Episode 21 – Unselfing, letting go of your ego in the modern world (11 min)

Man suffers because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.

ALAN WATTS

Unselfing – what a term, isn’t it? I think there’s something about that prefix – “un”. Letting go, unlearning, unselfing.

Ours is the time of the ego – rampant, self-indulgent ego. Selfies, personalised feeds, personalised ads, personalised everything – almost all good products, but almost all terrible if left unchecked or unsupervised.

And isn’t that true for our times? We have let the idea of our “selves” go too far – far more than we ourselves can handle it. And that is impacting not just our public discourse and our politics, but also our relationships and our everyday lives as we speak.

However, we also live in the time of Understanding – a fully encompassing, discerning Understanding. And one core precursor to that Understanding is a detachment from the cobweb of the self, of the ego.

Which is where I bring to you the idea of “Unselfing”.

I came across this term in a very recent article a friend had shared with me. All the details to the article and the author are below in the show notes. It is a must read, just as this episode is a must listen. 😛

Until next time.

Peace out.

Unselfing | Iris Murdoch | The need for letting go of self obsession and narcissism | The Unlearning Playground podcast by Chetan Narang

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“Last night I lost the world, and gained the universe.”

C. JoyBell C.

That, to me, sums up the utility of that age-old idea of letting go.

When I first came across the article I have talked about in this episode, the words immensely resonated with me. It was probably the first time ever that I heard the word unselfing, but the 2-3 minute read was quite enough to get the idea across. And also the overall utility of it. And let me tell you, it’s not a new idea either. Eastern philosophical traditions such as the Advaita Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, etc have focussed on nothing but, at the core of their teachings and messaging.

However, in the times we’re living in, the idea is more relevant than ever. Our modern modes of living – all the personalised feeds, all the selfies, all the personalised ads – are contributing to strengthening the ego, to strengthening the separation that is the basis of the ego.

And while the ego is an important mechanism of the functioning of the human organism, it is a terrible master. And that, more than anything, is an absolutely striking reality of our time. To quote the article (only a teaser):

"Somewhere along the way, in the century of the self, we forgot each other. We forgot this vast and wonder-filled universe, of which we are each but a tiny and transient wonder."
- Maria Popova (unselfing.social)

The central idea should not be something alien to someone who’s familiar with my work. Quite a number of my podcast episodes have been directed to this very same idea. For a refresher, here are a few episodes that you could check out as a sister content to this episode and this article I talked about here.

Well, enough said and done. I’d recommend you to get into the episode and give it a listen. A narration of the article is included in the episode itself, but if you wish to read it beforehand, here’s a link to it again – unselfing.social by Maria Popova

The entire episode is only an 11 minute listen. And it’s absolutely worth it.

I’ll see you in the playground.

To more unlearning and more unselfing.

Until next time.

Peace out.

Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 20 – How to cope with the low phases of Life | Depression help (17 min)

Trust me, faking to be strong is far worse than admitting to be weak.

virat kohli

Everyone goes through the highs and lows of life – no matter what social situation they’re in, no matter how much privilege others perceive in their life situation, life has its highs and lows for everyone.

By their very definition, the low phases of life are more difficult to navigate for us. Join me in this episode as I talk about a few general dos and don’ts during such times.

Of course, any specific advice has to be tailored to the individual situation at hand, but my aim here is to cover a few general principles that form the bedrock of a lot of subjective advice that everyone can benefit from.

I’ll see you in the playground.

Until next time.

Peace out.

How to cope with depression and the low phases of life | Suicide prevention | The Unlearning Playground podcast by Chetan Narang

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When Jimmy Kimmel, host of the popular late night American TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live, hosted Anthony Hopkins, he asked him a question that really stuck a chord with me. Anthony was close to 80 years old at the time, and Jimmy asked him if there is a single piece of advice he would like to share with the audience based on the sheer amount of time he has spent on the planet!

And Anthony Hopkins, very easily replied back saying, “Just keep going. Never give up.

How beautiful, right? And how powerful! Especially in terms of the topic we’re talking about in this episode – depression help and suicide prevention.

