Archive for March, 2013

This is a thought which often catches my imagination. I start reasoning with myself and never seem to reach at any sensible conclusion. What makes people work hard? What do they try to achieve? Do they do it to bring home the accolades? Do they simply want to be in the good books of the management, so that they get noticed for a promotion or get a better raise? Maybe they just want to feel important and yearn the recognition.

Most of these aims are short-term and too obvious. There has to be something deep-rooted to drive an individual to go beyond the call of duty and work up to or sometimes even more than 16 hours a day. It does not have to be the number of hours, It could be the amount of work an individual puts into those hours. The performance alone does not usually enable them to reap rewards. The person working hardest does not always get the highest raise or the promotion he/she think they deserve. Most people find a job because they have to. While some try to get by doing the bare minimum, or are happy being an average performer. Everywhere you will find a few people addicted to work (rightly called workaholics). They may appear glued to their desks, hardly ever getting up.

Very few people work out of a love for their work. The vast majority goes to office to make a living. Solely, for the sake of a paycheck. I can recall at least half a dozen instances where I have asked a friend why they would skip a meal and work, when we work to fill our stomachs. Even though I make it a point to have my meals on time, there have been a few instances where I had to skip a meal or delay it to accommodate work. I have never made a habit of it and made sure it happens rarely. It never fails to fascinate me when I see people over working tirelessly. The vast majority of the workforce do not come under this category. Most people do a decent job of the work given to them and go home happy. I do not have any research showing the figures of people working long hours. As competition rises the office floors should spawn more employees of this profile. So how does the general population react to them? Bosses would want their employees to see the workaholic as a role model. If they do not have a choice or are insecure about their future in the company; normal employees might try to emulate the workaholics even as they hide their resentment.

I came up with the following types of individuals who exhibit the workaholic behaviour:

They become so passionate about their work, that they enjoy what they do and don’t feel like they are over working. We are usually not surprised to hear a person in sports training for upto 12 hours a day. Hence these individuals have equated work and play. These are probably what you could call the aspirational role models. They excel at what they do, but they also go out of their way to take initiatives, improve the processes and help others.

Then there are some who don’t receive any pleasure from work, but need to excel at everything because they are ultra competitive and cannot stand the fact that someone is doing better than them. They may not be very keen to help their colleagues, unless they believe that helping others would put more positive light on them as a valuable employee. They may even resort to taking credit for things someone else has done. They tend to get disappointed or frustrated very easily when things don’t go their way.

There are also those unfortunate souls, who are forced to over-perform in order to keep up with the crowd. in an organization or a team where more than half the people are considered really good performance, you cannot afford to be left behind. When there are five members in a team and four of them work for more than twelve hours a day the fifth one will also be forced to work longer than what they are comfortable. Before they realize it, they become part of the system which made them forget about being laid back. Some either become resentful and crib about it. Some get used to it, especially if it is their first job. Then there are those who seek employment elsewhere.

The top performers in any of the above categories, usually do grow faster than the average performer. They would expect to grow still faster and would normally feel they are not being appreciated as much as they should be. To be a top performer and competing are not bad things. I have always been fascinated by the purpose in life. I have never been close to finding my purpose, but whenever people talk about their dream or ambition or even plan I am all ears. In this article I’m shining the spot light on these top performers profiled above.

It is safe to assume that recognition, growth, money, respect, competition (not necessarily in that order) are all major factors which drive these tireless professionals. They would like to have a better title, a fatter paycheck and of course keep performing the way they have been. This would enable them to live in a better place, buy the things they wanted, but could not afford. The standard of living changes, the car they drive will also change. The long hours they put in, usually does not change. The amount and quality of work they used to deliver would still be expected out of them. The nature of the work might change, but the volume/hours rarely goes down. Once you get into a high and comfortable position, it does not mean you can relax. You need to work even harder to maintain your position and to grow further. There are fewer positions at the top. In a corporate concern you rarely find someone who does not report to another person. Even the person at the very top, calling the shots does not have it easy. They would have to convince the shareholders, investors, clients and even the employees. Even if the person owns the enterprise outright, it is not an easy feat to protect their investment and make sure it runs profitably.

An individual employee usually aims to make their future secure. They invest, insure and work like hell to safeguard their future. What cost do you have to pay for this future? Do people strive today for a better tomorrow? If so what stops them from striving in a similar way in the future as well? You can’t really plan how long you are going to live with any fair degree of accuracy. So when can one decide they have worked enough and time has come to reap the benefits of their hard labour. In most cases this time never comes, or it comes very late. You either end up working harder than before to meet your ever-rising expenses or spend your savings on medicine or on your children.

