Conversation on poverty and character building

I’m fortunate to have good friends who push me to consider new ideas, deepen my introspection and strengthen my stern self-examination. With permission, I’m sharing some conversations that I’ve had with these friends in hope that they motivate you, the reader, to have such conversations with your friends.

A friend wrote to me and said the following about India, “I know there are big changes needed in our country but it won’t happen over night nor will it happen if the people themselves don’t change the thinking: especially when they give up thinking that they were born poor and die poor and don’t have any power. Anna’s situation is a great example of what unity of poor people can do.”

I wrote the following in response:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. What you’ve described is mental poverty, which is more invasive than material poverty and is often linked to a fearful, undisciplined and unloving character. This is why, in my opinion, character building naturally leads to nation building, and not the other way around. Character building requires tremendous effort, even more so than building the economy. I contend, however, that the social fabric of our nation must be woven with the moral thread of our people. It’s only then can we strive forward to adhere the laws of society to the laws of humanity.

Conversation on vision, insight, organizations and individual responsibility

I’m fortunate to have good friends who push me to consider new ideas, deepen my introspection and strengthen my stern self-examination. With permission, I’m sharing some conversations I’ve had with these friends in hope that they motivate you, the reader, to have such conversations with your friends.
Friend: The medical industry has so much complexity.
me: I wonder why, if the basis of medicine is to help patients, is the industry so complex and beyond the reach of the average patient? This makes me suspect the basis on which the medical industry stands.
Friend: Well, I can tell you not everyone is in it for the patients – and I am pretty sure that is why every system that is messed up gets messed up – cause some of the stakeholders prioritize something other than the original reason for the system.
me: Why do you think that is?
Friend: I think it starts with people having different priorities than overall visions but then it turns into organizational issues – like pleasing shareholders who invest because of returns not because of the underlying reason for providing the service.
me: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Thinking about them has made me aware of my shortcomings, and thus humbled me and given me some things to work on. I want to expand on what you said, and I hope you won’t take this as a rebuttal. On the contrary, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am sharing my thoughts to help me write down what I am thinking 🙂
Could having a vision be the problem? Does having a vision lock us into a narrow mindset so that we become like horses with blinders? I think a vision, in itself, is not the problem; it’s the blind adherence to vision and vision disconnected from insight that are the problems. Blindly following a vision hinders exploration, blocks creativity and robs us of our journey. A vision disconnected from insight (of self) is without foundation and morality. It’s why a clash between personal priorities and vision arises.
Is the shift in priorities due to organizational issues or due to something deeply internal, e.g. doing what is right vs. what is expected or doing what is best for the individual vs. what is best for the group (in the long-term). I wonder if people is such positions rationalize their behavior by blaming organizations without finding the culprit within. I have a feeling we all do this.
Friend: Love the shared thoughts. I agree that we can’t blindly follow a vision, and we often do so without much insight into ourselves or without understanding how to connect vision to every moment’s actions. I know it was something I struggled with in India. How is it that insight into ourselves has become one of our largest challenges? You would think knowing yourself (or being honest with yourself) would be one of the easier challenges of the world.
Making organizations the culprit is easier than taking hard steps to make individual level decisions that may go against the traditional system or expectations. It is like that diffusion of responsibility article we read at one of the workshops. We say it is the organization’s fault so, we don’t have to do anything because no one else is.

Conversation on plans and happiness

I’m fortunate to have good friends who push me to consider new ideas, deepen my introspection and strengthen my stern self-examination. With permission, I’m sharing some conversations that I’ve had with these friends in hope that they motivate you, the reader, to have such conversations with your friends.

Friend: I have this huge problem making decisions and sticking to them, and I am trying to fix it. I am still not sure that GMAT/MBA is made for me and will help me become happier, but I guess sometimes execution is more important than strategy.

me: I understand. Some thoughts on what you’ve said…

A world map doesn’t represent the world. Equally, a strategy–which is a mini-map of life doesn’t represent the actual course of life. Strategy is based on the false premise that the circumstance that exists now will also exist in the future. Strategy is an ointment to soothe our mind’s discomfort about the future. Instead of strategizing, you’ll learn more by doing, but know that your happiness is dependent more on your being than your doing. Let happiness come from within and permeate out; not the other way around.

Rather than becoming happy, be happy 🙂

Friend: It is true that sometimes my uncertainties and insecurities drown me for a short time and I become confused, but generally speaking I am a happy person no matter what 🙂

Friend a few weeks later: For people like me who struggle in decision making, it is because we are too attached to the result- what will the outcome of the decision be? Did I take the RIGHT or the WRONG decision? In the little “spiritual therapy” that I did, this aspect came out very clearly. The realization that the notion of right/wrong is very complex and that it actually doesn’t really exist makes you detach from the result. So the “trick” is to take conscious decisions to the best of your ability but be detached to what the outcome will be. Subtle exercise, eh?

my response: I’m happy to see how you’ve progressed in your spiritual journey. You’ve come to realize through experience what the Gita says, “You have right only to the action, never to the fruit of the action. The fruit of the action should not be your motivation, nor should you be driven by attachment to action.”