You see, all of us have low phases in our lives. If you’ve lived long enough, you know that to be true. All of our lives are akin to sine waves – they have ups and downs, crests and troughs. The low phases, by their very definition, are more difficult to navigate for all of us. And in the lowest of our low phases, the thought of simply ending it all and just giving up can seem to be a viable option – or worse yet, can seem to be the only option at times.

It is at these situations when we need to exercise our conscious choice to not act on such thoughts, and rather, just keep going. Because no matter what, the sine curve does come back up. It has to. And if you are at the lowest of your lows, it can’t get any worse – it’s going to only get better.

And even if you don’t believe that last bit, acting as if that’s the case is a much better choice than not.

In this episode of my podcast, I talk about three general dos and don’ts for depression help and suicide prevention. The core aim, if there is one, for this episode, is to propagate the idea that there is a better choice available than ending it all – there always is.

Having said all that I said in this episode and on this page, I still feel that any real help and advice we need in those tough low phases of our lives have to be specific to our particular life situations and not simply based out of a motivational quote or an inspiring piece of literature someone’s read. So, if you or anyone you know is in need of such advice, I know I can help. All the details for getting in touch with me personally, even if for a single one-time call and other nuances, are available on the talk-to-me page.

I think I’ll end this page with another one of those beautiful quotes that can be life-changing if you let them.

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 17 – Unlearning the attachment to victimhood (12 min)

If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.

UNKNOWN

An old quote of mine reads, “More than being identified with the victim in your story, be identified with the observer of it. The latter is closer to the truth.

In this episode of The Unlearning Playground, I expand on what I mean when I say this.


Like most of my everyday-life advice episodes, this one is also centred around wisdom that’s applicable to and is pragmatically focussed on our day-to-day lives.

And you’ll also see why this is quite a necessary collective message for our times too, because if you look closely, we seem to be collectively rigged by this virus of victimhood.

If I was to summarise the need for this episode and the message therein, I would summarise it in this beautiful quote whose author I am unaware of, “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.”


Tune in to the episode to know more and know better.

And please don’t forget to like, share and subscribe and leave a rating/review for the podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

I’ll see you in the playground.

Until next time.

Peace out.

If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you. Join Chetan Narang in this episode of his everyday life philosophy podcast The Unlearning Playground as he talks about how to overcome trauma and unlearn our attachment to victimhood.

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Hurt people hurt people.

If only we could realise how much this statement is true, and how much this applies not just to others but to our own lives as well!

Victimhood, like most things in life really, requires discernment of the highest order.

You see, all of us undergo some sort of trauma in our lives. This could be related to incidents or situations from our childhood, could be triggered by stuff we grew through as teenagers or adults, and so on. The ups and downs of life ensure that all of us see difficult times, that all of us are in situations when we are can’t help but feel like victims.

Now as we grow up and start to call ourselves mature adults, a major chunk of our work lies in outgrowing this trauma and the accompanying victimhood, a process you can very easily call healing.

And I know that some of us don’t like to use terms such as trauma and victimhood for our own life situations, but I still hope you’re getting the gist of what I’m trying to convey. Call it whatever you want, coming out of the identity that such situations build within us is a part of growing-up-101.

And this is especially important advice for our times. If you are at all active on social media these days, you can really see this pattern emerge out of the conversations that we have publicly these days – people on all sides of all possible dichotomies fighting it out to lay their claim on the trophy of who is the biggest victim there ever has been. Whether it is the conservatives or the liberals, the men or the women, the Hindus or the Muslims, the Indians or the Pakistanis, the gays or the straights – everyone has one hand on the “trophy” of victimhood these days.

Surely there could be victims on both sides of all of these dichotomies, of course!

But if the mere fact that you are on one side as opposed to the other is making you feel like a victim, therein lies your work, my fellow human!

Someone very wise once said, “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.”

If you let it, these few words have the power to trigger a change in you that your future self will thank you for.

I hope this episode can do so too.

Get into it.

Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 14 – Quotes and misinterpretations – How to be more practical with words? (17 min)

Whatever is said or done is interpreted always, and misinterpreted almost always.
Well, not almost always, but we do misinterpret others much more than we would want to be misinterpreted ourselves.
There is no substitute, after all, to honest conversations.

