Sunday, September 13, 2009

Get A Life

Recently I got a reminder that you can't put too much weight in how other people say you should live:

I am currently writing two research papers simultaneously for a big conference, and the deadline is looming less than a week away. This is the culmination of months of hard work and I am determined to finish out strong. One of the remarkable things is that I've been riding high all the way through. Last year at this time, I was a wreck, losing weight, feeling stressed, irritable. But in a year I've grown a lot stronger mentally. One of the things I've been focusing on recently with my mental approach is to keep the crushing burden of outcomes off my shoulders. Have no stake in what you do. Just do. This makes you a lot lighter on your feet, and it also diverts brain cycles spent stressing about outcomes toward doing the best work you can right now.

So because of my papers for the past couple weeks or so I have been very focused at the office, cranking through chai breaks and blocking all else out but the data dancing on the screen in front of me. My hard core-ness was picked up on by one of my co-workers, who remarked, "Neil, listen. There is more to life than Avaaj Otalo, you know that right?" Translation: "Get a life. You shouldn't be working so hard."

You just can't win. Everyone has that friend(s) or family member(s) who doesn't yet have her act together. She lacks focus. She doesn't have a direction. So what do we do? We rip on the girl. Get focused. Get a direction. Get a life! And then when you have found your place, and you are doing something you really truly love, something that you are proud of, the thing that if you had a choice to be doing any single thing at this point in your life, you'd choose this (not counting playing pro golf), someone tells you, "You're working too hard at it. Get a life!"

I was relating this episode to Samir, and he told me a story that he heard while he was a young FOB growing up in India. I re-tell it here with some artistic license. There was an old man who had a donkey (a.k.a. an ass), and the ass was pushing a huge load of goods for the old man to sell at the market. As the old man was leading the ass through a village, people yelled out.

Society: Hey, old man! Don't you have a conscience? Look at your donkey, so feeble and weak. And yet you load him up with all that plaster of paris? You should be ashamed.

Old Man: Really, you think so Society? Maybe you're right. OK, this is what I'll do. To lighten the burden for Eeyore, I'm going to chuck half of my goods. Hmpphhh. There you go, much better right?

Old Man and ass continue to the next village

Society: Stop being a punk old man! Look at your ass suffering. Have you any compassion?

Old Man: K, I'll chuck the rest of my goods. Hmpphhh.

Next village

Society: Old Man, poor ass! Help him!

Old Man: You're right Society. Ok Eeyore, up you go. I'll carry you on my own back. Hmmmmmpppphhhhh.

Last Village: bin Ladenstan

Society: LOL look at this old man. What a chump! Carrying a donkey? How silly. Hey old man, You're an ASS!

People just like to be critical. I think it is a reaction based on ego. The chain goes something like this: Hey, that guy looks like he's fulfilled. Why aren't I fulfilled like that? Well, since I'm not doing much wrong in my own life, it must be him. Hey man, you shouldn't be enjoying yourself so much. You're doing something wrong!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Neil, thanks for that first paragraph. I too am working towards two deadlines at once, and have been feeling very stressed, to the point of burning out (and doing no work!). But reading this helped me bring perspective back. Now I'm going to get rid of those outcomes that are weighing me down! Wish you a good trip in the valley of flowers :)