The Top Three Tragic Myths of the Times we Live in

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”, said Albert Einstein. Taking this notion forward, this article of mine is going to dwell upon why life itself is a myth, and how each one of us is driven by some ‘absolute‘ truths that are nothing more than widely accepted myths. These myths drain the life out of our days and take us onto paths of mediocrity and obscurity. Below are the top three such myths I think we all encounter in everyday life. (Give them some time to sink in, as they very well might be absolute truths for you.)

You Have to Work to Survive
The biggest myth of our times is ‘having to work‘ to earn a living for surviving. Right from our birth, everything is setup to create this illusion. Our education system, the college system, all the news and shows on TV and the movies we watch. As we grow up, this myth becomes very ‘real‘ for us. The only thing from our childhood which we term as illusions are the cartoons we watch. Did you ever wonder why everyone loves cartoons?

There is a common misconception that work is necessary. Over decades and centuries, every rock is chipped away into sand and dust. Work does the same to our lives and souls. Day by day, hour by hour, our work chips us away into disintegration. If somebody tells you they are “making a living“, they can’t be more wrong. They are dying, fast spending whatever little time they have doing things out of compulsion rather than the pure desire of doing it.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius

Instead, PLAY. Go out and do what you want. Find something you love doing, something you are passionate about. Many people say they don’t know their passion or hobbies, or they have not discovered them yet. Here is a formula – Look into your life, and the things you do for which you pay others are your hobbies and passions, and for which you get paid and compelled to do is work. DO NOT spend the vast majority of your life working so that you can play in the end. The end which might never come, or which might be tomorrow itself, for all you know.

Planning and Living for the Future
We live in a world where insurance and pension policies, investments, education, business, almost everything is done with an objective to achieve something in the future. Utter non-sense! Who gave you the guarantee that you will not die tomorrow, next week or next month? What made you believe that you are going to die at 70 or 80, and not at 20 or 30 or 40. If you don’t believe it, read and watch the news. People are dying everyday at all ages. The average age might be 70 or 80, but ask yourself – Do you really want to live your life based on a statistic?

Instead, LIVE NOW. Enjoy whichever phase of life you are in. Be in each day fully, rather than counting the days in your life. Live your life in a way that you are satisfied even if you die tomorrow, or the next second. Make every breath count. Don’t wait for tomorrow if you want to fall in love, travel to your dream destination, or eat that favorite ice-cream of yours. Do it NOW. Fall in LOVE with life, not just with a few selected people, things and ideas. Whether you make 1 grand or 1 million, whether you live in an apartment or a mansion, embrace life fully NOW and don’t let your goals and milestones in life decide the level of your happiness or joy.

Control and Consistency
The next biggest myth we base our lives on is aiming for control and consistency. We plan and build systems, processes and organize things to make our lives more comfortable and cozy. That we can control life is the biggest lie that we tell ourselves. Life, by its very nature, is messy and unpredictable. It is not fair and nobody is entitled to get anything out of it. In school, if you study more, you get more marks and vice versa. The same doesn’t hold true in life. The sooner we realize this the better. Good and bad things will happen to you. Your education, job, country you live in, or any other parameter which gives you the illusion of safety, is a very bad armor against life.

Instead, be FREE from the controls. Embrace the uncertainty of life and experience real FREEDOM. Go out and play. Learn a new language, take a new job, live in different countries and experience and soak in different cultures, write, paint, or do anything else that drives you towards life rather than draining the life out of you. Don’t try to be nice or do what is expected. Don’t live for the gallery. For a change, LIVE for YOURSELF. Let yourself be misunderstood, hated, judged or whatever, but live by your convictions. It is better to be assassinated by another human being than being assassinated by death.

Conclusion
Our thoughts (and idea of reality) shape our circumstances. It is like watching the same movie again and again. If we want to play a different movie in our life, we have to change the cassette. And rejecting the above myths might be the first step for it. Thoughts arise in the mind, and we become aware of them. But over time, we stop seeing them as thoughts and see them as reality. Therefore, we never stop to question its reality.

Life is a mirage. An earing and a bangle are both made out of gold. But our thoughts make them an earing and a bangle, in essence both are only gold. Yet we only term what we see while asleep as dreams and not what we see while awake. In essence, both are illusions created by our senses. In the night many times we get scared of an insect or a rat, but when we switch on the light they are just objects lying around. But our senses gave them an illusion of an insect or a rat. Everything in life, our riches, our troubles, our possessions are illusions and a mirage created by the mind – and we must never loose sight of that.

