Humanity as a single entity experienced the devastations of 2 world wars,how allegiance towards nation states (called by the name motherland or fatherland) fostered nationalistic fervors and pushed promising youth towards becoming expendable resources at the hands of leaders of nation. How budgets got diverted into defence spending instead of infrastructure investment? How an idea of “Nation” became common place and was taken for granted in a span of couple of centuries? How people who identified themselves with their family names, clans and geographical identity came to believe themselves as citizens of a vague “notion” which came to be called as “nation”. It came with its promises, a reserve of firing power, a body to uphold laws, a constitution to ensure the rights of its citizens. It also came with alienation of individuals from their own innermost callings ,encouraging the lesser privileged to sacrifice their existence towards ensuring the safety of the whole. It is currently at a state, where we tend to forget, it is a concept forged by humans to organise itself, to give a sense of identity and mobilise action at a large scale . Every concept/idea has a time and we see again and again in history that new ideas take over and uproot old ones.
We witness today, cities and corporations become more powerful by trade and connectivity than firing power (Parag Khanna : Mapping the future of countries), where soft connections of trade, travel and genuine relations between individuals blurring the boundaries set by nations. The upstarts of the sharing economy, (airbnb: TED Talk, uber: TED talk ) are laying the foundations for building a world without boundaries, fuelled by human connections crossing national boundaries and for a new future based on trust and sharing. We start to know citizens of an alien nation as individuals with connections to their community, we develop fascination and understanding towards their culture, we become involved in their problems and struggles (often offer a helping hand) and start building bridges of trust and caring, connecting communities. We become more and more identified by our connections. We start to re-define national identities and often are part of corporations that forge connections between nations through infrastructure spending, technological advancement and commitment towards causes (climate change, renewable resources) that are larger than any nation by itself. We humans are pushing the boundaries of “nations”, than getting defined ourselves by it.
We spend most of our waking life at work, doing meaningful work, creating connections, building infrastructure, transforming dreams into realities and in the bargain creating a better world. We solve problems that are creations of an earlier world view, and many a times realise that the clash is not between realities,it is between ideas (ideas that prevailed against ideas that are trying to succeed them). We are all living in a hopeful future where people with passion trying to achieve their dreams and build something for themselves (Linus Torvalds: TED talk), realise in a short time that their invention or idea can be scaled and can bring benefits to the whole mankind, can disrupt regimes/industries, can join hands in building a better world and they grow stronger in their appetite and ability, innovating and amplifying their effectiveness, curating a future for us to inhabit. Not at all surprising to see “the whole world is conspiring to help them achieve their dreams.”
If we are searching for meaning and connection, there exists a secret language, that opens the door to a different world. A world with possibilities. A world where every act fits together to create a grand performance that curates the future we wish to live in. We may not exactly know how the finished product look and feel, however we experience a visceral connection that make us come alive, when we are aligned with that vision.
“I want to make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” – Thomas Edison. Edison’s genius was in creating a centralised production and distribution network, so that electricity became accessible and affordable for the common man and transformed their lives.
In the same measure, Steve Jobs humanised technology. Both were followed by an avalanche of innovations. Both pushed the human race forward. Innovation flourishes when you take away complexity or labor and give people time to do what they want to do. Technological advances added more to the “me time”. If we look at the evolutionary cycle, agrarian societies prevailed over the hunter gatherer clans, not because it was a better way of life, but because they had more spare time to invest in something else (like art, story telling, trade etc) after growing/finding food.
From time immemorial to this day what fascinates us are the stories, the stories hidden in every day lives, the stories that create parallel universes, which some of us get to inhabit. Gifted few gets to see few turns in advance.
Most amongst them go alone…the journey almost looks like this
“When the joy of knowing is greater than the fulfilment of teaching, the soul of the drifter always wins.
It has no time to gather moss nor grow roots, from one life to another it rolls.
There may not be any home coming, for it has nothing to share, it can take you on its wings, but can never leave the sky for the promise of a green meadow.
There is no slowing down with age, there is only acceleration,
Make no mistake, there is no hurry, but ruthless curation to make every minute count, every experience remarkable, every encounter memorable.
Creating an environment for success, being generous with talent, pouring out vision, it rolls, it rolls often alone, not taking anyone with it, but welcoming anyone who can keep up with the pace.”
However there are a few who slows down and takes you along the journey, who is hell bent on making the “secret language” accessible to you.
