Friday, May 07, 2010

What shall I Do Next?

Since I have taken the decision to walk away from my job, something that my friends and well-wishers advised me not to because it is 'too risky', I have been enjoying my freedom and doing things that I liked doing. In fact, if anything, it was more risky than wasting away my life on someone else's agenda: After all, one can always lose money and somehow get it back, but wasted time is irreversible.

To talk about freedom, I can also set this blog free now. I started writing this blog as a reflective exercise. Not to brag and document life and times of me, but to look back, analyze myself and get feedback through friends and everyone else who care to read, on various complicated issues that confound me as I go along.

However, I did realize that it was not easy to do so. While I was in my earlier job, my private existence was too closely linked to work; this is because the work demanded my complete commitment and 24x7 attention. So, work crawled into this blog too, though I was sure enough to stay away from making things obvious and only stated events in context of my private life and thoughts. This did not matter: Soon, I could see that this blog was left to unintended, and mostly uninformed, interpretation, mostly by people who wanted to read in this what they wanted to read anyway.

That made writing the blog extraordinarily difficult. Soon, I was writing this blog to make it complicated for my interlocutors to understand, choosing subjects to lead them to lose focus. It was an interesting game, and I was enjoying it; however, it took the fun away from my writing. Fun and freedom, two key things I shall attempt to get back now.

But, it is interesting to delve on this conflict for a moment, because it is the key lesson that I learnt working in Britain for last six years. My reading is that many businesses in Britain enshrine a blind faith in managerialism, a system of belief that everything can be reduced to simple efficiency-enhancing measures and can, therefore, be made to work. While I did learn a number of good practises, I would think this is quite a limiting belief, because most things are, as it stands now, quite unpredictable. In an uncertain world, one needs an equal amount of imagination to complement the quest for efficiency, and the simplistic faith that business is all about running the ship efficiently cuts back on the allowance that one makes for imagination.

I think this bent of mind, aided by a particularly conservative class of investors, is weening away Britain's ability to compete in a rapidly changing world. This has a lot to do with the government handouts that British companies usually get, directly or indirectly, at local, national and European level. In my experience, such businesses have its own dynamic which need a particular set of skills; but this sort of exposure does not prepare a company to take on the nimbler, competitive Asian rivals who have to start with a zero base and work their way up.

I am not taking away anything from the British creative industries, particularly in the digital media sector, which, in a way, lead the world. In fact, I believe Britain has two areas of strength left - creative industries and English language - though the English language is continually under threat from the Americans and will soon be taken over. However, too many British companies in other sectors, and particularly the ones I am interested and involved in, education, training and e-learning, are too heavily dependent on government hand-outs, and this does not help or inspire them to be innovative or competitive enough. Instead, this gives them a strange, inward looking sense of security, affixed to a world that has ceased to exist, only that the news is yet to arrive.

I have, so far, found it stifling to work in such an environment, where formats are valued over freedom, where fear of losing is seen to be the only incentive and people work to 'pay their bills' and not in the pursuit of any purpose. How pointless it was to give away three best years of my life to a mortgage or keep my landlord in income, I had to ponder at times. The worst part is that while this is seen as the way of the world, this is actually a very British way of the world, invented only in the last half-century or so, and if the current Greek tragedy plays out in full, this world will disappear in a flash.

Returning to the question what I do next, I think it is fair to say that I am attempting to set myself free. Free from constraining influences of soulless commercial work, something that I must carry on to pay my rent or mortgage, and seek out work which align with my own sense of purpose and contribution. No, I am not getting into politics, nor I have the money to devote myself to Philanthropy; but I do think this thought is not just triggered by an odd mid-life crisis, and instead comes from what I wanted to do all my life. I am not down and out and given up on commercial work; just the opposite, I believe I have learnt enough of the tricks of the trade, and must now apply those learning into something that I wish to do.

In the next few weeks, therefore, I am planning to free myself from the few remaining constraints. I have stayed put in Britain for last six years [in fact, stayed in the same house through the period], and now I am allowing myself more flexibility - I am ready to move, within and outside Britain, if necessary. Besides, I have come to terms with another important paradigm - lifestyle is negotiable but the purpose is not - something that is at odds with my middle class upbringing [which puts a premium on the maintenance of a lifestyle]. And, finally, I have decided to nurture my strengths and work on them, and not pursue things in which I am not so good at.

This is going to be interesting, and I am already enjoying it. I am not free yet, but on the verge. I am pledging myself as if I have gone back in time and starting this process of coming to Britain all over again. I am six years behind, but slightly better placed. I have told friends that I am ready to do things all over again - if necessary go back to work in the warehouse - and this is surely empowering. After a long time, I am feeling hungry about doing something really really well - be hands on, give 24x7 commitment and leaving no stones unturned as they say- and I am hopeful whatever I do next will allow me such an involvement.

So, in summary, this is what I am going to do next - enjoy work!

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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