The scanned version of this article appears on this link pertaining to my blog "Make your passion your profession"
A Double Life
Which one would you choose? Heart or brain? Money or passion? It is worth making your passion your profession than to live a double life, says HIREN SHAH
It is not uncommon in today’s stress-prone world to come across questions like “how to be successful in one’s profession, spiritually?” The word spirituality implies peace, happiness, balance, and equanimity, probability of achieving which becomes much greater when you are in the profession of your choice.
Swami Vivekanand said , “materialism and spirituality are two wings of the same bird.” In this context, the debate on money vs passion is best explained by seven-time world billiards champion Geet Sethi in his book Success vs Joy. Sethi always followed his heart focused on billiards and became a champion besides completing his MBA from the University school of Management, Ahmedabad..
Though Sethi focused on billiards, his friend Sunil Aggarwal did the opposite. Though he shared his passion on billiards, he focused on his IIM and IIT and achieved the exalted social status as the managing director of a company, “a feeling of inadequacy and failure dogged me continuously, which was primary because of lack of achievement in what he considered to be his true passion- the billiards table.”
After exposure to the game for only a few months at the age of 13, Sethi got addicted to billiards. “To experience joy, you have to be yourself. I realised that joy for me can only come from what I do with passion. It has to involve me physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” says Sethi. “I have spent countless hours in complete solitude trying to align myself with my natural being. The ultimate experience is the joy of making a full effort in reaching out to the core within. It is the act of staying in the moment that gives immense, immeasurable joy. That joy is not a state of nirvana; it is the result of a moment of absolute concentration. I played for the sheer joy of the moment,” writes Sethi in his book.
The natural state of oneness with being can only be possible when one is present in the moment, according to the wonderful book The Power of Now. Besides conscious efforts, this happens naturally when one loses awareness of space and time in doing what one enjoys doing the most. It is also said that the luckiest man is the person whose hobby and profession are the same, but how many such examples do we come across?
Follow your passion
Team Tennis is an Indian tennis academy started by Aditya Sachdeva, Jaideep Bhatia, and Sanjay Minotra-----------all tennis enthusiasts. Aditya graduated in commerce but was not interested in the family business of distribution of FMCG products. Bhatia completed his MBA in international business from the University of Bridgeport in USA and also worked for Price Cooper before following his heart. While Sanjay Minotra, also an MBA, was already a director in his father’s tennis court installation company,. the other two were dissatisfied with their professions as their heart lay somewhere else..
Their attitude is summed up by Bhatia “Tennis had always been a part of our lives and it is more about our own happiness,” Aditya, Jaideep, and Sanjay share a common passion with India tennis ace Vijay Amritraj, who revealed in his autobiography that his worst nightmare would be to be forced in a business not of his liking just to support his family. All this only goes to show that a hobby is more a measure of a man than his profession is.
Make a life, not a living
“Make a life, not a living”-------goes a common saying, which is true for Ajay Maira. Maira, Director, Outdoor Adventures India, is the pioneer of whitewater rafting in India and is now a veteran outdoorsman. He completed his schooling from the Lawrence, Sanawar, apart from being brought up in the natural ambience of an agricultural farm in Panipat. Around the time he graduated, his family shifted to Delhi. Having been so close to nature, he found city life too stifling and could not resist his true calling----------adventure sports. Having bumped into and begun with some Canadian rafters ,in December 1985 while still in college, he managed to covert his passion to his full-time profession over a period of two decades. He now organizes river rafting, trekking, student adventure camps, corporate wilderness workshops, etc. His partner Pavane Mann, completed her masters in Spanish and history, but joined Ajay as her passion also lies in nature.
Sayings like “don’t work for a living”, “find a hobby that pays”, are many but how many of us actually achieve it. Mr S P Shah is a chartered accountant who was working with the Anand group of companies in 1978, when the chairman asked him to look into the possibility of turning around a small sick company of his brother-in-law. While working in that small company part time for six months, Shah took out time for his real passion-----------the share market. He realized he would get an opportunity for all round exposure and personal growth in the smaller setup than a specialized job in a bigger company. He managed to turn the company around in four years and got a partnership on the strength of his management skills. Against everybody including his chairman, he consciously took a decision to “be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.” Over the next two decades, Shah progressed in all spheres as he could dabble freely in the stock market.
Take decisions consciously
However, the saying “choose your career not on the basis of what you know but who you are”, does not go true for all. Niki Kantawala, a 41-year-old lawyer, plays hockey over the weekends without fail and declares candidly, “I don’t mind playing hockey all seven days, but unfortunately that’s not possible.” He adds realistically, “even if I had succeeded in playing for India, I would have thought twice before choosing to opt for a career in hockey for the simple reason that it does not pay well. So I satisfy my passion by playing it even today.”
