Friday, August 27, 2010

Where do you belong

Lets start with Steve Jobs. Of course he belongs where he should. He is changing the rules of technology in his own way, every few years. He was addressing a group of dreamy-eyed students ready to hit the real world after college and he was sharing stories of his life in a very candid manner. Towards the end of the speech, he tells "for the past 33 years, I've looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." (complete post here ). Its a nice key to unlock a basic question in our life. Where do I belong, where do you belong ?

The question is quite fundamental and determines in a large way what and how much we can get back from life given our available qualities such as physical strength, intellect, creativity. Interestingly, the answer to the question depends more if not completely, on how we individually define our satisfaction. A person who is satisfied with a blue kite in the sky can get at ease anywhere. So, let us leave the question of satisfaction and expectations aside. We can, actually, judge ourselves objectively and decide if we are making the maximum usage of our faculties in a given place and time. The way we expect the return and get satisfied with it can be judged separately.

Isn't this what the schools and colleges and parents and career counselors should be doing ? Yes, exactly. But, more we advance in the phases of life, narrower the domains seem until we leave the thing called hope completely and let nostalgia and what ifs rule. Interestingly, it has nice parallels with optimization problem where sometimes a program can get stuck in what we call local maxima. As in the solution space, so in the life - we have two simple things to do. Firstly, to figure out if we are at local optima indeed. Secondly, to generate a necessary push to drive ourselves out of this local optima. That may mean we start along into an immediate, possibly long-term no-return path. Fortunate few can play safe but again, forget the exceptions. We are not expecting anything, are we ?

Coming to the first question. How do we figure out if we are stuck without any hope of fully utilizing our intellects in future ? One way is Steve Jobs question. But that involves the satisfaction thing, unbalances the objectivity we intend to focus on. Let me think, what was the subject I was scoring high in the school ? What was the most original contribution I made in whatsoever field ? What did I dream of ? I remember always being good at literature and history. I enjoyed reading historical novels, conjuring up answers to literature questions, which many of my friends thought fuzzy. I wrote poems, in my mother tongue Bengali, and took part in filling up our hand-made little magazines. Science was the last thing in my mind until I realized that it is Engineering that pays off fastest. The original contributions in the world of literature that I made, even now could well compete with number of kilo-lines of code I developed. What was yours - seriously ? It is really not that difficult to figure out. You think you do not have it. Blame it on our education system. You have it. You can have some penchant for listening patiently and coming up with an unbiased feedback. Ever thought you could be in the judiciary ? Probably not. You might have a talent of spotting and grooming talent in others. You could very well become motivational speaker. We are born for something. It is difficult but, really not that difficult to find it. You only have to spend some good amount introspecting. The difficulty lies in the following paragraph.

Can you compromise your current occupation to the extent so that your stronger faculties get their due ? If not, can you leave the safe corridors and trade your future for your forgotten talents ? No, most likely not. Why ? Here comes the satisfaction factor, which tells us that I need to satisfy my senses before making use of my talents. Redefining our lives, to get where we actually belong can only be achieved by putting a stronghold on our pleasure senses. It is like uncaging the power within. And I believe, only then, I will die happier than I was born. With a sense of belonging.


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