Friday, July 6, 2007

Personal effectiveness and wisdom

Ravindra requested me to comment on his new book (Give me back my guitar). This book focuses on 'personal energy management' (which is aligned to one of the key themes for this blog - personal effectiveness) and it explains 'why the wise and successful need not struggle'. The book talks about doing the work that one enjoys, avoiding ego traps, making thoughts powerful, importance of right desires and about choosing one's environment carefully. Ravindra presents these concepts through stories. These are well known stories, though he introduces interesting twists to some of them. For example, he narrates the story of the 'hare and the tortoise' and asks the question - 'Would the 'slow and steady' approach of the tortoise have won the race if the hare had not decided to take a break/sleep before he had completed the race?'. Then he goes on to examine 'why did the hare decide to take a break during the race' in order to show that 'the hare should not have chosen to race with the tortoise at all' (as the hare had nothing to gain and everything to lose in that kind of a race).

Overall, I agree with the concepts presented in the book. But it did trigger a couple of thoughts on somewhat related aspects. For example, can we say that 'wise need not struggle'? I can think of at least two kinds of 'struggle' associated with being 'wise'. While we can learn from others and from the 'wisdom of the ages', I feel that true wisdom (as opposed to knowledge) can be gained only though personal experience. This process of gaining wisdom often involves struggling with (and some times even unsuccessfully struggling with) the complexities in life, often for an extended period of time. The second kind of 'struggle' comes out of the paradoxical nature of wisdom. In a way wisdom (as it embodies 'simplicity on the other side of complexity') does make one's life simpler. But often it also increases one's level of awareness and sensitivity [You might have come across this question : "Which one would you like to be - an unhappy Socrates or a happy pig?". This of course is an exaggeration as happiness and wisdom are not necessarily mutually exclusive - but there is some merit in this argument]. The increased awareness brings in more complexities (and hence ' more struggle'), though these are complexities at a 'higher level'. However, the 'wise' seem to handle this (new) struggle more gracefully(and even gladly). Based on the above discussion, we could say that, for a given set (or level) of problems, 'wise need not struggle' as much as people who are not so wise !

In this context, the Zen concept of 'personalization of enlightenment' comes to my mind. This says that your work does not finish once you attain enlightenment (otherwise there is no point in living any longer !). Actually your true work begins only then. The real work is to personalize the enlightenment that you have attained by bringing in your unique gifts/perspective/life context. This also has similarities with what Richard Bolles says on the three stage process for finding your mission.

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