Chetan narang

So much of our waking lives revolve around words that we barely get time to think about what is the right relationship to have with our own words.

We interpret everything – all the quotes we read, all the videos we watch, all the podcasts we listen, all the conversations we have, all the social media posts we consume – all of it passes through the mental models engrained in our minds.

The path from these interpretations being just interpretations to them becoming truths should be one we carefully travel, especially when it matters.

It is not these quotes that are limited, it is our interpretations of them that limit the world we see.

Join myself, Chetan Narang, in Episode 14 of The Unlearning Playground Podcast where I talk about how quotes, words and our own interpretations of them can limit us and our understanding of our world.

Being more practical with words. Quotes, words and misinterpretations. Is "Do what feels right" the right advice?

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The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang, on Apple Podcasts

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Yeah, quotes are great.
But have you ever caught yourself misinterpreting one to suit your own preconceived story?
That is the one of the most potent, generalised use of quotes in my opinion –
to take you to the realisation that you (mis)interpret words all the time.

We all have stories in our minds.

Stories about how the people around us are, stories about how people are in general, stories about how certain ‘kind’ of people are, stories about how the world is, and so on and on …

These stories help us in navigating the world, and do a good job about it.

A lot of times however, our own favourite and cherished stories limit us from seeing things as they actually are. Everything that reaches us passes through, and is coloured by these stories. No matter how brilliant the quote I just came across is – if the mental model it triggered in my mind is not based on truth, I would not be able to squeeze the nectar out of it.

This happens all the time around us doesn’t it?

I, for one, have noticed this happen a lot on social media – I would see someone share a quote or a clip of some wise words; and the interpretation of those words that made them worthy of a share for this person was just one that confirmed their already preconceived notions. Someone who is politically left-leaning would be moved by the same quotes that move a politically right-leaning person, and both of them would happily share the same words in their circles; assuming that the words they are sharing mean what they think they mean, and what they have always thought they mean.

All of this, like most truths that matter, is easier to see in others than it is to see in oneself. Because it is not comfortable to see your own thoughts being proven incomplete and biased. It’s like that powerful quote by Robert Pirsig in his beautiful book, Lila. Yes, the man wrote a book other than the Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. The quote goes like this:

It’s always the other person who’s ‘deluded.’ Or ourselves in the past. Ourselves in the present are never ‘deluded.’ Delusions can be held by whole groups of people, as long as we’re not a part of that group. If we’re a member then the delusion becomes a ‘minority opinion.’

Robert Pirsig, Lila

All said and done, I hope this creates a little curiosity in you to check out your own interpretations (and misinterpretations) of quotes. Catch yourself the next time you hear yourself say things like

“Yeah, this is nothing new.”
“Yeah, I know this already.”
“Yeah, so what?”

I’m not saying that these responses are always uncalled for. But be aware enough to see when you’re actually understanding something, and when you’re just substituting it by something you already ‘know’.

If whatever you read/hear immediately falls into buckets like

right/wrong
good/bad
agreed/disagreed

You might be missing out on what’s the Truth.

Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 13 – How important is money? (22 min)

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.

Jim carrey

Money is not everything but it is something.  While most of us agree on this basic statement, we still do not quite understand what is the right relationship to have with money.

How much money is too much money?
How much money is enough?
What is the right way to think about money?

These are some questions that remain perpetually unanswered for a lot of us, in the busy lives that we lead these days.

With the employee performance appraisal season right around the corner in the Indian economic cycle, money is definitely one of the hot topics flowing around. And there wouldn’t be a shortage of questions and concerns that pop up in our minds about it.

Am I getting paid enough?
Should I switch jobs?
Will that promotion make it all worth it?
Should I look out to get a higher salary or benefits?

All of these are important questions. And there are better answers to them than “It depends.” or “It’s all relative”.

We just need to open our eyes and see things the way they are, not the way we think they are. Let’s spend some time doing just that.
Tune right in.

