Friday, November 21, 2008

Preparing for 2009

I am hoping, despite various commitments on the calendar, that I shall stay home for the next six weeks to Christmas. In fact, I am dreaming about a week's leave around Christmas and may even take a short trip outside London. Indeed, I need all the time to recharge and resurrect myself - I have spent 2008 trying too hard. It is almost time for me to recount what happened, and what hasn't happened, and prepare fresh for the oncoming year.

2008 was a rather terrible year for me. Not as bad as 2006 - when I come to think - when I lost my mother and faced serious setbacks in my personal life; 2008 started as a promising year, building on the hard won gains of 2007, but did not deliver on the promises. Of course, 2008 was a ruinous year for many people, across the world. A credit crisis broke, and many people are significantly worse off today than they were at the beginning of the year. So, I can't complain, in fact, I should consider myself somewhat lucky by that measure. But, on the scale of my life-map, this will be a low year, and I know I have to work very hard next year to get even.

The credit crunch have affected me in some ways, but the fault is primarily mine. I had taken my eye off the ball. I forgot what I have set out to do. In 2006, in the midst of terrible personal crisis, I walked a steadying walk every morning - from London Bridge station to my office on the Old Street - telling myself that I must make the best of the day. It worked; I did achieve what I needed to achieve, and steered through the crisis, even managed to get extra bits out of my life. But the excitement, and the dislocation, of continuous international travel in 2008 let me lose that focus. I know now that I hardly followed any agenda - personal or professional - and frequently failed to get things done within the time lines I set for them. I missed deadlines and lost view of my own objectives. Quite simply, 2008 was a timepass - something I can ill-afford at this stage of my life.

I have always said that I wished to retire when I am 42. I am serious about that goal. Retirement for me is not yachts or sea-side homes; nor is it staying home and running errands. Retirement, as I understood it, is about doing my own thing - a freedom from carrying around somebody else's agenda and living off a salary. I thought entrepreneurship will be my way out, only to realize that I may not be leaving myself enough time to play this out. However, there are ways - in my definition, entrepreneurship can also be a form of retirement, as long as it involves something I really love to do. But more so will be intellectual work and travel - teaching perhaps, though friends tell me that I shall make a terrible teacher. Writing is more like it - all my blog-writing may perhaps mutate into something more purposeful. I could possibly also help other entrepreneurs - I have always had an offbeat way of looking at businesses and hopefully post-recession, some people would like to hear what I think - and become a consultant. But whatever it is, the point is - I did not progress much towards those goals throughout 2008.

Which is a shame, indeed. This time, last year, I had my plans laid out. Yes, I did not see credit crunch coming. But I saw the writing on the wall - or I should have seen it if I looked. I knew I had to progress towards an academic/ consulting/ writing career. I should have worked more rigorously towards earning the skills, the credentials and the connections to make this happen. Instead, now, I am sitting here with a wasted year, largely because I was so vain, and did not focus on the key priorities I had.

My key priority, obviously, is to sort out skills, credentials and connections for an eventual independent career. I have been working towards the residency in Britain, and I am almost there - unless the British government moves the goalposts again. I do think this is important, because being in Britain, gives me access to ideas and opportunities, which I shall never have if I go back to India - particularly to Calcutta. I must make the best use of time that I spend in Britain, and also pick up skills and ideas as fast as I can. As I said, I always had this on my agenda, but lost sight of it in the exhaustion of continuous travel.

Besides, I have also tangled up my personal life far too much. I have not been responsible, and odd journeys and work stress has taken a significant toll on me. Health aside, which seemed to have deteriorated, I do think that I would not want a repeat of 2008 in my life, however exciting it may have been while it lasted.

So, I know my work for 2009 is cut out, and needs to start now. The challenges are many fold - I must adjust my lifestyle and get health issues sorted out. I must also streamline my professional commitment and allocate priority to practical than on vain and heroic things that I keep on committing to. I must sort out my finances, which has suffered because I traded practical considerations of an employment for a virtual, non-material hallow of entrepreneurship. My skill development efforts have been halted mid-track and must be resumed without any delay. [I am on break from my MA, but will have to return to school early January] I have spent quite a bit of time reforming the unreformable, convincing the suspecting and educating the faithless. In 2009, I must return to basics and do my own work.

In the end, one last thing : 2008 was not as bad a year as I make it look like. My travels gave me invaluable insights of various regions I have been to. Some friends I made will be for life, I reckon. Some things I learnt will be of immense value as I go forward. I am a more confident man after all. So, I would say - 2008 isn't really a wasted year, just underachieved. And, I know the agenda I must set now - I need to learn at least one new thing every day - so that 2009 does not give me the same feeling.

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