Thinking of a title of your life story can be a good exercise in catharsis. You can not only look back and think of appropriate titles for different stages of your life, you can also look forward and imagine captions for chapters that lie ahead, which will make your life more joyful and meaningful. You can then strive to live a life true to the future title of your memoirs. I did this exercise. Here are the results.
I started my career with a national daily in India and after a brief stint moved to a prestigious Chamber of Commerce and subsequently worked with two privately-held companies. Then in 2001, in Singapore, I co-founded a venture providing bespoke e-learning and knowledge management solutions. I don’t have a MBA and I had no experience with large corporates so this bold decision to quit a well-paying job and take an entrepreneurial plunge I caption, ‘Playing Without Pedigree’.
My son was also born in 2001 and the alternate title of this stage of my life could well be titled, ‘Chasing Clients, Changing Nappies – How to Successfully Juggle Two Start-Ups!’. After initial hiccups the e-learning venture was fairly successful and an apt sequel to ‘Playing without Pedigree’ could be, ‘Market was my Litmus’.
By the way, my other start-up is not doing too bad either and the headline here is, ‘Empower, Role Model. Then Let Him Be’.
After about a decade of managing my e-learning company a chance visit to a remote village in the Himalayas, where I got to interact with teachers in small, rural schools and on an impulse got a few students to make short videos using my smart-phone, I got enamoured with the idea of providing 21st century life skills to under-privileged children. Gradually I got sucked in and started spending more and more of my time pondering what are the most relevant ‘horizontal’ skills like learning to self-learn and learning to think, that are essential for success in the fast changing 21st century, in addition to the conventional ‘vertical’ competencies like expertise in a particular domain.
As I started investing much of my time and resources shaping this informal, not-for-profit initiative friends would admonishingly ask, “How are you going to scale? What is the business model?” Only half in jest I would retort that I have a very unique business model. A business model that doesn’t even feature in the best-selling book ‘Business Model Generation’. It is called ‘she earns – he burns, but wisely’ and for the model to succeed you have to be married to a successful banker, who is better than you are (i.e. she can earn faster than you can burn)!
Three years back I got introduced to Isha yoga and was instantly hooked. With me doing yoga and dabbling in philanthropy based on ‘she earns he burns’ model, this chapter of my life is best described as, ‘Yogi and the Banker’. However, I have had to revise this caption as earlier this year my wife switched careers and she now works for a large mining company. The new title of my current life phase reads, ‘I Mine Within, She Mines Without’.
Straddling the worlds of for-profit, not-for-profit, job, entrepreneurship and philanthropy what I have come to realise is that the secret to joyful aliveness is living your life with absolute exuberance, no matter what your pursuit. As I move to full-time philanthropy, along with a deeper dive into yoga, the title of the next stage of my life is, ‘Ascetic in Exuberant Action’.
An eminent educationist who knows me well, some years back prognosticated that my life may well be summed up as, “Entrepreneur at 30, Philanthropist at 50, Philospher at 70”. To whatever degree, first stage – check, second – on track and two decades and a bit hence, given the heady mix of philanthropy and yoga, the title of this part of my biopic may well be, ‘For Me, the Cave’ (who knows real or virtual)!
Thinking of apt titles for different stages of your life, past, present and future, can be a great exercise in connecting the dots, sense-making and figuring out where you want to go. Give it a shot.