What does ‘Work is Worship’ means and what our work can be?

Work is where we spend most of our lives, especially in these super competitive times and in a tough economy. Most of us work for around 50-60 hours per week (at a minimum), which makes it around 108 to 130 days every year. The only other activity we do as much as work is sleeping. Thus work and sleep each takes around 33% or one-third of all our days in a year. In many surveys (here and here and here) organized by universities and other institutions around the world, it is known that most people (more than 50% of them) are not happy in their work and seek life outside of it, ie, in the 33% or one-third of the remaining time they have.

If time is our most important resource, think about it this way – We are giving two-thirds of our time away daily, and spend the rest one-third left thinking why we have so little time left. It is like giving a tax of 66% on our time. Now imagine giving back two-thirds of every salary away, and keeping only the one-third for ourselves. If we imagine this situation, we will feel anger, frustration and all other kinds of emotions. It is the same with time, but we don’t realize it because in our perspective money is something more real and substantive (which we can hold, see in our bank account) but time looks like a never-ending resource. But time does have a limit, and every minute you are not spending living your life, it is akin to giving away money. Imagine yourself giving away money physically every time you feel you spent any time which can be termed as ‘not living your life‘.

A popular and old proverb says that “Work is Worship“. It looks good only as a proverb and something very unreal in the times we live in. The common (and agreed about) perspective about work looks at it only as a tool to earn some money or achievement or reward so as to live your life in the spare time you have left. In this article, I am presenting another perspective on work according to which our work is a vehicle, a chance, an opportunity for each one of us to express ourselves and shine like a light and set an example for the whole world.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana

Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana - The sanskrit phrase in Gita which translates to "You have a right to perform your prescribed action, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action." is also on the same lines

Have you watched Sachin Tendulkar walk into a stadium to play (which is his work)? How does the audience respond to that? Every time he walks in to bat, he gets a standing ovation from the audience and they stand and applaud. I guess this is what the adage – Work is Worship means, which is beautifully expressed in the way a Sachin Tendulkar or a Rahul Dravid bats. Before I divert to cricket, let me get back to the topic here. Now imagine every time you walk into your office, everybody notices and gives a standing ovation to you. Everybody recognizes the champion in you that has come to work for producing some amazing results which others will only dream about and watch from the stands.

Just changing the perspective can change everything about how we see our work, and what and how much it can contribute to our life. It is not something where we spend one-third of our time to get some money to spend in the remaining one-third. Instead, work is a platform where we can unveil the very best in ourselves. Work itself is our life, it is our chance to grow and become all we ever wanted to be. It is the most important, and the best thing in our lives, we shouldn’t miss or waste even a single second of it. It is a vehicle to become all that we ever wanted to become, and to have the life we always wanted to have. Life happens inside of work, not outside it.

I will end with a very powerful quote by James A. Michener –
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”

The Biggest Addiction in this World – Our Paycheck

We all talk about addictions in our daily lives and how they are bad for our health and social well being. Alcohol, gambling, smoking, drugs and sometimes even Apple products and internet find a mention in the list of addictions. But there is one addiction we miss, and once which can keep us enslaved all our lives. We will do things we don’t want to do, and not do things we so much love to do. What is worse is that we will find reasons to prove to ourselves (and to others) that why what we are doing is the right thing to do? It is like we are trapped in an illusion. Sounds familiar? Yes, it is the case with every addiction. But this time I am not talking about drugs or alcohol, but your paycheck.

How many of us are in this situation?

How many of us are in this situation?

Work = Money is NOT the only way
Right from our childhood we have been taught that work equals money. You do some work, and you get paid for it. And that is a fair deal. If that would be the case, why would 99% of the wealth in this world would reside with 1% of the population? It is the same reason why 99% of the population work for 1% of the people. The work = money philosophy says that as long as you work, you get paid but nothing in the future. What if there is a crises, or you just simply don’t want to work? Or what if we want to do something where our income is independent of the daily labor we put in? If I am not in the mood to work for a few days or weeks or months, it should not affect my income if I have done a good work before the break, and am ready to do good work after it. Don’t we all deserve this freedom?

