This is IT: stop wanting, start living!

Life is not what will happen to you sometime later. Nor is it what once happened to you. Life’s not in the future, nor is it in your past. This is it. Life is not a dress rehearsal, as someone has said. It ISwhat is happening to you now. Our tendency to forget this simple but unputdownable piece of wisdom is what robs us of the opportunity to LIVE!
Know that Life is benevolent. It will take care of you, no matter what, just as it has been taking care of all creation down the ages. To incessantly worry about what will happen to you, or to those around you, is the most unintelligent response to Life. You haven’t been created for worrying. You are here, on this planet, to live – and to live fully!
So, let go of your worries, drop all your guilt – be free. Live in the moment, however painful it may be at times, and experience Life fully. Your agony comes from your expectation that Life must be a bed of roses, a cakewalk – that Life must happen the way you want it to. Know for sure that your expectations may, well, never be met. Life’s intrinsic nature is to be unpredictable, inscrutable. So, as long as you are alive, and you know it, live each moment – by being fully present in it!
It is when you are not fully present in the moment that you struggle. And none of us has been created to struggle. It is only the human mind that broods, that worries, that remains hostage to a dead past or is a victim of an unborn future. No other aspect of creation has this problem. It is only we humans who invite suffering into our lives by expecting Life to be different from what it is. Think about this deeply. If it makes sense, dive deeper. Your Life is beautiful as it IS. You too will feel it is so ONLY when you stop wanting and start living!

YOU, only YOU, have to make time for LIVING your Life!

Everything that money can’t buy is, logically, FREE! These are theimportant, indispensible, irreplaceable, unputdownable elements of our lives! Yet we do precious little to nurture, develop, grow and protect all those things that come free in Life and work 60+-hour weeks ‘earning a living’ and trying to cling on to, protect stuff, that in the end are impermanent, dispensible, unimportant, forgettable and replaceable!

Isn’t that kind of weird?

Some years back Mastercard ran an advertisement campaign that went “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard!” The campaign’s tagline was “Priceless”. It is an intelligent campaign. And a gentle reminder that while we are busy ‘earning a living’ Life is ticking away. While all things money can buy can still be bought, Life can’t really be wound back. And that’s why it is so priceless. Yet we don’t quite understand the value of what’s invaluable __ living totally!

I was recently working with a bunch of managers who wanted to “understand Life in order to gain a “work-Life” balance”. The CFO had not slept for more than 3 hours nightly in three weeks. The HR Head had been too busy to even rush his wife, who was having premature labor pains, to the hospital and laments that despite that incident he is unable to “create” more than a few hours at home even on weekends. The Maintenance Head is having a complicated lung situation but is unable to quit his smoking. And the CEO is trying to commute between three plants in different states trying to ensure targets are met and that people are “on the ball”. His crib: Because his people don’t “show accountability”, he has not been able to take a break in over six months – not even a weekend off!

I was reminded of what I had learned from Richard Carlson (Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff): “Your Inbox is never going to be empty!”

I strongly believe that:

  1. If you are, as a manager, working more than 8 hours daily (that includes checking mail and responding to them or taking conference calls from other time zones) then one or several of these conditions are true:
  • a.     You are a poor decision-maker
  • b.    You are just horribly organized
  • c.     Your boss is inefficient
  • d.    Your subordinates are inefficient
  • e.     All of the above! 

      2.  Don’t take your Blackberry to the dining table and don’t wake up looking at it. Put it off     
           or on silent mode and leave it away from you while at home. Designate times while at   
           home when you will check your phone for calls and mails. 
      3.  When with the family, BE with the family 
      4.  When AT work, WORK – without distraction, without frittering away your time in     
      5.  Have the courage to say NO to unproductive meetings or attending meetings whose 
           agenda can be completed over mail or at least your contribution/input can be shared 
           over mail!

