Monday, October 28, 2013

Wealth, happiness and pretending

There's a saying that goes "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."

Who doesn't like to be making tons of cash? I know some people who even bend back ethics and morals as long as their bags (and bathtubs) are awash in cash. After all - it makes the world go round, it makes you buy all the best things in life, and even on a temporary basis, yes, it even buys you happiness.

While cash is a necessity in order to live, survive, and yes, remain sane in our day to day existence, at times the end does not justify the means. The operative word being "justification".

The other week at the clinic, the parents of one of my patients had told me that she was giving birth in a few months. I congratulated her! Then the grandmother said that the obstetrician would be doctor so and so...I remarked, "why?, wasn't your OB so on and so forth two years ago?" They said yes, but that the obstetrician was building a house. And I understood what they meant.

It's not only in the medical world that this scenario is seen. We all try to make a decent living in order to fulfill our dreams. Some of us want to own houses and condominiums in posh villages. Others want to drive brand new European cars or send their children to high-end schools even if it is beyond our budget.

And this does not occur only in the upper and middle class families. My driver is a prime example of this. He has three children and the youngest is 3 years old. While he sends his two older children to public school, he sends his youngest to a semi-private nursery school. I asked him why and he said that the other two are boys and they have the tendency to drop out of school and be lazy. But because his youngest is a girl, she will most likely study harder and be the breadwinner of their family later on in life. And while I have nothing against dreams and ambition, there's a thin line in having to sacrifice the rest of the family by being pretentious.

Pretending to be someone or something that one isn't is the greatest deceit of all. Whether it's a relationship, a job, a business - pretending to be adept at a task in order to profit for wealth (and the temporary happiness) it provides can prove to be uncanny at the end of the day. There are people who are not fit to run an organization because they have no knowledge about how to run it well except the fact that they base the selection of managers based on trust and not on competence. It creates problems in the work force and becomes frustrating for employees whose bosses pretend that they know so much when they know so little, and the work force is not appreciated back no matter how hard they try.

Here are five pointers to remember:

1. There's no point in using limited life chasing unlimited wealth. When we all die, we can't bring the wealth with us. Even if your casket is made of gold.

2. There's no point in earning so much money if you can't live to spend it. Sometimes we spend our lives chasing the money that we forget the people we've trampled upon just so we have more material things in life. We forget that life comes full circle. If that money isn't meant to be for us, karma is such a bitch at getting it back.

3. Money isn't yours until you spend it. And earning it rightly is just as proper as spending it and sleeping well at nights knowing that it was earned well.

4. When you're young, you use your health to chase your wealth. When you're old, well, it's sad that you use your wealth to get back your health. Happiness at any stage and at any age is not all about money. It's about being true to yourself and being just with the people around your lives. The trouble is, often times, it's too late. Your children don't know you. Your friends have left you. Your family won't even care if you lived or died.

5. Man is happy not because of how much he has, but how little he needs.

Think about it...what buys you happiness?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Defining moments...

Over our work career, some of us simply wear one hat. For the average employee, he goes to work, does his job, punches out then goes home. He waits for the 15th and 30th of every month for his paycheck. It's like that day in, day out. The paycheck defines his existence.

Then there are those who wear more than one hat. In my case, I have been tiptoeing from corporate role, to committee head role, to the role of leading of a department, to consultancy role for certain groups in the research and pharmaceutical industry, and of course, to private practice. Multi-tasking is definitely a driver for stress and anxiety. The paycheck is not the defining reason for this. It's the challenge.

Over the years, I have virtually multi-tasked. I have become accustomed to multi-tasking. Each time I try to unload myself from one task, there is an emptiness that takes over. For example, when I decided to retire from teaching from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery after 23 years being with the academe, I had a separation-anxiety attack for a few months. The day after retirement, I would wake up at 4AM prepping myself to get ready to go to the university, thinking about how traffic would be that day, and looking forward to the students whom I would mentor and colleagues whom I considered best friends. Then reality would hit me that I had retired. A few months sank in before I moved on, but move on I did.

There are several reasons why we make choices in our career(s). Why we suddenly make a left or right turn or decide that it's the end of the road. Financial remuneration is probably at the top of the list for most. To others, it is the search for something they become passionate about - a teaching position, an administrative post, a new career, a life-changing experience, to better health (both mind and body), or a bold brave new world. And then there's the game changer - your self respect. Of all the reasons that interplay with the choices we make in life, it's the self respect that impacts on your will and becomes the deciding factor.

I have been in many game changing situations in the past. Whether it was a personal change or a change in work environment, the defining factor that makes you decide that it's over is self respect. Sadness overtakes your impetus in looking forward to a brand new day. Seeing your better half becomes overbearing rather than happy. Going to work becomes a burden rather than a challenge. I would rather wake up to an empty feeling which I can eventually get over with rather than feel the anxiety of having to go through each day of my life not having to deal with the issue that I allowed sadness to consume me. It's the most difficult decision that I had to make, but what lied within me was what mattered.

One of the most difficult choices we make is when we find passion in what we do, the circumstances surrounding the passion become too heavy to bear. No matter how you try to make it right, no matter how much explanation you provide, it becomes frustrating that people who do not understand the work actually become the burden to the work. Corporate businesses are usually run that way, with half the people in the lower work force going unrecognized and the blame being shifted to the lowly employees because of corporate greed and mistakes made by upper management. Bigger rewards are merited by people who pose to have delivered the outcome but not the people who actually made it possible for the company to survive the worst of times.

Personal or work relationships are similar to one another. In a personal relationship, you invest not only time and money but mostly your emotions and personal worth. You probably give up half your pride in search of happiness. You work at making the relationship work and search for happily-ever-afters. It's what defines fulfillment. It's what defines our core being.

I tell my friends that there are two defining moments in the choices we make in life.

The first is when we decide to take the plunge. Make choices for better lives. Make choices because we wanted to make changes not only in our lives but in other peoples lives.

In the process, there will be friends we make along the way, co-workers whom we empower to become stronger, a better half who becomes part of our lives. Then there is the shattering moment. The one that breaks our heart or principles in life. The one that makes the game changing decision we need to make.

The second defining moment is when we decide to walk away with our principles shattered but still together. Head up high, hurt from within, you know that it was and is, the right thing to do.

And we move on. To write a new chapter in our life.