They are obsessed with the possibilities of pairing up your unique abilities with the power of information
They are the lynchpins who want to hold together and connect previously unconnected
They do everything in their power to suspend disbelief and carve out the “David” within the marble stone, so that the rest of us can enjoy the marvel
They are not concerned about dissolving into obscurity when our stories come alive
They leave the act before the applause, leaving a sense of gratitude in our hearts, humbling us and encouraging us to do the same
Certain people have the ability to demand excellence of you by virtue of the clarity of their purpose, the integrity of their character and the sheer energy that permeates all barriers. Benjamin Zander who conducted Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for 20 years describes it very prescriptively in his talk “giving an A”. He gives an A to all students in his class at the start of the academic year on one condition. They have to write him a letter in 2 weeks time which starts like this “I got an A because…………..” , explaining all the reasons why they deserved it and they need to start behaving like the person they described, not the person they are. Thus in 2 weeks he transforms his students into a class of “A” students . I remember a quote which says ” A lion has to be a lion all it’s life;a dog has to be a dog. But a human being can play with and bring about a huge number of different identities; the one he finally chooses will be determined by neither reason or common sense but by imagination”
Manjubash Sir, who was the Principal of S.N. Vidyabhavan School Chentrappini, where I got the chance to study for a year in 10th standard, as part of their first C.B.S.E batch, is one such soul who has that ability to awaken your imagination and enable you to chose to be an “A”, with his mere presence. I got to meet Sir again after a 10 years hiatus and interact with his current students at Indian Public School, Erode. One of the questions his current students asked me was “what quality in him inspired me the most”. All of us are really lucky if we are able to identify what we really want from life at an early age. In most cases it is not the money, fame or the social standing but a sense of fulfilment that fills up your soul, when you do what you love. Sir starts his day at 3 A.M in the morning and goes on till about 9.30 P.M in the night doing what he is passionate about, demanding excellence from people around him, giving them an “A” and unlocking their imaginations. Making that choice of what kind of person you want to be and building up towards it, not just trusting your instincts but obeying them, believing in the transformative power of stories that we tell ourselves which we eventually become,makes all the difference.
Steve Jobs mentions about his experience of getting fired from Apple “the heaviness of success was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. Less sure about everything” . Likewise when things work out, a certain sense of invincibility sets in till you meet with a humbling experience. This time when I met Manjubash Sir he mentioned that he would not have given me admission, had it not been for the strong recommendation from T.K Sarangadharan Sir (secretary of the trust which owned the school), whom me or my parents did not know personally. But he pulled all strings to convince Manjubash Sir to take me as a test case. I sill don’t know what prompted him to do so and he does not remember an incident which happened 20 years ago. Sometimes the unseen influences in our life are unexplainable , but humbling when you come to know about it and you feel grateful for that soul who gave you an “A” not because of you, but because it is in his nature do so.
Like Mr Zander says “Giving an A” transforms people, transforms relationships
Let us start “Giving an A”
Some experiences linger like jewels in your mouth, they last forever, replenishing and fortifying you. There must have been moments in your life when everything you found so alien, difficult and insurmountable suddenly became effortless and you wondered when did I master this.
Sometimes in life you get that feeling, all the pieces are coming together and you can read into the future, how this is going to pan out, the moment or opportunity you longed for is coming through and all you have to do is just let go. The light that guided you and the unseen forces that made it happen, the work of art, the presence, humbles and fills you with gratitude. The heaviness of success gets replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. You shed a lot of baggage, you feel the wind, the earth, the chirping. You clinged on to the belief that some day this is going to make sense. Some day, the magical touch will come back to your fingers. They will start dancing and the creation will become effortless again. And after a while you suddenly realise, that moment has past. Your spirit is soaring high and you can look inside your looking and realise the interconnected depth your vision has unraveled. You have found the sanctuary within and a spring is emerging, which is going to gently flow through, encompassing, enriching and helping countless seeds to germinate, dream and soar high.
Every single day of your life is a result of the curation that you did in the past,the choices you made, actively taking a life its own, creating a world for you to inhabit
Jerry Maguire, the movie, discusses what truly connects the players with their self. Above the multimillion dollar contracts, celebrity status and attention, it is the love of the game. It is the love of the game and the joy they experience in spending thousands of hours in practice, in perfecting their skills, mastering their art. It is like the “mountain experience” of Moses, Jesus and Muhammed, away from the masses, in solitude, in perfect synchrony with their selves and nature, seeking out the true meaning of their existence. They chose to spend their lives doing that act of joy, above everything else. They may have given up hours of TV, time with friends, family, school , books to chose that act of joy
Vailopplilly, a malayalam poet wrote, like the children who come to get a piece of the magical coloured paper, please don’t come into our lives to cut and take pieces of it with you. But the poet gave away his poems. He was seeking to be left alone in order to create them for humanity. You can call that selfishness, but that selfish motive enabled him to make endless choices, which resulted in sublime poetry. Solitude may be only one among the endless choices he made. Choices are an integral part of turning pro
Apple Revolution is a great read. The story of counter culture enthusiasts and hippies writing the future of the world, Apple’s positioning of its products to resonate with the rebels, people who want to rock the boat and declare themselves different (Think Different Campaign)
The book is not just about Steve. It is about a group of people coming together for a larger than life mission, at times even to negotiate and influence Steve to take the right direction and eventually what started as a counter culture becoming the culture.
It takes you into the details of product development, passionate people, their frustrations and celebrations and an amazing will to transform the world around them.
The art of not accepting life as it is and co-creating the future you want to live in and thus shape yourself and history…the calling all of us have but few listen to.