Yesterday was one of those days at work. When I planned my day on Thursday evening – my Friday work calendar was a dream come true. I only had a couple of meetings where all I had to do was listen. So I wake up Friday morning, meditate, exercise and get ready for work. And when I show up for work – I get a fifteen-minute meeting while I am in a meeting. And if you have experience with corporate meetings, these quick meetings are the killer. Come to think about it, in some of the longer ones; you can literally take a nap and not miss a thing.
We attend the fifteen-minute touch-base to realize that one of the extensive efforts across the company is going to take a ‘Pause’. And to explain what it means, let me give you an example. It is like flying a plane filled with people, and you decide to switch planes mid-flight after a lot of resistance from the passengers. And while you are changing planes, you decide it is safer to go back to the original plane. Yes – in short, chaos all around.
While this meeting takes place, my inbox is getting filled with emails, and my team is bursting with chats. It is an escalation email from one of my teams to a business partner. Usually, one of my managers would have handled this one. It so happens that the manager has taken another job. And the team decided to use this opportunity to ’empower’ itself and do away with the manager even though the transition date is a month away. The result was that I had to spend a couple of hours and three separate meetings to deal with this issue before it reached my boss as a burning inferno.
As you can imagine – this was not the ‘Do my work quietly’ Friday as I had envisaged. In the last meeting where I got together, the manager and her team – I set the expectations among other things and then finished with a joke. One of my team asked, ‘You were so serious, and now you are making jokes.’ And I found myself replying to her, ‘I had to play a serious part which I did, and now I am back to my so-called normal self.’
Corporate life, or even life, in general, is a circus. Even though a part of us knows this, the things we do are just plain silly – is the stuff great comedies are made up of. And in some cases, it is so tragic that the only thing you can do is laugh. How many times have we all decided to embark on a vainglorious effort knowing very well that six months down the line, it will be all going downhill? How often have things really panned out the way you wanted in life, but we still expect planning to work. Life is about playing the part even when you know it is all made up.
I have come to realize that nothing in life is worth taking seriously. The interview question, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ is the silliest one. The expected answer is, ‘Expenses, politics, world problems etc.’ For me, the honest answer is nothing – I go to bed, and I wake up in the morning.
It is like the zen story where one disciple is bragging about his master to the disciple of another master. He claims that his teacher is capable of all sorts of magical acts, like writing in the air with a brush and having the characters appear on a piece of paper hundreds of feet away. “And what can YOUR master do?” he asks the other disciple. “My master can also perform amazing feats,” the other student replies. “When he’s tired, he sleeps. When hungry, he eats”……….. or simply, “When he sleeps, he sleeps. When he eats, he eats.”
Do you sleep when you are tired/sleepy and eat when hungry?