I’ll see you in the playground.

what is the right way to think about money? hustle culture, salary, passion and jobs

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The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang, on Apple Podcasts

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Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 11 – On perfect and good, a fresh perspective (5 min)

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Voltaire

A short and fresh perspective about a quote that I find to be amongst the most potent ones ever – “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

I think this episode is far from perfect, but it is good. Practice what you preach, eh?

Tune right in.

I’ll see you in the playground.

perfect is the enemy of good, don't let perfect get in the way of good, a fresh perspective on an age-old quote

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The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang, on Apple Podcasts

The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang on Spotify

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Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 7 – What does Love look like? Being better at relationships | Kindness | Rocco Jarman (9 min)

Love will save us all, and love will not be gentle.

sarah elkhaldy

Most of human life is relationships – personal, professional, casual.

Join me as I walk you through an extremely potent and a really effective method that has the power to improve all your relationships manifold. 

It is based on a meditation that my friend Rocco Jarman shared with me quite recently. Like most of the man’s work, it is powerful, it is moving and it is worth looking at with eyes wide open.

And as is the case with most life-transforming things, all that’s needed of you is an open mind and a willingness to unlearn and relearn.

See you in the playground. Tune in!

being better at relationships, beyond romantic love, how to have healthy and caring relationships with yourself and others

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The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang, on Apple Podcasts

The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang on Spotify

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Most of human life is relationships, isn’t it? Whether you are a working professional who wants that manager to understand you better; whether you are a manager in your workplace who wants those employees to understand you better; whether you are a parent who can’t seem to get a hold on that kid; whether you are a kid who can’t seem to get your parents to see things from your perspective; whether you are trying to convey something important to someone via a series of podcast episodes; whether you are a listener who is liking it so much that all you can think about is how to convince your friends to listen to it too, most of your life is about relationships.

Well, if that last bit about liking the podcast is true for you, I want you to know that I love you and deeply appreciate you. Keep sharing the love.

So, back to where we were. Most of our lives IS about relationships – personal, professional, casual, etc. And I’m sure all of us have found ourselves in tricky situations in our relationships. 

There are situations where we are stumped, we have no clue how to act or what to do. There are situations where things get a little overwhelming and we regret later how we acted  – we know we could have acted better, we know we could have handled it better – but it was hard to see it at the time and sometimes, it is hard to see even after. 

We all are in such situations a lot of times. And at any rate, if you haven’t been in such a situation lately, you still cannot guarantee that the next moment wouldn’t present one, no matter how enlightened you are.

With regards to handling and processing such situations and also navigating everyday life in general too, I wanted to very briefly touch upon a message my dear friend Rocco Jarman shared with me very recently. His words were, “Ask yourself – what does love look like in the present moment, really listen to the answer, and then act on it.”

Just take a few seconds to reflect on the sheer potency of these words. I’ll go about them slowly. Ask yourself – what does LOVE look like in the present moment, REALLY listen to the answer, and then ACT on it.

The next time you are in a situation that demands a conscious action, and there are a whole lot of them in our everyday lives, consider trying this. Pause, take a deep breath and ask yourself – “what does love look like in this moment?”. Really listen to the answer that turns up. 

The answer could be anything. 

It could be just hugging the person in front of you. 

It could also be scolding them. 

It could be crying your eyes out. 

It could be being silent. 

It could be talking your heart out. 

It could be walking away. 

It could be agreeing with someone. 

It could be correcting them. 

It could be anything.

You see, love, and for that matter, kindness too, takes a variety of forms. It is not always the mushy mushy goodness and niceties we associate with it. All of the different examples I gave above, could mean love. Only you can say about yourself whether you’re coming out of love or out of displaced anger, jealousy, greed, lust, shame, fear, etc. 

Be conscious of your thoughts and you’ll see all of this in play in every relationship you engage in, moment by moment. Do not be surprised if these “negative” thoughts surface. They do, for all of us. What you need to consciously do is to not ACT on them. Dig deeper, act out of love, act out of kindness. And that takes time, give yourself that time. That’s all we need to do really. 

I distinctly remember this one example Rocco has shared many times on his Instagram. I’m paraphrasing. He says something like, “If there is a wolf at the door and you’re sleeping, and I let you sleep, I am not acting out of love or kindness. Kindness in that moment demands of me to wake you up and not to let you sleep.” 

