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When Limited Becomes Unlimited


One friend, one cupcake
It is a Happy Birthday
Great man in his zone!
The haiku above is written by me after watching on 28 December the image of Mr Ratan Tata celebrating his birthday with a cup cake and a young friend. Since then, it has become my favourite image of the year 2021. Such a refreshing experience watching peace and content on the face of the famous Ratan Tata, who needs no introduction whatsoever, in the company of a friend and a cupcake! I say it is refreshing because, is not my mind full of the images of people overcrowding spaces at the slightest hint of a reason?

I have chosen a haiku to represent my feelings because it has a couple of interesting lessons to teach us about why limited is powerful. A nature related poetry form of Japan, which is written in three lines, having seventeen syllables! It is indeed a daunting task for a haiku poet to quickly choose only the very essential words and images to write a haiku, but the most powerful poetry is created using only the essentials!

So, I am assuming perhaps Mr Ratan Tata must have decided to stick to the essentials to celebrate his birthday. What he must have felt essential was that he had to celebrate his birthday and give joy to his well-wishers and followers. It was not essential that he celebrates his birthday with people thronging around him and throwing a birthday bash as is the norm in these times of high activity socialising! So, he did only the essential. Like he has always done only the essential for the economic development of India.

How do we then know what’s essential, if we ever want to follow in the footsteps of Mr Tata? That’s the key question I want to explore. Once I know that, then the rest is easy. Especially in these pandemic times, when so much of rethinking is going on about the way we humans have led our lives so far on this planet!

I know I am overreacting to this one image of Mr Tata, but there is no doubt it has made me think about so many things that I ask myself these days about the meaning and purpose of life, especially when the world is in the chaotic grip of this pandemic. The dozens of self-help books that I have read to understand how to run my life, with hundreds of suggestions on how to determine my values, how to set and achieve goals, how to make an impact, what do I love, what are my needs and wants, etc. All this wisdom that I have gathered over the years seems overshadowed by this single image that has by far become the most inspiring and motivating one in my fairly lengthy life.

So, now onwards, the least I can do is to focus on the essentials and ignore the non-essentials!

Let me tell you that the way of the Essentialist isn’t about setting New Year’s resolutions to say “no” more, or about mastering some new strategy in time or action management. It is about pausing constantly to ask, “Am I investing in the right activities?” I think that there are far more activities and opportunities around all of us than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good and an accepted norm, or even very good socially, the fact is that most are trivial and even fewer are vital or necessary.

To be a responsible citizen of this planet and country I have to learn very quickly to tell the difference so that I can select only those activities that are truly essential. Essentialism is not about about how to get the right things done. It is about making the wisest possible investment of my time and energy in order to operate at my highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential. To me essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where my highest point of contribution lies.

The experience of watching affecting images of Mr Ratan Tata has generated in me renewed interest to understand why otherwise intelligent and highly successful people make the choices they make in their personal and professional lives.

“Why is it,” I wonder, “that we have so much more ability inside of us than we often choose to utilise?” “Why is it,” I wonder, “that we have so much more patience and self-control inside of us than we often choose to exercise?” And, “How can we make the choices that allow us to tap into more of the potential inside ourselves, and in people everywhere?”

After experiencing the events of the past two years, I believe when, in a few hundred years, the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important events historians will write about will not be technology, not the Internet, not social media. It will be an unprecedented change in the human condition, human behaviour and human activities.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane.)