Remember this: Life is not going to make time for you. YOU, only YOU, have to make time for living your Life. Nobody can make it for you! Recognize that Life is ticking away. To be sure, you will die sooner or later. If you don’t LIVE now you probably will die wondering what all those meaningless hours spent at work__“being frightfully busy, with no time for anyone, even for yourself, yet having achieved nothing great”__were really all about?

Live a Magnificent Monday!

Live through each day gracefully, enjoying each moment, even if it is not the one that you ordered or wanted, but yet received. So receive your day, as it unfolds before you, with immense gratitude and live it fully!

If you are reading this on Monday, you must be wondering if this is just some armchair philosophy being dished out by someone who is both unaware of how Mondays are and who is just preaching without any practical insight.

Let me share my learnings that have brought me to this point in Life, thanks to which I can assure you that this is indeed the most intelligent way to live.

There was a time when I was globe-trotting. Breakfast in Singapore, lunch in LA and dinner in Rome. Traveling nine months in a year, living out of hotel rooms 21 days in a month. I loved that Life. I had heard of intelligent living then. And had assumed that it was all about applying your intellect in Life to make fame and fortune. So, I invested my every waking hour in working. Family was important but saw my role primarily as a provider who ‘scheduled’ to ensure presence at home to mark anniversaries and birthdays. I always felt being at my kids’ school annual days and Parent Teacher interactions as a waste of time. Those meetings didn’t add value to my Life. If I could pack in an additional meeting either with my clients or with my team, we would be better off as a Firm, was my irrefutable logic. And on the odd weekends I spent at home, I would pore over CEO reports, filed by each member of my 40-strong team. They would tell me what was wrong in the way we were running our Firm or delivering value to our clients. I would make copious notes and initiate steps and Programs each week to get our house and processes back in order.

I saw work as an investment for a future where I would be happy, as would my family, and our Firm would run on auto-pilot turning in dividends, enriching our lives.

I don’t think this line of logic is wrong per se. Except that it can neither be guaranteed that Life will happen the way you want it to nor that living can be postponed while you earn a living.

In the years that followed, despite my purposeful intent and my hands-on, paranoid leadership, my Firm went bust and the same team members, for whom I worked overtime, drifted away. Rightly so. Whoever wants to be on a sinking ship?  My children grew up. And suddenly, one fine day, although it was always on the cards, our son flew away to pursue an undergrad Program in Economics at the University of Chicago. The night he left for Chicago, we came back home to a half-empty nest. That sense of emptiness took months to get used to. I particularly felt I could have spent far more time with him in his growing up years. Initially, I grieved a lot. And even held myself responsible for missing out on such a never-before opportunity of living engaged with the growing up years of our son!

Life’s a hard teacher. She gives the test first and lesson later. And that’s how I failed the test and still learned the lessons!

I made amends with our daughter. I decided, and have been reasonably successful with it, to get involved with every aspect of her Life, alongside my wife. And what I couldn’t provide for our son on the ground, I made up with regular phone and Skype calls during his college years. I also forgave myself. And decided to not resist the manner in which my Life and business has slowed down. I decided to celebrate it. And so, now I see work as prayer, a form of expression of my inner Self, a joy. Result, we do take up only work that we love and prefer to rejoice each opportunity to live as one in which we can invoke soul, provoke thought and inspire action!

Now I can modestly claim I understand intelligent living better. I have learned that it only means living. The intelligent part is to choose living __ in the moment, mindfully, loving each moment __ over everything else. So, this Monday, what do you want to do? Maybe you can’t do everything that you want to either. But you can do one thing for sure __ appreciate the value of each moment and journey through the day gracefully, enjoying its beauty and celebrating its uniqueness, its “never-again-ness”. Do this knowing that maybe there’s a companion, a child, a parent, a sibling, a colleage __ someone who you are taking for granted, waiting for you to pause and engage with her or him. Know surely that it’s a blessing if you can indeed do it. And be eternally grateful for that opportunity!  

Live celebrating your Monday’s magnificence today!