Now, an observer who can only see the action inside the house might not be able to see the wolf. That observer might label me as an inconsiderate person, maybe even an arrogant person, maybe even an unkind person – but my action might never appear to him to be coming out of love. But that shouldn’t change my action!

Similarly, the person who’s asleep probably also doesn’t see the wolf. Who would remain asleep otherwise right? Only us humans! But anyway, that person might also not see that the act of me trying to wake them up is one of love, is one of kindness. And that shouldn’t change my action either!

For the one who sees the wolf, love in that moment demands him to wake up the sleeping person. Period.

There are various other examples you can see in your own everyday life where apparent kindness is not real kindness, where apparent love is not real love. And also, where apparent unkindness IS the real kindness and the real love.

If you are wrong somewhere, and I can see that THAT is keeping you from growing, and I simply enable you in your smallness because I have lowered my expectations from you or because it makes ME feel bigger compared to you, even though I look kind and compassionate, I am not being kind. I am not acting out of the greatest love I could have acted out of.

If someone is inviting you for something, and you decline their offer out of love for your own self, for your own peace, even though you seem unkind to them, you are not. Sometimes, saying no is the greater kindness, is the greater love.

So, what does love look like at any moment? It depends on the moment, it depends on the actors in the moment. There is no single right answer, and no one will get it right all the time anyway. No one. Not Osho, not JK, not Kahlil Gibran, not Swami Vivekananda, not Sadhguru, not Alan Watts, not Jesus Christ, not Buddha, not Lord Ram. No one. 

We can only ever try to better our interactions and relationships with others. And this sure is one way to do it. Reflect on it.

Unlearn the idea that love and kindness is only mushy-mushy goodness. Sometimes, it can be a scolding or a disagreement too.

Unlearn the idea that all apparent goodness is love and kindness. Sometimes, the greater kindness is telling the other person where they are wrong.

See the truths in these statements. And the next time you are in a pickle, ask yourself, “What does love look like at this moment?” Really listen to the answer, and then act on it.

I would like to thank Rocco for sharing this wonderful insight with me. If you guys haven’t yet, do check out his page on Instagram, his handle is @rocketsprocket. He also runs his own podcast by the name Eyes wide open life. I cannot recommend his work enough. Go through it, your future selves will thank you for it. And thank me for it too I hope. 🙂

Until next time, peace out!

Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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Episode 6 – Simplify your life | Work-life balance (17 min)

The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU (WALDEN)

In the name of development and progress, we modern humans have complicated our lives way more than needed.

And in the name of paying our bills or advancing our careers or earning a livelihood or being independent, we complicate them even more.

Isn’t this true? It is. It most definitely is.

This episode is an attempt from my side to make you, the listener, think deeper on this subject. It is an invitation to reconsider HOW you are leading your life, not WHAT you are doing in it.

We need to have the courage to identify where we are complicating things for ourselves and then to act on these realisations and simplfy them, so that we can focus our energies on our real needs, not the imagined ones.

I build on a real life incident from my life to expand on a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, “The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.”

Tune in!

simplify your life, what is the right work life balance, how you do something over what you do

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The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang, on Apple Podcasts

The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang on Spotify

The Unlearning Playground Podcast, a popular philosophy and spirituality podcast by Chetan Narang, on Stitcher

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Has it ever happened to you that you read or listened to something somewhere and you couldn’t help but feel that everyone should go through it too? 

Well, firstly, if your answer to this question is yes and you haven’t shared that something with me yet, drop me a DM on my Instagram page. I’d love to hear about it. The link to my Instagram is in the show notes. 

Anyway, this episode is dedicated to one such quote I came across a few years ago. I was reading Walden, by Henry David Thorreau and I came across a line that resonated with me so hard that I must have quoted it a gazillion times in conversations since then.

The quote goes like this, “The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.

He wrote the book in the 1850s, and it is Dec 2021 as of today. And need I say that the formulae we humans apply these days to solve our livelihoods are only getting more and more complicated with time. And unpacking these formulae is the need of the hour.