Most often people dream of earning a substantial amount of money and retire at an early age to do the things they really want to do. There are people who succeed at this as well. So if that is your dream, there is no reason to be disheartened. It might still happen. How can you not succeed in anything if you are putting in this kind of effort? You may get to drive around in that big car, live in a fancy place and send your kids to a decent school. Then you can retire in peace once you are satisfied that your retirement account has swollen to a sufficient level. Make a few extra investments to hedge against uncertainty. How hard can it be? Does it make the long hours you spend at the office fruitful? It is a question open to interpretation.

Whatever I have mentioned above does not have to be your goals just because that is what your friend dreams about, or how your neighbour lives or is what your elders tell you how you should live. People who have lived their life this way would always encourage you to follow in their footsteps. This reinforces their belief in their success and the path they chose. People who have tried and were not all that successful may also tell you to make an attempt at what they thought was ideal. What we need to realise is as long as we breathe, things could always go wrong despite investments and insurance policies. Success is always relative, you would always find people more successful than you, and there will be people who wish they were in your shoes.

The least you could do for yourself is to take care of your health. Realize the fact that food and sleep are any day more important than your work. Whatever your dreams are, do make sure you have time for yourself and your quality of life does not get compromised. Doing something which you don’t like for most part of your life to relax in your final few years does not make much sense to me. It disturbs me that not many people are seeing this. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a world like the one in matrix where people all around me are living a pre-programmed life.

Anybody who deviates from this typical life is seen as an outcast or a loser. Only the ones who succeed in a substantial way are recognized (artists, sports persons, entrepreneurs etc). People who choose a different path often do so because they are left with no other choice or due to an irrepressible calling towards their craft. I cannot figure out how anyone could have a passion for banking (my least favored profession). If you would take the time out and do a bit of soul-searching. You will have no trouble finding your true calling if you can be honest with yourself. My moment of epiphany came when I saw the below quote:

What would you do, if you knew you could not fail?
-Robert H. Schuller-

I asked myself that question and I got an answer instantly. Maybe you would get an answer if you ask that question as well. If you answer with what you are currently doing, I am really happy for you. Most of us deny our true calling out of a fear of failure (I am not mentioning my dream here for the same reason). We tuck away our dreams safely, where nobody could see them or ridicule us for harboring such ‘ridiculous’ fantasies. We hope someday conditions may become conducive for us to breathe life into this vague calling. Sadly this happens very rarely and to a very few individuals. Once you find your true calling, chances are you have previously thought of it as a profession. Take a second look, try to acquire skills which would enable you to get closer to your real goal. The more time you think pondering about the options you are denying your true purpose and making it harder for yourself to achieve something in that particular field of interest. There are limitations and that is the challenge. Once you find your true calling does not mean you quit what you were doing all these years and be adamant that you will only do things which help you with your dream.

Once you are sure of where you want to reach, setting the course becomes easier. Life so far, becomes a detour when you realise you wanted something else out of life. Getting back on track may need a lot of planning, effort, time and money. This time you could be sure of yourself that once you gain even a moderate amount of success; you would know your time was well spent. Finding your true purpose is the only way you could maximize your potential. For life to be fruitful the destination and the journey must be enjoyable. When you think of it life is a journey. We are time travellers going forward into the future every moment. Wouldn’t you want your journey to be comfortable if it is going to be long? The destination may not even matter if the journey is a fun ride.

The below link is an article I found which resonates with my thoughts.

International Women’s Day (8th of March) seemed like an apt time to post this.

Once you near the age of thirty, people seem concerned about your future. Not so much your profession but, of your marital status. The concern usually starts earlier, in the case of girls; as it is hard for people to comprehend the concept of a single woman in her late twenties. It is assumed that every girl has the same dream of getting married and bearing children. Women who want to focus on their career and don’t want to bear children at an early age are traditionally shown as ‘Vamps’ in soaps and movies. What could be nobler than motherhood? How can someone not be interested in that? If she is not eager to fulfil this purpose, how can she be a good person? Hence marriage becomes mandatory. Marriage as an institution is ridiculed in countless jokes, while very few consider not taking this very essential step.Inequality is entrenched in most traditions surrounding marriage. From the engagement/wedding ringto the honeymoon.

