 years ago, because my employer shut shop, I thought I had lost in Life. But when I review that period, I smile appreciatively because what I thought was lost really was a new opportunity gained__because I wouldn’t be where I am today without that loss!

In the iconic Bollywood movie “Sholay”, the ferocious Gabbar Singh, often says, in a wicked drawl, “Bahut Mazaa Ayega!”, meaning “It will be so much fun!”. Just repeating this line in the same tone to yourself whenever confronted with a challenge is a great way to remind yourself that Life’s, after all, a big game, a gamble, if you like! But you must keep playing it, as long as there is Life, no matter what! As I left the auditorium after my Talk yesterday, yet another student there wanted my autograph. I wrote: “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game of Life. Trust me, “Bahut Mazaa Ayega!””

The only part of Life worth living is … LIVING!

Throw yourself into the game and don’t worry about the outcome. If it is ordained for you, it will happen the way you visualize it. If it is not, you will not get what you want. Either way, immerse yourself in the game of Life and banish all thoughts on what may be, what will be, what would be and what could be.

Almost all the time, all of us miss the joy of living. We have been conditioned to think that an integral part of Life is winning. The truth is the only part of Life worth living is LIVING! Because what happens to or with us__to you, to me__is not in our hands. But what we do when whatever happens to us is surely in our hands.

Why then do we struggle with living?

Simple: because our entire upbringing and our whole education system is focused on winning. Now, when you focus on winning, it is a foregone conclusion that ONLY one person will win. That leaves the rest of the competition whining. There’s no teacher, no school, no system that ensures that the one who tries to compete, the one who plays the game, the one who makes an effort to win, is celebrated. If you take a country like India, our traffic sense will tell you what we are as a nation. Everyone is in the business of getting ahead of the others. There is no decorum on the road, nobody has any sensitivity and at the end of this mindless charade, people, the ones who manage to get ahead, actually feel they have ‘arrived’, while those who have been edged past feel they have been at a game they did not play or did not want to play. So it is with the way we live. Which is why we struggle.

Vijay Natesan
I met a young mridangam (a percussion instrument we play in south India) artist Vijay Natesan recently. I had seen him play on stage a few times. Last November, I had seen him play with the 80-year-old maestro T V Gopalakrishnan (TVG) at the Music Academy in Chennai. That performance has stayed in my mind because I found that TVG and a posse of mridangam artists were not behaving as if they were performing to a packed auditorium. They were playing their instruments as if they were in a living room and jamming with each other. So, when I met Natesan last week, I asked him how is it that they managed to have so much fun while playing in the professional circuit? He replied: “Sir, we play because we are having fun! We never play to impress. This has been our training.” This, said Natesan, was the first and the biggest learning, his guru, TVG, had imparted in him. “TVG Sir would say, when on stage, simply freak out. Don’t worry. Don’t think. Just play. Enjoy yourself. If you enjoy yourself, you can be assured that the audience is enjoying your performance. If you worry or wonder if the audience is enjoying, you will make a hash of it. So, just play your guts out every time you play.”

Please note the nuance in Natesan’s recollection of his guru’s advice. Play your guts out every time you play. TVG did not use the word ‘perform’. Both times he said ‘play’. This is our key learning.

Are you living or are you making a show of living? If you are making a show of living, you are sure to be disappointed, because you are not living for yourself. You are living for audience approval. And as long as you live for someone else’s approval (big difference from living for others’ – subject of another thought altogether) you will find that it is unlikely you will be able to satisfy everyone in the audience. Someone, somewhere will always be upset with you. And you will spend a lifetime trying to please that someone. Instead, just live your Life. Enjoy the game. Of living. Live fully. Because, unlike in Natesan’s case, you will NOT get a second chance at playing (living) the game!

Play the game of Life, to not win or lose, but to enjoy!

Winning in Life is not about how much you made or what you got, but, simply, is about how well and peacefully you played!

It is fantastic to win. To compete. To work hard. To want to get all that you want! To be on top of the world and to celebrate your conquest of hitherto uncharted waters. But it is also important you play. And just play. And play to enjoy the playing than wanting only the winning. This I say from a Life attitude point of view. Several of us have a ‘winning obsession’. Nothing wrong with it. Without wanting to win, there can be no discoveries, no conquests, no progress and no excellence.

Yet know also that Life may always not be fair. What if, despite your best effort and intent, your Life doesn’t fit into any logical framework? You have no idea of what’s happening to you and how you are going to handle it. How would you classify winning in such a scenario? When WHATEVER you try, how much ever you try, Life keeps plucking away from your hand?

In Life you can keep asking these questions, including others like ‘Why (only) Me?’ or ‘Why now?’. But there are no immediate answers. Your measure of success, financially, socially, physically, is always disproportionate to both your effort and intent. This is the harsh reality. Which is, the harder you work, the more ethical you work, the lesser you get rewarded in proportion! Yet you must play on. Remember, you DON’T have the option of quitting the game. Because quitting is easy. It is simply conceding defeat. It is in the playing, staying on, fighting every single day, getting better, not BITTER, with Life, that there is the winning, in this game of Life!

The world may define success as performance on parameters that are ‘visible’ and measurable __ the most easily available metric being money. You will be encouraged, actually coerced, to believe that success is only equated with how much you have in the bank, what is your credit-worthiness and what is the ‘method’ you employed to get rich?

But true wealth is your rich experience of having lived a full__irrespective of your circumstance__Life. Real success is not giving up and being positive and being present when Life is happening to you. 

I don’t know what you think. Or which side of Life you are on. But what I can tell you, and what you may want to tell your kids, is that Life will come at you, despite your best effort and intent, not to see you winning with riches and rewards, but to teach you how to win when all you have is a crown of thorns and a cross to bear! Winning then is just being present. Just being. When you are just being, you are  refusing to lose. And know that we cannot quit the game, because while giving in is an option (giving in = loving what IS!) in Life, giving up is not! We may depart some day, as all of us will, but it must not be because we quit the arena. But because we were called back by Life!     

Here’s an old Tao story on an archer’s obsession, his desire, to win! And there’s a great learning there for all of us too.