Isn’t that true? I can say with complete conviction that it is. In the name of earning a livelihood or paying the bills as we like to call it now, we humans have gone so far beyond the line that we do not even see it anymore. Or as Joey would say, the line is a dot to us!

Seriously though, I honestly feel that in modern times, we have really forgotten that Life, at its very basic, is not eventually as complicated as we’re making it out to be. And that is primarily because we don’t know any better. In a fast-paced life, which a lot of us in “developed” or even “developing” cities live, you hardly get time to slow down, step back and look at your life from an observers’ viewpoint, from a zoomed out viewpoint. So we kind of keep doing what others around us do. It is monkey-see-monkey-do at a global level then!

Let me share an incident that happened with me a few years ago which really jolted me and forced me to think deeper. 

I was returning back from work in the evening one day with a friend who used to work with me. It had been a long day at work I presume, because it was already getting dark. At least that is the scene in my head now. Usually after we got off the bus, it was a 10-15 minute walk to our homes. Except that on this day, my friend received a call from his roommate that they were out of groceries and he would have to buy some before he comes back home. My friend asked me if we could stop by the nearby supermarket so he could do so, and I obliged. So, we entered the mart, I was just strolling alongside him and I observed him just gunning through the process like The Flash. He picked up 4-5 bags from the counter, stuffed them with veggies, rushed to the checkout counter and literally within 5 minutes, we were out of the supermarket with a bagful of groceries on our way to our homes again. 

But something about what just happened just didn’t feel right to me. A thought popped up in my head – That here is a guy who spent an entire day working in his office, and I’m pretty sure he made all the efforts and spent a considerable amount of energy that day like most days to ensure that whatever he does there is done to the best of his capabilities and sound knowledge – he was, and I’m sure still is, a very intelligent and diligent worker. But somehow, when it came to buying food for himself, he just rushed through the process as if this is just something secondary you know – Ahh not that important! And something didn’t feel right to me about this.

You know, granted that we were getting late in reaching our homes and the fact that his purchase of groceries would slow me down too. This would have been acting on his mind, he was a considerate guy. And so I do not blame him for rushing through his purchase that day – but that is not the point of me narrating this incident anyway. 

The point is that that incident really did make me think how many times would I have done something similar. The answer, an extremely uncomfortable one, was a lot of times! And that made me really uncomfortable. But as is always the case, growth stood on the other side of the discomfort, and here I am sharing all this with you.

I have reflected many times on the thoughts this little incident triggered in me. And those reflections really did open me up to a glaring reality of our times – we do not even realise that our jobs, our careers, our businesses are a means to an end and not the end in themselves. Yet so often in our day to day lives, we act as if these things are much more important and deserve much more of our attention than a whole lot of other stuff. And more often than not, that other stuff IS why we are doing our jobs and our businesses in the first place. You know – to buy food, to take care of our close ones, to relax, and so on and on – only you can say where it all manifests in your own particular lives. But one thing is common for all of us – we certainly have complicated our means to earn our livelihoods much more than the original problem actually demands!

I know for a fact that a lot of us modern humans feel very teary-eyed about our jobs and our careers and value them a lot, in fact we value them so much that that is what we do all of our adult lives these days. And thereby we block ourselves from all other possibilities that Life has to offer. Don’t we do that? We do. And it’s high time we accept it. 

I cannot point it to you specifically, but if you’re listening to this right now, I invite you to think deeper on what decisions you might be taking right now in the name of advancing your career or paying your bills or earning your livelihoods or being independent which are really not that important from a zoomed-out point of view. Our careers, our jobs are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. And in that sense, they aren’t that important! Yet somehow, we have made them the cornerstones of our lives.

Have you ever heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If you haven’t, I’ll give you a very brief overview. It essentially says that there is a hierarchy of needs that every human being has. You start with the most basic ones – your physiological and safety needs – food, water, clothes, shelter, which is what we call roti, kapda, makaan in Hindi. Then there is a belonging need, a need to be a part of a family, a group, a society, a friend-circle, anything. Then there is an esteem need – a recognition, respect, freedom need and so on, and the hierarchy goes all the way up to self actualisation – manifesting our truest potential. And let me tell you, a human being’s truest potential, just so we are very, very clear on the subject, is not becoming the CXO in some company, even if it is your own company! That is merely a very small part of the game we are all playing here collectively. There are bigger things to do, people! Bigger realisations to be had! Bigger jobs to be done! Rise above this slumber!

