Humans are winning the battle to express themselves

image In day to day life, one notices this attritional struggle going on between the inner reality of an individual and the filtered public person. Its there in most of us, who are daily in search of our sustenance. We touch on it jokingly in public, but in private so many of us have this regular conversation. How to express ourselves, in what we see is the harsh reality of this world?

Initially, we come into this world with only our DNA and endless possibilities. Then through our eyes, ears and cause and effect our world starts manipulating us. Most of it is the actions of our parents and siblings, but as the years progress this circle expands and continues to create filters. A demonic kindergarten school teacher must have shaped some part of my mind, as I still remember her and the indiscriminate ruler, which always seemed to find its mark. As time passes, we subtly change accordingly. Every once in a while, one of us may encounter a life changing event, which then causes a lot of filters to cascade down or go up. These generally are the tragedies of life, which hit us and force us to rethink.

Now, I am no counsellor or trained coach, but over the last two decades I have spent a lot of time mentoring people. First about career and management and then as my confidence built up, about crisis handling, life, aspirations, vision and values. It is amazing the depth almost all individuals have. I say it with shock, but have come to realise that very rarely is there an ordinary individual. Almost all of us have greatness hidden in us and even those few who are ordinary, are instructive to us, in other ways of life.

So, hidden within each individual is a greater being, just waiting to come out and be themselves. Being themselves comes in different ways. Some want to write and be heard. Its amazing the important and perceptive things people can say about the world. I look at life with my point of view and want to express it. These others want to do the same with a different view, based on their own inner being. Others can perform artistic stuff – sing, dance, act, paint etc. All these are expressions and so important to their inner being, yet mostly they hide it away from the world.

So why are these people not expressing themselves? What stops them? Some of it is our lifelong filters. Maybe its a teacher long ago, telling the kid off about a free expression in an essay. Reminds me of John Lennon’s famous quote

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Later on when you get to adult stage, it is a feeling, that people at work or the employer will frown at such an expression. Freedom is considered dangerous. Also do not fall into the trap, that this is a developing country problem. Our MNC corporates regulate personality rigidly. For all my 22 years in MNCs, I always struggled against this approach of corporatising people and blending them into one culture (most colleagues felt the same). These huge transnationals have actually got Corporate slavery down to an art form and they present it so that it sounds palatable and normal. But it is not. It is just slavery, using pleasant tools and most people are trapped lifelong.

Why do these people – just ordinary individuals like you and me – not rebel against this travesty? You can see some of the answers in the reaction to when Rahman Malik was kicked off the plane. Almost all TV anchors were against it, the politicians were against it and even the so called elites on FB were warning of approaching anarchy. And when Arjumand was fired from Gerry’s, then a lot of the reaction was, ‘see we told you so’. People are simply afraid. They are at a stage in life, when they need to earn sustenance, as they have mouths to feed. Society at large exploits this and makes slaves of them – conformity is so much easier to manage. Makes life simpler for the controllers of the world and organisations. So whether its a MNC, or a private company or a government department, people stay under the radar and conform. Some of us go back and have a more creative other life at home. However most, like me, do not even do that and learn 30 years later, that time has passed us by and we have quietly lived a life of slavery.

Fortunately, things are changing and there is more light at the end of the tunnel. The flow of information has been liberated today, thanks to the Internet. This has already had a profound effect and over the next few decades, the poor ordinary human will have the ability to fulfil their inner desires. It will de regulate society and many of my very conformist friends might even suffer because of that, but overall this world will be a better place, InshAllah, because of the change which is coming.

*pictures are from dreamstime.com, a free picture site.

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To be or not to be, an Introspection

To be or not to be, an Introspection

In recent months whenever I have gone to society gatherings, I have received two sorts of reactions. There are those who meet warmly and perhaps more so than normal. Then there are those who are more withdrawn, maybe embarrassed to be in the same space. That is fine, as it is the destiny of life to divide all things into pros and antis. The warm handshakes denote respect and in some cases envy. The withdrawn ones indicate perplexity and contempt at the voluntary abdication of an influential position.

My decision to walk away from corporate life a few months ago, from what people would consider a peak of career in the early 50′s, has been examined and conclusions are drawn according to the inclination of each individual. It is not as clear to people, like another friend’s very recent departure into politics. That is dealing in blacks and whites as he is going to correct the wrongs of Pakistan, Inshallah; much more cut and dried and with a clear goal in mind.   My decision has tones of grey in it and therefore is less palatable. Is this the musings of a wandering minstrel?

Well, as a first benefit of my decision, take this fact, that I would never be able to write in Borderline Green so openly, if I was CEO of a large corporate. The value of that freedom alone is something which I have not tasted these past 28 years and makes life worth living again. At least I am not a hostage to fortune anymore.

My career went through its chronological mental stages, best described as:-

– “need to do this because everyone does it”

– a feeling of importance and finding one’s own feet

– interesting work, I am mentally engaged

– “I need to do this for my family”

– “oh I am a CEO” (very short satisfaction period!)

– then “what a burden of responsibility this is”

– to “why am I doing this?”

– “my work is done; others will do the job now and I will live a better life Inshallah”

– Lastly, relief at a job finished and freedom

The problem was the feeling of “I am in this for myself only“. I think it was prevalent in the background throughout this 28 year period. It was a battle within, fought continuously and never overcome. For all one can imagine a larger purpose to one’s career, the reality is that you are doing it for yourself and not for society, country or other altruistic reasons. Unfortunately, there exists a very human tendency to fool oneself into thinking that it is worthwhile, because “I am doing it for others”.

Not for long though. Eventually the dreaded question comes back in the silent beat of the night. Why? Why this soul-killing regime of travel, meetings, hours of useless discussions, putting on a mask, and acting a role. And if you happen to work for an MNC, it becomes worse. At best I found MNC, as real phooey work. The most senior of CEOs operate within a strict band of authority. It is like that dog who uselessly runs besides a speeding car, barking at it. All bark no substance.

You are actually serving a master called the international stock exchange and you will never humanize that in a millennium. Profit and share price are the only operating goals, though you might think it is CSR or building capability or globalization etc. You are fooling yourself and others. What you are now applying is another bugbear, which is ever present at various stages of a career. Our ability to provide “spin”, to this lifelong exercise. Many do it expertly, others reluctantly and some are never good at it. But the truth is that your career prospects improve, if you have learned to apply “spin” to your corporate presence.

So good citizens who are reading this diatribe, sometime in the night over your career you will hear a call, and that voice will ask in ever more urgent terms: “why?”

You can choose to fool yourself, stay addicted to social edict or you can start the intense self examination on whether you should open the door and walk out to something more fulfilling. If you choose not to do anything, then it is no different to 99% other humans. Fine! But know that when you are 80 and look back, there is almost certain to be massive regrets at not taking action. A life uselessly spent in the search of the legal tender and position in society.

If you do decide to do something, don’t kid yourself by putting bandages on your wounds. That is time and money spent on a fool’s errand. Better to do it wholeheartedly. It could be that the eventual result is failure. That is always a possibility. However, if you succeed, then also understand that there is no better feeling one can have in this life. To really live for the larger good is the true purpose of existence, as shown by Prophets, religions and great reformers.

I know there are many of you out there, as you speak to me regularly. Open the gate and go out. Inshallah you will be in an adventure and will not regret it. Just reclaim ownership of your life.

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