One needs to control his or her mind to do anything in this world. Even the most enlightened of us all, Plato, Seneca, Marcus, Aristotle, Buddha, Socrates, valued this virtue. I do not possess this quality, yet, and hence couldn’t sleep the Saturday night before the Sunday drive. At 4 am, when I disabled the alarm and dragged myself out of bed, I felt as if a hundred pins pierced my eyes.
Determined to hit the road, we packed our country-egg-omelet and Amul-butter-pasted sandwiches, that I had already prepared the night before, in tiffin boxes and then in a backpack, along with bananas, water bottles, and Unibic protein bars. We wanted to hike the world. Soon, we sped on the road in search of a green and sunlight-lit golden Sunday in some distant hills or next to a lake or a dam, may be accompanied by an elephant or two.
My mother called me thrice at 8 in the night. I was editing an article and thought something had happened and picked up the third call. And then after some small talk about my writing and if I was ever going to take up a job, she said she wanted to talk about something.
As a thirty-year-old unmarried woman in India, I recognize this something, like dogs can sense tsunamis, for at least five years now. This something — without any exception — is marriage.
To humor her, I asked what did she want to talk about. She said she constantly worried about me and cried often. Because she cannot do anything else. That she didn’t know what my life plans were. That nothing made sense. That I must have been really lonely. Didn’t I like having a family? Was there anybody? That why couldn’t we, mother and daughter, share everything with each other.
These sentences stumbled out of her mouth as she choked.
The right learning could make you or break you — and the one who understands that stands above all.
Josh Waitzkin — a child prodigy, an international chess master, and a Tai Chi Push Hands world champion wrote a book called The Art of Learning. In this book, he penned down his inner and outer journey to success while listing the various techniques he applied to master chess and martial arts.
I picked up his book — not to learn from a chess master or a martial arts champion — but to learn from someone who has cracked the art of learning.
The Blue Frog and The Honey Bee
Once upon a time, a blue frog lived in a blue pond.
He liked eating flies. Whenever he saw a fly, he would stick out his tongue. The fly would get stuck to frog’s tongue. Then the frog would quickly withdraw his tongue inside and gulp the fly. He then bathed happily in the ink-blue water of the pond.
One day, a honey bee was flying with two house flies near the pond. While the bee settled on a red hibiscus growing near the pond, the flies flew down to the shore of the pond to sit near the cool water. The frog sucked-in both the flies one by one. The honey bee, who was watching the hunting game of the frog from the hibiscus grove, flew to the frog and bit him on his neck.
This is not one of those articles where I suggest you to leave everything and travel and quote Robert Frost that the road less traveled is the one I took.
Why do so many people change their careers and lifestyles to travel? Sometimes even indefinitely?
Do they travel to see new places and eat different food? Or to fill their passports with stamps? Or to be able to say at their deathbed that they have seen the world?
Could be. But it is more than that.
Let me take you through what travel has taught me.
Thailand was my first completely solo trip.
I pre-landed in Bangkok at 5 AM. In the on-arrival visa line, a friendly attendant helped me skip the line and processed my visa faster. The airport was far out of the city and having decided that I would take a public transport, I climbed into an about-to-crumble bus to go into the city.
In the three-hour-long bus ride, as long as the flight from Bengaluru to Bangkok, a lady passenger helped to hold my bag and told me that I was beautiful as I managed to not-faint in the crowded aisle. The bus crawled a kilometer in almost an hour. Due to my skepticism of being able to explain the situation to the angry and rude lady ticket collector and the bus driver, I didn’t leave the bus to hop into a taxi. She kept buying weird looking dumplings for him from the street while I craved and my stomach growled.
The bus ride wasn’t enough torture that I had to climb four levels of steep, dingy stairs with my suitcase to reach my just-enough, single, air-conditioned room.
Tired, hungry, and lonely, I went down for food and ate a mediocre Pad Thai. Having grabbed a few cold water bottles from the fridge downstairs, I climbed back up again. Sudden rudeness and a hint of racism coupled with the sleep deprivation and loneliness made me sleep for almost 5 hours.
It wasn’t just that.
When we wake up, how many of us think of what we want to do today? Almost all of us.
How many of us think of improving at what we do? Not many.
The presentation should be ready at 2. The code should get deployed. Author’s biography should come under every article. Let’s put in a hack. Grammarly shows that this pronoun doesn’t make any sense in the sentence. I don’t understand why but let’s get rid of it. Spaghetti over boiled again. But at least we have dinner.
As Josh Waitzkin, the chess and Tai Chi Push hands world champion, said in his book The Art of Learning, “We focus so much on the outcome that the intrinsic details of the learning process are lost on us.”
In the past eight years of my working life, I observed that how you do the task at hand is not the only measure of productivity and satisfaction. Your living style, priorities, patience, and certain keystone habits such as discipline, good social behavior, hard work decide how good you perform, how well you live your life, and how stable your relationships are.
All these things — living style, priorities, patience, discipline, hard work — could be practiced as habits. As Charles Duhigg said in his book The Power of Habits, “More than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.”
Humans live by habits. Dissolving these important things into habits and routine — that is what we would focus on in this article to make a schedule that works for us.
I have been working from home for ten months now. I have no boss. I write. I freelance. I blog — these three span my earnings, my passion, my work, and my routine. I design my own schedule, discipline, deadlines, meetings and calls, and priorities.
I work hard. I have to. I need a lot of energy to write. To write well. I work long hours with intense concentration as I am still learning and my work involves a lot of thinking.
As a writer, I find the solitude essential — I thread my thoughts into any pattern without being disturbed.
A work from home routine sounds dreamy but it doesn’t come easy.
A little girl was walking to the fountain. She saw a lady in a white sari resting by the fountain.
The little girl asked the lady, “Who are you?”
The lady replied, “Courage”.
The little girl twirled her braid and asked, “What is that? I have never heard of this name.”
Courage replied, “If you have me, you can do anything. Even the most difficult things. You can go to the jungle with your father. He wants to take you there every Sunday but you are always scared. You would enjoy and play with the rabbits and squirrels that you like so much. And nothing would happen.”
The little girl’s eyes gleamed with excitement. She cried out, “Is it that simple?”
Courage smiled and said, “Yes my little princess. You can do anything if you have me.”
The little girl hugged courage and said, “I would always keep you with me.”