These are times the like of which we had heard or read about in history or science fiction books only. Never has a recession descended on us so soon and threatened to stay for such a long time.
Many young professionals who consider me as an elder and wise person (or the agony aunt) came to me in a state of distress. The management graduates and interns from places like my Alma Mater, XLRI are staring at an uncharted future. Those already in the workforce have their fair share of anxiety as well. One of those who reached out was a bigshot executive. With an almost vertically rising career graph like that of a lot of executives who were considered a big deal until now, he was gnawed by thoughts that he may be unemployed or drawing a far smaller salary very soon.
Having lived through a few economic downturns myself, I counseled him about some valuable traits which could perhaps keep him afloat.
Is the glass half empty or half full? It depends on whether you are pouring or drinking.
It is indeed a pity that Bill took too many sips from other glasses, but the truth remains. In these very vulnerable times, here are some of my thoughts in as frugal a manner as possible.
Follow Your Heart
Sir Ken Robinson, the internationally renowned expert on Creativity who has lectured passionately on Education has beseeched parents and students to pursue what they love doing. He says, “We cannot prepare for the future because the future is unknown.” The lucky ones will find what they want at the first shot. The others are even luckier since they value their second and third shots even better.
The Irish born English Essayist Oliver Goldsmith said, “If Frugality were established in the state, and if our expenses were laid out to meet needs rather than superfluities of life, there might be fewer wants, and even fewer pleasures, but infinitely more happiness”.
My maid is an eternally cheerful lady who lives in a 10×12 foot hutment with her mom and daughter. She has aspirations, especially for her child. She is a terrible bargainer when it comes to her salary. However, when she visits her village, she gets me a gift of the produce there and refuses to take a penny in return for that. goes about her work with a smile on her face and a song on her lips.” These could also translate into a Minimalistic lifestyle.
Attitude of Gratitude
This is my favorite go-to attribute of all times, especially for those privileged enough to be functionally literate and have a device where they can read this.
Almost all holistic systems of healing including those that claim to be life-altering have one thin line in common. They encourage you to say, “Thank you”, be it for the music, the food or the blue skies, whatever you take for granted. In simple terms count your blessings. Envy, on the other hand, is defined as the art of counting other people’s blessings instead of your own and is best kept on a tight leash.
Sense of Humour
Humour will probably seem too trivial in a time of such unprecedented hardship. But to look at life seriously, one needs a sense of humor. Oscar Wilde, my favorite humourist said, “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” I believe that more than IQ or EQ, HQ is what we should look at – the Happiness Quotient. When Readers Digest was my bible, I went straight to “Laughter the Best medicine”, “Humour in Uniform” or “College Rags”. Art Buchwald was able to find mirth even in the process of dying and wrote a book called, ”Too Soon To Say Goodbye.”
Look around and absorb and LEARN and grab opportunities.
A young entrepreneur called Manjunath used to run an electrical shop in Chikpet in Bangalore and worked hard to make his business a success. It was here that he noticed that it took an enormous amount of time and many trips to get these beverages supplied to him. He also found out that all the other businesses face the same problem. He started a beverage service for himself. He collected the mobile numbers of the local businesses and began a supply service to anyone who sent him a missed call. Today, he has a roaring business popularly known simply as ‘Mobile Tea Shop’. He has also expanded the scope to include seasonal drinks like Buttermilk etc. This may not be his “dream “ enterprise, but one that can fund almost any dream of his!
Don’t Stop Learning
When the sea is rough, the fishermen mend their nets. These are defining days and what you do now matters a lot. Reading, reflecting and learning has never been so economical. Harvard, MIT, and all the iconic universities are offering their courses for free. You can learn a new skill or language. Those with energy and compassion are working even harder to mitigate the hardships of those in need. The possibilities are endless. When asked, “What were you doing during the lockdown?”, I hope that we all have a truthful and meaningful answer.
While all this does sound a tad preachy, I write from my heart and that for me, it’s best to share. In a story made popular by Abraham Lincoln, an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’