Capital Gains is the Alternative
If you start thinking, you will find enough reasons to disprove of the above paragraph I wrote. After all, 99% of the people are working to prove that. We have invented schemes like pension and insurance to give us a safety net, but only after we spend our best years working so that we can relax and enjoy our freedom when we are sixty. Do you REALLY want to do that? An alternative is to do something today which is not only work but also an investment which can be reaped in the future. Entrepreneurs and artists (or the people in 1% of the positions) do that, they put in their work and get rewarded for life, in the form of stocks, royalties or any other form of capital gains. It is the same when you spend money in schools and colleges for education, for returns which will come in the future. But why do we stop doing that once we finish school and start working?

Creativity > Work
Some five or six years ago, I attended a conference at the FMS Delhi, which is one of the leading business schools of India. There were corporate honchos and some of the best leaders India has produced at the conference, and I very distinctly remember what one of them said. He said, “These so called success stories of India like Wipro, Infosys, TCS are destroying the talent and creativity of our young population by hiring them in big numbers and paying them good salaries. By giving them a comfortable life, they are killing their creativity and spirit. India has traditionally been a self-employed and entrepreneurial society, and such an attitude is discouraged when you have a stable job with limited growth and learning.

Every time money is injected into our account (like drugs in our body), we feel high and confident which eventually fades away by the end of the month. Stress makes a comeback and we start counting the days to our next salary, which once again creates euphoria and the cycle continues. Nothing can be worse when you show up for work which you don’t like just for the sake of getting the salary on the 1st of next month. Or ask yourself – Would you still work here if you don’t get the regular salary every month?

 

Can we break this addiction, and own our salary rather than ending up being owned by it?

White Space in our lives – Need and Importance

White Space is a commonly used term in the industry I work in, the Internet industry. White Space is the space that is left between text and images on a web page. It is often said that the more white space you have, the more prominent your text becomes. For example, Google.com has a lot of white space while Naukri.com has a drought of it….

Looking at life and ourselves, I want to apply the “White Space” principle in our daily lives too. We live in a world where we strive to be busy. Workaholic people, who spend 12-15 hours at the workplace are celebrated like martyrs in our society. Being busy has become a parameter for measuring success. We have filled up our lives with friends, work, projects, dreams, aspirations, and so on. When we pack our calendar from 8AM to 6PM, more often than not we will find no time for lunch, or re-group your desk, or reply to a mail from an old friend…

Applying the “White Space” principle to our lives, we need to realise the two kinds of white space that we find in our lives. One is which we don’t choose. Like time spent when traveling to work, waiting outside the client’s office for a meeting or waiting for your turn in a queue. We get this white space daily in our lives and more often than not we don’t make use of it and just let it go by. The other kind of “White Space” is what we decide to put into our lives. Taking some time off for ourselves just after getting up from bed, taking a few planning breaks in between, or a introspection break at the end of the day will not only help us relax and plan our lives better, it makes room for people and things that really matter.

Coming back to first kind of white space, I always try to make proper of whatever white space I get in my routine. If I am stuck in a traffic jam, I normally take out a book or article (which I always carry) and read some pages. It could be anything from business to jokes. If waiting for somebody for a meeting, I sometime just sit back with my eyes closed for 5 minutes which believe me, can really help focus better afterward. We will always get these unexpected white spaces in our lives daily and rather than being frustrated and honking on the roads, we can take this time to relax and rejuvenate for the rest of the day. Make use of this break by turning it into an energy booster, not an energy drainer.

The second kind of white space comes when you keep a little more breathing time in your calendar. Giving our self even a few minutes of breathing time everyday can make a huge impact in our lives. Begin small. Take 10 minutes out for yourselves every morning. Try to visualize your day ahead and how you plan to go about it. What tasks you want to be over by the end of the day? Or just do some breathing exercises and prepare yourselves for the day. During the day, take time between meetings. Go for a walk, and connect with your body, your breath and nature. It might be difficult at first, but we need to let go of the feeling that everything needs to be done right now. This way of thinking is embedded in our society and is very unproductive.

The point is to slow down and reconnect with yourself. How many times have you been too busy with your day-to-day schedule that you don’t even have time to think what you are doing? Learn to say “NO” to unimportant things, don’t try to “fill” time by doing something, just sit back and relax for a while. Try sometime to put your head in your mother’s lap for 10 minutes and relax. It feels great. Now remember the last time you did this!! Ever since I started taking time out for myself, I am feeling more rejuvenated and fresh. My anxiety and resentment are gone, I know what is happening with my life, and I am able to contribute more to those really close friends and family, as they are the ones who really matter.