The good thing about being human is you are part of a tribe. Always (Unless you decide to free yourself from the clutches of worldly living by retiring to a secluded forest) The not-so-good thing is that being so tribal exerts a centripetal force on your being.
What does that mean?
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We live in a world of bell curves and percentiles where every aspect of our existence is unendingly compared to the average. Your career, station in life, values, your positions on major issues – all of it is examined in relation to a central point. Well-meaning folks will remind you to never stray from this “average” so that you can fit in and continue to draw from the community well. The moment you start moving towards the peripheries, eyebrows will be raised.
I found this question reverberating in my head during the conversation. The setting was a meeting with a group of my close friends and their spouses. Though our careers and destinies have taken us in different directions, the occasional opportunity presents itself for regrouping and reliving old times. As is the norm, after the usual frolic, peppered with anecdotes narrated umpteen times to the same magnitude of laughter, and strands of discussions that would seem like pure nonsense to a rank outsider, the mood takes on a philosophical overtone. That’s when the real essence starts to flow. Musings on career, marriage and life purpose take over.
I hear a lot of advice, sermons and the like. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has suggestions.
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Some folks taste a little bit of success, and develop ‘frog-in-a-well’ syndrome. They grow the delusion of grandiosity – that they know it all. They live in their own little fiefdom without much exposure or knowledge of bigger and better ways out there. They deprive themselves of mental enrichment, and would like others to follow suit.
Then there are those who have suddenly discovered a forgiving platform that gives the opportunity to publish and broadcast their thoughts – social media. It’s a great tool when the information is good and useful, it’s a harmful tool when the broadcaster’s thoughts are dumb and bull.
For a learner, these are tough times. The moot question is….who should you learn from?
Ever since humans moved out of caves and started settling and building civilizations, more and more professions have evolved to serve the needs created by advancements and aspirations. Did you know that most of the professions we know today are only about a 100 years old?
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Till about the first half of the 20th century, Generalist was King. The person who had the widest range of competencies and most number of skills had the ‘guru’ status. They held all the key positions, they had the respect of the world. They ruled.
If you like to learn and improve, you seek out principles to help you on the journey. Have you come across thought leaders, books and articles talking about the importance of legacy. Have yo been advised to reflect on the legacy you will leave behind. Perhaps you were exhorted to craft your own eulogy, as a way to get clarity on your legacy.
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Another frequently peddled advice is the importance of identifying your purpose and mission in life. How many times have you heard claims that those who amount to anything in life have identified their purpose, crafted mission statements and then proceeded to do beautiful things?
It’s time to question these two enduring and ‘taken-as-self-evident-truth’ pieces of advice. Should you be so worried about what legacy you leave behind? Should you leave behind a legacy at all? Does each of our lives have a purpose? Is it that God has given us this life to fulfill a mission?