So why is it considered almost inevitable? It is a meeting of minds and supposedly, the happiest day of your life. It is definitely the biggest party you will throw and you might spend around two years saving for it. Banks are happy to lend money for marriages. Isn’t that a deserving reason for the funds to be utilised. It just happens once (Ideally) in a lifetime. Who in their right mind would not want to make sure that they share this joy with everyone they ever knew? The guests should have a good time as well, so no stones are left unturned to ensure that. Not every marriage is celebrated on a grand scale. This usually has more to do with the means available to the families than their prudence.

Maybe, marriage is a necessary evil? A ritual; where a couple solemnize their relationship, with God’s blessings. It is one of the few occasions, where you get to see your relatives and friends, under one roof. It also becomes legally necessary in many cases. Does all that satisfy my curiosity? No. Is there no other way to move forward in your life with or without a companion? Of course there are individuals who spend their lives independently. Either they get disenchanted with the concept of marriage or get too absorbed in their work. Are their lives then, incomplete? Maybe that depends on an individual’s perception of the meaning of life or what he/she wants out of life.

So what would be the alternate to marriage? Before we address that question, we need to look at what is wrong with marriage. There are two major aspects with marriage; one is the ritual itself which would be conducted as per the religious beliefs of the couple concerned. The second aspect is the legal concept where it is treated, more or less like a contract. There is also the personal aspects, the changes, that come into their lives after matrimony. The major concern with marriage is how it is unfair to the woman involved. She changes her surname. In some cases she ends up quitting her job to take care of the household.

Even as a ritual, marriage seems to have a gender bias. In most rituals I have seen, the bride is treated like a property handed over by her father to the bridegroom. We are so accustomed to these rituals that we fail to see this blatant objectification of women. The woman changes her name and even her title. This perhaps marks the change of ownership. It makes you wonder how these rituals have remained unchanged over the ages and women still have a long way to go in attaining true equality. I have little doubt in my mind that these rituals were designed by men as it reflects the old world mentality. The sad thing is it is almost impossible to question these topics as it touches the sensitive topic of religion. Who would risk being accused of blasphemy? Any chance, of changes in these rituals seems bleak.

If one does decide to forego the rituals and opts for a registered marriage (which they do), what would be the concerns? It is much less expensive. The bride however, still changes her surname and her title as well. I have always wondered why this happens. When a man sees a woman whose name is prefixed with the letters “Mrs”, is it a signal for him to back off? Is it like the signboard which people display on their property “No trespassing”? These things are of course not enforced. However it is expected. Very few people even stop to think about it.

From my experience I know that not everyone is equally excited about getting married. Some of my friends, I know would prefer to stay single if they had a chance. Again, it is slightly easier to accomplish this if you are a man. Why would this handful of individuals try to stay clear of marriage? People are choosing to get married at a later age. Education is probably the game changer. Perhaps this is the reason why some girls are not allowed to pursue higher education in developing countries. Perhaps the most important reason for people to delay or defy marriage is that they are mortified by the thought of getting married to the wrong person. Another major reason could be that it curtails your freedom. So what could be an alternate, or a way out of getting married?

I am not advocating a life of celibacy or promiscuity. There could be countless ways around this ‘social evil’. Most of the people who do not marry tend to live alone or with parents. While this may not be an ideal way to live, it gives the individual a great deal of freedom. Being single is now becoming more common in urban areas. He or she is also free to pursue their romantic pursuits, which does not necessarily culminate in marriage. Somewhat like a live-in relationship, where the couple does not live together. Roughly like a pro-longed dating phase.The couple could spend time together whenever they feel like it. If this concept seems hard for you to accept, bear in mind you have been brought up to think marriage is the only reasonable option. It is not only the things you are told. You keep seeing marriages all around you while growing up. You end up thinking it is the only sane way to live.

People who are averse to getting married may settle for a live-in relationship (still rare) to ‘test the waters’ of cohabitation. Living together is a big consequence of marriage. Is it really necessary for a person to live with their partner to have a meaningful relationship? Why can’t you continue living with your friends or parents or alone just because you are romantically interested in someone? In most cases the people in question do not have a choice. Most often they don’t even realise that they are being denied a choice. My motive is to find an alternative which does not disturb the independence of either partner. Living single as a lifestyle is finding new takers among the urban youth. In the next post we will be taking a look at the options available for an individual or a couple who want to go on the road less travelled.

I would love to hear thoughts on this.