“When asked, ‘Mr. Gandhi, you have been working fifteen hours a day for fifty years. Don’t you think you should take a vacation?’ Gandhi smiled and replied, ‘I am always on vacation.’” — Gandhi
N. Narayana Murthy (an enormously successful first-generation entrepreneur — principal founder of Infosys) recently expressed that the youth of India should work for over 70 hours a week for the nation to be able to achieve its aspirations. I did not read or hear his complete interview but I think I captured the gist of his message correctly.
“An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man’s entire existence.” — Honore′ de Balzac
Many of us are conditioned to the expectation of working 8 hours per day (or 40 hours per week) — this accounts for about half of our waking hours. Spending half of our “conscious” time on things that are separate from “real living” is a certain travesty of our lives. I think it will be burdensome to do even 4 hours of indifferent work every day. Even if someone can handle this indifference, it still means wasting 20 hours every week of our previous, limited lifetime.
I have a friend who quit a well-paying career about 14 years ago. He must have been in his early 30s when he quit. His job did not appeal to him, so he decided to pursue things he liked. After struggling for a few years, he finally settled down well (more like very, very well). When I caught up with him a couple of years ago, he mentioned that he hardly spends any time on work although, as an investment analyst, he is able to create great value for his clients (he beat market returns by a long yardstick for well over a decade). After interacting with him over the last couple of years, I realized that he actually does spend a whole lot of time on his work. He likes his work so much that he does not realize the passage of time at work. Being the master of his time, he is able to integrate work and life rather well.
“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” — Dr. Wayne Dyer
I can recount two or three more such examples from my network of friends. I myself quit my corporate career over two years ago. I used to average over 12 hours a day at work, had some time for family and trained for and ran several full marathons and a few ultra marathons too. I was always on the go and there used to be a constant sense of hustle, sometimes overwhelmingly. All this came at the cost of sleep and perhaps health too. After quitting my corporate career, I’m still spending similar amounts of time on what can be considered professional/vocational activities but with hardly any strain. I find life peaceful and enriching. This despite working on professional activities every day, including the weekends. I do not take days off anymore. All this because I like what I do. In fact, I deeply care for it. Not that it is without challenges — I do have to contend with anxiety time and again, but it all feels worth it and certainly, not debilitating. There is no bitterness or stress, only seeking, striving and growth.
“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.” — Bob Marley
The ideal situation for us would be to work on things that we like. Practically though, it is far easier to like what we do. If you are not able to like what you do or the people that you work with, then I think it will be best to change that circumstance by fervently seeking opportunities that are more to your liking. Do not waste your energy and emotions on things that you cannot control, instead channel them to things that you can control.
If your circumstances are too tight to change drastically, go about it slowly, perhaps very slowly. When I started running, I was barely able to run just about 1 Kilometre (Km) continuously. It was an iterative, incremental journey spanning years from there to being able to run full marathons. I know of people who could not run even 200 meters continuously but with proper dedication, determination and focus, they are now able to run marathons with elan. Imagining running over 40 Kms when you are not able to run even 1 Km, can be daunting. But it is eminently doable.
“All things are difficult before they are easy.” — Thomas Fuller
Similarly, it is absolutely doable to transform work circumstances from daily grunt to being engaged in enriching pursuits. It may be a long, arduous path but if you care sufficiently for the change, you can absolutely do it. There is a bunch of material online, great books and access to mentors available to help you tread this path. I wrote a number of articles on career building myself. They can aid too. Choose what works for you. The key point is that help and support is well within your reach. You just need to look around and start. Or perhaps, start and then look around.
“Overworking doing what you love is way more revitalizing than resting from doing what you hate.” Mokokoma Mokhonoana
I have no doubt in my mind that subjecting to the imposition of hours and hours, whether 40 or 20 or 70, of indifferent work is amongst the biggest tragedies of modern life. It is akin to bonded/slave labour. It may feel like an inescapable curse but it need not be. With time and concerted focus, I strongly believe that the burden of such a curse can be reduced considerably, if not eliminated completely. It is not that you do not know this. It is only that you do not focus on this need sufficiently, or at all.
Thanks for taking time to read this. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that could help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals. I try to share stuff that I have personally experienced or experimented with. If you find this newsletter worthwhile and if you do not mind it, please do consider sharing it with others.
A bit on my background
I help people make better decisions.
I coach people on “Making Better Decisions”, “Financial Intuition” and “Building Great Careers”. I’m open to run sessions on these topics in institutions — this will help me create larger impact.
I’m also an Investment Advisor (RIA) registered with the Securities and the Exchange Board of India (SEBI). As an RIA, I analyze and prepare financial plans to help people achieve their financial goals.