Sep 21, 2016

Making a Living, Making a Life!

Suresh G. Lalwani

What do we want from life? How is life treating us? There are often times when such questions hit us ‘head-on’ as we traverse through various stages of our lives. At a young age in particular, such questions can be perplexing at best, unnerving at worst. The ‘ebb and flow’ of life, times, relationships, careers, love – you name it – are defined by the way we navigate through them. And boy, do we navigate differently? You bet, we do!

At a young age, you often have ‘stars in your eyes’ in terms of what you expect from life. Talking of stars, if you were Amitabh Bachchan, all that you wanted at a certain stage of life was to be a ‘radio presenter’. Sometimes it so happens that what life doles out can make you see stars in broad daylight! Too bad for you dude – you didn’t quite make the cut. Deal with it – the way you do, could essentially be the clincher.

In an earlier era and in a far off land – if you were Walt Disney, ‘the Walt Disney’ mind you – you were fired from a local newspaper because “you lacked imagination and had no good ideas”! What? Did we get that right? Yes, you did. Oh – the cruelties of life! But then, as it turns out, there is a flip side. In an adaptive context, “Waqt ne kiya, kya haseen sitam – tum rahe na tum, hum rahe na hum”. This ‘charming atrocity’ (haseen sitam) of life delivered a future in which millions would get adrenaline into otherwise unexciting lives thanks to an Amitabh Bachchan or a Walt Disney metamorphosing into their eventual glorious avatars. You and me would have been bereft of such phenomena — had life not dealt a few blows to these worthies.

So, as we know, life can be unfair! Truth be said – some of us deal with it better than others. What exactly do you mean by that? Isn’t that vague? You bet it is! If

You happen to be at the receiving end when life sometimes makes you live through rejections, uncertainties, insecurities, and ‘fear of failure’ – it can be scary. So a question arises – if I muster up the courage and the resilience and just persevere, will that see me through? After all, people with experience tell us that this is a good old-fashioned and time-tested formula that has anchored and shaped countless lives across time. While this may turn true in many cases in the long run – I wish the answer to that question was a ‘simple Yes’. The answer is Yes – but an ‘exploratory Yes’. Chances are that exploration will be a ‘long haul journey’ and what goes into the quest can make all the difference between success and failure. Ironically, what is failure for some can be seen by others as seeds of success!

Bollywood has a song or a line for every situation. Sample this catchy number: “Hum jo chalne lage, chalne lage hai yeh raaste; manzil se behtar lagne lage hai yeh raaste”. How wonderful it is when the journey can be more attractive than the destination! It makes eminent sense to apply this to our careers, nay, to our lives. Many a time however, life’s challenges can often throw you into a bind. Hence, let us consider the flip side and this can get real – some journeys can be arduous, unexciting, long-winding, demanding and things like that. God forbid – if this relates to your career and livelihood – the problem is seen to be magnified. We want to do everything it takes to get out of that situation. Problem is, either we don’t know how, or all our efforts are leading us nowhere.

The silver lining, whether we see it or not (and seeing it can make a big difference) is that every journey, however boring, strenuous or challenging, has great things to offer in terms of experience, learning, skills, competencies and much more. Essentially, these are attributes that enable quality professionals to offer ‘value-delivery’ propositions to employers/customers/stakeholders on a sustained basis. When you begin to see this silver lining, you invest in a career, well-directed competencies and skills, expertise, networks and eventually, a reputation! While doing so, some may also chart out a ‘Job se job tak’ approach if that works for you. This could be rewarding – more money, better brand names, even higher positions. This is great but if not dealt carefully, runs the risk of reducing a career to a series of mere transactions and worse, stunting professional growth. The skill lies in balancing the two – the career and the jobs! A benign environment, luck, fleeting opportunities, vast network, etc. often contribute and must be accepted with humility. While they are obviously most welcome, they can be seen as complements and not the core of the ‘sustained value-delivery’ proposition mentioned above.

Value-delivery is fine, but what about me? Don’t I deserve an adrenaline rush when I walk to work every morning? What if my job is reduced to monotony and begins to rob me of joy and satisfaction due to some reason or the other? Is it okay to experiment with my career, and what care should I take in doing so?

The list of questions is long. Where will the answers come from? Oh, they will stem from within each one of us, based on our individual context and situation. The exploration will be fun and you got it right – it will strongly signal that ‘Life is Beautiful’! But we will keep that for another day. As they say, “picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost!”

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