It is only from feeling lost in Life that you can go figure what makes you come alive

Celebrate being clueless and not knowing where your Life is going!

20160415_164125There may be times in Life when you will begin to question why you made the choices that you made. There may be anger and grief in you for what has happened. And there may even be guilt over what you have done that led to what has happened. As you wallow in self-pity and self-doubt, everything about your Life will appear listless, uninteresting and meaningless. You just begin to hate the Life you have and don’t know where to begin. Or how to snap out of such a state.

Relax. You are perfectly normal if you feel that way about your Life just now. It is only from feeling lost in Life can you find yourself, find focus and learn to appreciate the value of being happy despite your circumstances. I too have been there and felt exactly that way. So whatever I tell you now, I share from personal experience.

We must first understand that Life by itself has no meaning. You came with nothing. And you will go, when your time is up, with nothing. So all this drama of achieving, possessing, losing, reclaiming, all this is just a waste of an entire lifetime, really. But this doesn’t mean that there’s no point in living. Obviously a Higher, Intelligent (that’s certainly more intelligent that everyone around here) Energy has created you and given you the gift of this lifetime. Now if you are spending this lifetime brooding, grieving and feeling miserable, then you are clearly squandering this opportunity, this gift. Recognize that the opportunity to utilize the gift of this lifetime is with you. Nobody but you can live your Life for you. No matter who you are with, you have to act, you have to take charge, you have to get moving to create the Life that you will enjoy living. Simply, you must get down to work to bring meaning to your Life by doing all – and only – that which makes you happy.

Now, it’s quite possible that you are feeling lost in Life because you are where you are because of the choices you have made so far. It is always your past that creates your present. And it is your present that seeds the future. Since no one can undo the past, the only way you can move into the future is by living in the now. When you are clinging to the dead past, you are missing the now. Your brooding over what was is not going to change it for you. As you go along in Life you will discover that no experience is ever a waste – clearly, as Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots backward. So, let go of the past but learn from your past choices. Understand which of those choices made you happy. And which are the choices that you would never want to make again?  Then ask yourself what is it that will make you happy? And begin to work in that direction. You must remember here that from where you are you may not be able to immediately transition to where you want to be. But unless you start making choices relating to your happiness, you will not move in the direction of where you want to be. Also know that sometimes the future you want to create for yourself may seem hopelessly distant. Or that you may struggle with getting started on the journey. This is when you must be patient and start learning to live in the now. Trust the process of Life. Things happen in their own time and at their own pace. Your job is to keep working on being happy celebrating and savoring each moment.

Knowing your ikigai helps here. Ikigai in Japanese means reason for being. But, colloquially, it also means what do you wake up for each morning? What gets you excited to get out of bed and going? Find your ikigai. And this takes some time and effort. So, you begin with a long list of things you like doing. And keep doing most of them. Soon you will realize that you love doing somethings more than the others. The list now gets shortened. And soon again you will discover that when doing a thing, or a couple of things, you just feel blissful. That then is your ikigai. Start focusing on it. Do it again, and again, and again. Become a master at your ikigai. When you become world-class and attain mastery at it, you not only are happy doing it, you are also profiting from your happiness because the world likes to pay a premium to engage with masters!

So, stop ruing the fact that you are lost. Instead celebrate being clueless. And get down to working on your Life. An exciting journey awaits you that will help you understand who you really are and what makes you really come alive and be happy.

There’s a lot of Life left after a crisis; believe me, a lot of Life!

Often when in the throes of a crisis, we think we cannot go on. We don’t see a way out of whatever we are faced with. And we think it’s all over. We want to give up. But just remember this – failure or defeat is temporary, it is giving up which is final!
On Sunday, I was in a conversation with the world-famous pianist Anil Srinivasan. This was part of a monthly Event Series I curate called “The Bliss Catchers” which is hosted by Odyssey, Chennai’s most happening bookstore. The Series celebrates people who have had the courage to let go of “safe and secure” careers to follow their bliss, to go do what they love doing.
Anil Srinivasan and AVIS Viswanathan
at “The Bliss Catchers”
Odyssey, Adyar
Over the course of our conversation, Anil shared his story of how he found and followed his bliss. Anil’s heart was always in the piano – he started playing it when he was just three years old; in fact, the piano is his Life. But family circumstances (a grave financial crisis had made it mandatory for him to pursue a career option that would be immediately economically viable and rewarding) and peer pressure forced him in the direction of an MBA at a US University. He followed that up with attempting a PhD at Columbia. But at one time, what he describes as his lowest phase, the PhD was just not happening. He had huge educational loans to repay. He had no money. And his academic career was going nowhere.
One day, Anil, out of sheer desperation and depression, just blacked out. “I was going to a friend’s place in a cab in New York. But I just lost track of what I was doing. I did not know where I was or where I was headed. When the cab reached the destination, I told the cabbie I had no money to pay him. He kind of made out that I was losing it. So, he said that it was okay, he waived the fare, but he also urged me to take care of myself. I got down from the cab and I just slumped on the stoop in front of my friend’s apartment. I was still clueless of who I was, what I was doing or who I had come to meet. So I simply sat there and spent much of the night there,” recalled Anil. Later that week, Mandolin U.Srinivas (1969~2014), who was a good friend of Anil, called him. Srinivas was performing at Burlington (on the US-Canada border, in Vermont) and wanted to just say hello to his friend. From Anil’s depressive tone, Srinivas surmised that Anil needed help. Urgently.So, Srinivas rushed to Anil’s apartment in New York the next morning and urged Anil to take a walk along with him. The two of them walked along the Hudson for over an hour. Anil says that Srinivas was certain that Anil needed help. But more important Srinivas felt that Anil must play his piano. Immediately. “‘How long ago is it since you played the piano?’ Srinivas asked me. I had no answer. I had forgotten when I had played the piano last. That was how far removed I was from my beloved piano and my music,” Anil told me and the other guests at “The Bliss Catchers” Event. As it turns out, Srinivas took Anil back to his apartment and encouraged him to play. Anil just followed Srinivas’ suggestions without protest. In just a few hours Anil was playing beautifully, enjoying himself and was feeling “totally alive”. “Srinivas re-infused the gift of Life, my music, back in me,” Anil reminisced, even as a tear dropped from his eye. “I can’t believe Srinivas is no more,” he added.
So, that’s how bad things really were for Anil Srinivasan – someone who, as much of the music world believes, is the finest pianist India has ever produced. Can you believe it? One of India’s best musicians was beaten by Life, was depressed and defeated just 15 years ago? And look at him today – he’s living the Life he truly wanted to live, he’s enjoying his music and he’s making music that everyone loves to hear. He’s traveling the world and making people realize that the piano is not just a Western classical instrument but one where it is possible to make any kind of music – from Carnatic to kuthu to Bollywood – if you play it from your soul!
Anil’s story teaches us, yet again, something very, very important. It is the most significant lesson you will ever need to learn about living intelligently – that Life’s darkest moments must be faced. And no matter how dark it is, no matter how hopeless it is, every storm will pass one day. All you must believe, when you are feeling down and out, done in by Life, people, events and circumstances, is that there is a lot of Life still left, after each crisis.