In my own case, though I have good writing skills and feel passionately for it, I always took it as a hobby and never pursued it as a full time profession. Today, after putting in years in the corporate world, I realized that my satisfaction and happiness lies in writing. Concentration while writing comes spontaneously, while for business tasks I have to concentrate consciously.
Unfortunately, except for some career consultants in the United States, nobody focuses on the two major ingredients for making the right career decision-------functional talent and passion. Most career consultants are unanimous that career transition is a long, arduous, and time-consuming process. It is ironical that one can reach outer space within a few hours but something like one’s own vocation, which is so fundamental to individual happiness and society’s productivity takes years.
On the right side of age…
From my experience, I strongly feel that the decision to switch jobs gets progressively difficult with age. The chances of both success and joy improve considerably if one is able to pinpoint one’s real interest at an early age. “Catch them young” or “the early bird catches the worm”, applies here more than anything else.
It must be pointed out here that everybody who chooses to follow his/her heart does not necessarily succeed commercially. An American entrepreneur, when complimented on being able to leave his six figure salary to pursue his passion of opening a chain of food stores, said, “such decisions can only be made if the personal profile, the business profile, and the market profile match.” Former Lintas Chairmnan Alyque Padamsee in his autobiography A Double Life reveals about the sacrifices he had to make while straddling with two careers. Eminent novelist and India’s representative at the United Nations Shashi Tharoor talks of the same experience when he says, “the full-time writer is a rare breed anywhere”.
There’s nothing wrong in traversing two paths--------if plan A fails, plan B has to be ready according to management experts. But the question is which should be Plan A and which should be B? Is the heart given its due importance while deciding?
Walk the path
Geet Sethi elaborates, “there is a difference in knowing the path and walking the path.” He admits, “I was fortunate to discover so early in life what I wanted to do."
Best selling author Dale Carnegie said 50 years ago, “it is a pity that so many bright, young people coming out of educational institutions do not know exactly what they want to do.” The word education itself is based on the Latin word Educere, meaning to bring out what is already in instead of stuffing facts. Many Indian intellectuals like Shri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekanand and spiritual stalwarts like Osho have said this all throughtout their lives. But does that really happen?
People tend to be more money-centric when young, but by the time they reach midlife, many of them may feel suffocated and frustrated. Nanette Hucknall in her book Karma, Destiny and Career, writes, “no matter how important or well paying your job is, if it is not your life’s work, you will always find something wrong with it. The experience of wholeness or inner peace comes only when one is fulfilling one’s full potential.” That this is the true spiritual experience is conveyed by the fact that in the United States one can come across examples like a child psychologist becoming a taxi driver, an established accountant wanting to be a carpenter, men wanting to be nurses, etc. One can be moneyed and yet unhappy. Fortunately, sites like careerspice.com have taken the lead by stating passions, strengths and skills specifically, and in that order to enable people to decide and pinpoint what they want to do.
There are several prominent Indian examples
of people who made significant career changes. Amitabh Bachchan made a switch from corporate life to films; chartered accountants Shekhar Kapur and Abhijeet became director and singer, respectively. Music composers A R Rehman and Shanker shifted from civil and software engineering, respectively.
Commitment with passion
Cricketer of the century Kapil Dev always stressed the need to enjoy the game. Chairman of cricket selectors and former cricketing great, Dilip Vengsarkar, when asked which job he found toughest-------playing, officiating, or selecting, replied “there is no such thing as tough when you are passionate about cricket. All roles are satisfying, having the commitment to stay in them is important”. Is that kind of commitment possible without passion?
Geet Sethi had to often put in 14 hours of practice and also stresses the importance of the role played and the sacrifices made by his family. Says he, “my wife in fact calls me a very boring person because I am obsessed with billiards. I now try to find a balance,” he grins. "But she understands that the joy I derive overrides everything else. Imagine the plight of a person who finds his passion late in life-------since that is also a genuine need that has to be satisfied, both for making up for the past and for professional success, one would have to work much harder.
Last but not the least, one life worth mentioning is of the great inventor Thomas Edison, who said, “success is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.” The same man also said, “I never worked all my life. It was all fun.” He is the man who used to put in 18-hour workdays and often slept in his laboratory. Most great industrialists have put in long hours while establishing themselves. One wonders whether that kind of perspiration is possible without sufficient inspiration or joy in one’s work.
The writer specialises in writing articles on career misfits.