If you wish to see just a glimpse of what truths you might be missing in your everyday life as to what Life really has to offer, check out episode 5 of this show. It is about an objective truth about Life that everyone must understand and not just believe. But remember – the pointer in that episode is just a glimpse! This is a topic I will come back to many times in this podcast, but as of the date of recording of this episode – I would refer you to that episode of my show to plant the seeds for the same.

Anyway, so back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I think that it’s reasonable to say that a hierarchy exists in our needs, but what we tend to miss out on is that no one will ever come and tell us where we are on the hierarchy, and when it’s time to move on. It’s not a strict hierarchy anyway, in the sense that you always have to provide for your physiological needs of food, clothes, shelter – no matter how actualised you are. So you’d always work a job, own a business, make money, etc – it is not that an actualised person wouldn’t do any of these things, and so, it is also not true that you would have to stop doing these things to achieve actualisation. The crux of the matter is “how” you’re doing it and not “what” you’re doing.

I mean to say that at the very heart of this entire discussion lies “how” you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. How much value you place to your job, your career, your business, etc. Is that the central part of your life? If you’re an actualised person or are consciously on the path to it, it’s fine to have your work as the centre of your life. But if you’ve never done anything else apart from your work, have never stepped back and observed the flow of your own thoughts, have never meditated on God and Life and what it means to be complete, it’s extremely likely that you are the farmer Thorreau was talking about – the one entangled in a solution more complicated than the problem itself.

Now, none of this is an invitation to become an obnoxious worker who uses this as an excuse to justify getting away from work. Or an invitation to renounce everything and go live in the mountains to actualise.

Consider this an invitation to re-evaluate the value you’re placing on your job, your career, your business, etc. And you can do that only from the situation you’re in at the moment. Of course, if you are a student who hasn’t even started working professionally yet, or if you have some loans to pay off, or some other needs to address urgently, none of this would matter to you until that block is cleared. And that is normal. It’s OK. I myself know that just a few years ago when I had debts to clear, I would not have been able to act on this invitation even if it resonated with me at the time. Consider someone who’s living without even their basic physiological needs being fulfilled for example. It is normal for there to be situations where one cannot act on any of what I’m talking about. 

But there are a whole lot of us who aren’t really in such situations, but think ourselves to be so. Only you can say that for yourself. It might be an uncomfortable fact to digest – not that you’re in a good position in your life, that is always good to realise. But what might be uncomfortable is that the actions you hold very dear to yourself in your day-to-day life are actually blocking you from realising your own truest potential.

This involves a whole lot of unlearning, unlearning the value you have invested in your work, unlearning the seemingly desperate situation you think yourself to be in, unlearning the false narratives in your head about what is more important and what isn’t, unlearning the ideas that the next promotion, the next car, the next house, the next step on the ladder IS the most important thing in your life, unlearning the conviction that you’ll act on all of this someday in the future when everything else is settled, etc etc. 

Know that there is more to life than earning a livelihood. 

Know that the jobs and businesses we’re engaged in, even if our own, are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. 

Know that this is an invitation to reconsider “how” you are approaching life, not “what” you are doing in it. 

Know that the problem of livelihood isn’t as complex as we’re making it to be. 

Know that excelling in your job is not the highest potential you can reach as a human being.

Know all of this, and then act on it. If you do so, and do so diligently, you would contribute to humanity in ways no one may even fathom.

Because if you don’t act on it, and don’t lift yourself above it all, how do you expect to help someone who is not in your situation today but would be in some time to come? That someone could be your partner, your children, your friends or even your parents! So, consider the work that you do on yourself here as a service you render to all the ‘others’ you would help later.

As that man Ram Dass said, “I can do nothing for you but work on myself. You can do nothing for me but work on yourself. In the end, we’re all just walking each other home.”

Check out the episode on The Unlearning Playground YouTube channel here

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