When I was in class X at St Xavier’s School, Durgapur we were taught the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar as part of our ICSE curriculum. I consider it the best work of the Bard and it is full of memorable quotes that had made an indelible impression in my formative mind. The part I best liked was the one where Caesar’s wife, Calphurnia, is beseeching Caesar to avoid venturing out that day, citing the several omens that had occurred. Caesar’s response to it is an all time classic :-
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
I do not wish to be morbid but it is a given that all of us will die, some earlier than others and some later. Given that this is an essential truth, it will seem logical that all of us should try to add value to our own lives and that of others while we do live. However, it is really not so for most people. Many of us are obsessed with some facets of life and hold ourselves back from enjoying life fully. Once common fallacy is that we need to be focused on financial responsibility and therefore cannot indulge in some of the things that will greatly add value to our lives. The sad part is that life, as you know it, may well be over tomorrow morning. Let me give you some examples, which brought home this truth to me powerfully over the last one year :-
- In a get together of our school friends, I was shocked to learn that many of their parents, who I knew very well while in school, have passed away. I felt rather fortunate that my parents are still there and in reasonably good health.
- When I shifted from Delhi to Chennai a Recruitment consultant had helped me find the job in Sify. Got to know last November that he had passed away, he was only 55.
- In our school we were a batch of 70 and this has already seen 4 deaths.
- Look around yourself and you will see examples of people passing away suddenly and unexpectedly.
Death and taxes, it is said, are the only certainties in life and in the Indian context the former is the unique certainty. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to do worthwhile things in life in an early part, give yourself time and money in the end and finally find time for things you genuinely enjoy. I have tried to do this to a large extent in my own life, though I do not claim to have all the answers. A suggested blue print could be this :-
- Focus on building your knowledge and skills through education in the early part of your life. However, if you enjoy sports or any other hobbies and are reasonably good at it then you must take it up. Find time for it, can always be done.
- While making a living is important, do not get into believing that work is your life as that will be a very sad way to view it. Strike a balance – you work to earn money so that you are able to do things you genuinely enjoy doing. It could be reading books, watching plays, acting in group theater or traveling.
- Children do need to focus on education but do not make them one track people, there is a lot more to life than school marks and college grades. Spend time with them to understand their potential and try to develop the same. As parents our responsibilities should be to enjoy our time with the children when they are young, they do grow up very fast and will go away long before you want them to.
- Unless you have a venture of your own or are really passionate about a profession, try to organize your finances in such a manner that you are financially independent by 45 or 50. This will give you enough time to do the things you love and enjoy while you are still physically fit. If you do a job till you are 60 then you will have very little energy to do other things in the rest of your life.
- While it is impossible to get a general blueprint for everyone, for most in modern India who want to get professional qualifications and work thereafter, follow this :-
- Focus on Education, sports and hobbies till you are 22 or 24 depending on what qualifications you go for. This is the time to build skills and value to yourself.
- Focus on your career for at least 4-6 years before you think of marriage.
- Between 28 and 48-52 focus on your career and your family life simultaneously, making sure you have a rich life as a professional and as a person.
- If you do things right then by this time your children will be in college and you will be financially independent. Once this happens, you can figure out how you want to spend your next few years.
- At this time arrange your finances in such a manner that you can live comfortably without having to depend on any active income.
Living life well is important as it is the only one we have. Making it useful for others will make it worthwhile, but we first need to take care of ourselves and our families before we can think of others. As such the earlier we can get to financial independence the more chances we will have of being of use to others.
You may want to read several other posts in this blog to understand how you can achieve the above.