Not all of the time you have in this limited-period offer called Life is relatable to money.
Yesterday I met a former employer of mine. He’s a billionaire who has, interestingly, filed for bankruptcy in one of his lines of business. I had worked with him as his EA over 20 years ago. He seemed to have heard of my financial troubles and had reached out to me wanting to understand where I was in Life.
When we met in his palatial sea-facing suite in a prominent five-star hotel, I presented him a copy of my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. Browsing through it, he told me that my problems were too small. And, according to him, a lot of my problems endured because I had not “understood how to live my Life”.
He hastened to explain that Life conforms to a simple formula: Life = Time (measured as a lifetime; also that we are a product of the time we go through) and Time = Money (because a majority of the financial transactions and economic models in the world are constructed around this theory); so, logically Life = Money. He theorized, alluded to and concluded that if I understood this formula about Life, I would emerge “successful” instead of being a “failure”.
I smiled back intently at him. I told him he was entitled to his view of Life. But my view of Life remains that we are all a product of the time we go through, so, yes Life = Time; besides, Life is a limited-period offer. But while Time may equal Money in some contexts, but it is not relevant in all cases. For instance if you have to choose between an important business engagement and being at your child’s birthday, and you choose business, then you would have made money alright, but you would have lost a precious moment forever; you would have lost an opportunity to be, to be happy, forever! So, time must be invested judiciously – indeed to earn a living, but, important, to live fully, happily. I reminded my former employer that I was earning a lot of money back then when I was working with him, and on a few occasions I was even following his formula of Life = Money, often skipping important Life milestones for business reasons. But while I made money, I was unhappy living the Life I was. For the record, I had quit working for him when he denied me a two-day break to travel back to India, to Chennai, to celebrate my son’s 6th birthday. I didn’t buy his Life = Money equation then, nor did I buy into it yesterday when he re-propositioned it to me.
The gentleman chided me for my inability to see “reality”. He strongly felt that I must see a psychiatrist. And he wanted me to follow a method, a set of rituals that he had borrowed from a TIME magazine article, to be happy so that I could be successful. I continued smiling at him. He was keen to know why I was so amused. I said I wasn’t amused. I was smiling because I was happy. In fact, I declared: “Sir, I am both happy and successful. So, thanks, but no thanks, for your advice!”
Not one to give up on anyone so easily, he asked me to define happiness and success. I said: “First, I don’t believe there are any methods or mantras to live Life. Happiness is just being in the moment. I am swimming in an ocean of problems Sir, but in the moment that is now, I am with one of the most richest Indians. In the hour that I have spent with you, the rich and famous, the powerful kingmakers and networkers of India have been calling you. But you called me. You offered me your warmth, your compassion, your time and such fine coffee. I am celebrating each moment I am spending with you. Which is why I am smiling all through our conversation. I am deliriously happy. This is how I live my Life from moment to moment, choosing to be happy with what is, in each one of them. So, happiness is to just be – to be immersed in the moment. And true success is to learn to always be happy despite the circumstances.”
Our interesting conversation ended on that note. He of course held on to his view. And wished that I would see his point of view to find happiness with, and in, material and financial success. I merely smiled back at him while I bade my goodbye.
On the Uber ride back home I reflected on the meeting and the learnings it offered with Vaani.
There’s an old Zen saying that goes like this: “You don’t step into the same river twice.” This saying reminds us that Life is ever-flowing. A moment that’s lost is lost forever. So, in every moment, if you make a choice to be happy with what is, with whatever is, you can live your Life without regrets. Surely, as long as you are alive, there will be problems you will encounter in Life. And there will be pain on account of those problems. But you will not suffer when you choose to be happy despite your circumstances. This choice to be happy is a personal one – and you can make that choice when you recognize that Time is not always = Money and that this lifetime is also the opportunity each of us has to make our lives happy, meaningful and memorable – one moment at a time!
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