I’m an introvert and I work at a place where there are regular brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming is a wonderful concept but it is a nightmare for introverts (I have a feeling that brainstorming was invented by an extrovert). Introverts derive energy and ideas from solitude. When they are in groups, they are often overwhelmed by the stimulus. The introvert spends his/her energy in dealing with this stimulus and hence, there is not enough energy for ideas. So what is the solution? Should we scrap the brainstorming sessions? IMHO, the answer is no. A better way to brainstorm is letting people work alone for a while and then getting together to brainstorm. This way, introverts get the time to come up with creative ideas and the organization can get the best out of the introverted employees.
Yes, you read that right! I suffer from social anxiety disorder but that’s not the focus of this post (I will write about it in detail in future). The whole point of this post is: Why are we ashamed of talking about mental health? We don’t feel this kind of shame when it comes to physical health but there is something about mental health which makes us talk in hushed tones. I hope someone reads this post and decides to talk about his/her mental health issues.
I came up with four questions to help me decide who got to read my work when it was in its most vulnerable stages:Do I trust this person’s taste and judgment?Does this person understand what I’m trying to create here?Does this person genuinely want me to succeed?Is this person capable of delivering the truth to me in a sensitive and compassionate manner?
If I could not answer yes to all four questions, then I would not let that person read my stories. And the fourth question was the most important—because here is what I learned (the hard way) about readers and editors who offered me a “brutally honest” critique of my writing: They were always more brutal than honest.
There was a time when I judged bad ideas but after working on creative jobs, I empathize with great artists who sometimes make terrible stuff. A lot of people want to leave their jobs and do something creative. But the problem with a creative job is that you are often expected to be a machine which churns out innovative ideas every day. No matter how disciplined you are, you can never eliminate the element of uncertainty that comes with creative thinking. Sometimes you are “in the zone” and you effortlessly come up with brilliant ideas. Sometimes, you are stuck and you start doubting your talent and (sometimes) your sanity. You wanted a creative job but now you have to deliver “results” before the deadline. There is a lot of anxiety and stress because you want to crack an out-of-the-box idea. But then, you have to think about the people who are waiting for that idea to pop up in your head: The people who will execute your idea and the people who will sell their product/service because of your idea. You want to tell them that you are trying your best but the problem is that you cannot prove that you are working hard! The invisible labor adds to the pressure and you might even start blaming yourself for not cracking the problem. But the truth is that you cannot always control creativity as it has a will of its own. You have to sometimes respect the mood and sometimes settle with an imperfect idea. This might sound blasphemous to idealistic freshers but this is the only way to survive. This doesn’t mean you don’t toil hard for your idea and aim for perfection…it just means that you respect other people’s needs and try to balance your vision of excellence with deadlines.
A passion project is something you work on (often outside of your chosen career path) that gives you satisfaction, happiness and puts you into a state of flow. It’s what you do to escape it all. It’s your tiny (or huge) contribution to the world. – Dr. Amy Shah
Some of us put in extra hours at our job if no one asked us to. Some of us are so dedicated that we go beyond our job profile to contribute something extra to the companies we believe in. This passion makes our lives more meaningful but it can also makes us feel exhausted and vulnerable. We may also lose our identity because at the end of the day, our company is owned by someone else and we can never be completely free to express ourselves through our work. There are benefits in creating for someone else. We are more disciplined, responsible and organized when we are answerable to someone. However, we get access to a different kind of passion and freedom when we work on our own pet projects/personal projects/passion projects. We don’t have any obligation to work on them nor do we have to “report” to someone. We are not getting paid for them either. Achieving results in the project may never boost our career prospects in a tangible way. And yet, passion projects bring us a joy that takes us back to our childhood when we did certain things without caring much about the results. If we have a job that we hate, passion projects give us the necessary energy and hope to get through the days, weeks, months and years. This happiness also spills over to our personal lives. Those who work on passion projects are less likely to be overtly dependent on their family or friends or their job for their happiness. Without these projects, we remain frustrated and in turn, make our friends and family miserable. They are not a “waste of time” because they have the potential to make an employee more productive. In fact, we may stumble upon an alternate career or a set of new skills. Having a passion project is like going back to our home…a place where you belong. This space gives us a form of security which is not available in even the most highest-paid jobs.
When I was in my teens, I wanted to be talented at something. It didn’t matter whether I utilized that talent or not. It didn’t matter whether I messed up my life or even if I died without realizing my potential..at least I would be remembered as a “talented kid who could have accomplished so much”. I guess it’s not just me. Talent is attractive, magical. Theists say talent is a gift from God. It is this mystery and the aura around talent that makes it so seductive.
Is it easier to be more dedicated towards your work than people? “Work” doesn’t have any emotions. Your boss has emotions and expectations but the abstract concepts like “work” or “excellence” don’t have expectations. Dedicating your life to an “ideal” or a “passion” is noble, but dedicating your life to a person is dangerous…there are so many things involved including ego. If you dedicate your whole life to painting and you are poor, then people will call you a “true artist”. But dedicating your whole life to human beings makes you vulnerable. Irom Sharmila was a hero when she was fasting. But the moment she broke her fast, she is being treated as an outcast and her motives are being questioned. One can say that Sharmila’s fight is also for an “ideal”, but unfortunately for her, the ideals and human beings are entwined in her struggle. Are these ‘abstract’ concepts a way of avoiding pain? Or are they an attempt to connect with fellow human beings?
There is a thin line of difference between the two. On surface, it is difficult to know whether someone is obsessed with work or just committed to it. In my experience, it all comes down to the ability to let go and relax. If you feel extremely guilty for not working (when you have already worked a lot and fulfilled all your professional commitments), then you are probably a workaholic. A passionate person will give everything he can to his work, but he has a sense of detachment. This detachment is different from indifference. He loves his work/whatever he is passionate about but he doesn’t feel ‘unworthy’ when things don’t work out. A workaholic, on the other hand, is probably trying to escape from things that make her uncomfortable. I guess, this applies to other parts of life too. To love a person, you have to be extremely vulnerable and detached at the same time. Being detached doesn’t mean you love the person less. Detachment comes from an awareness that extreme attachment is actually fear and not love. Without detachment, you can never give freedom to the other person and without freedom, there can be no love. However, avoiding emotions and leaving no room for vulnerability is again fear and not love.
The ‘success vs excellence’ debate became very popular after the movie ‘3 Idiots’ which basically said that if you chase excellence, you will be successful someday. I thought that the philosophy had a lot of loopholes. Moreover, who decides what is success and what is excellence? Also, as human beings, our motivations are not completely black or white. I don’t think those who are conventionally successful are completely against excellence or vice versa. I still don’t know what I should think about the philosophy, but I don’t know why I revisited the thought.
Let’s say you are a man and an aspiring cricketer. If you define success in an conventional way, you would be successful if you compete at international level and perform well consistently. Your success is also about earning a lot of money because that’s what successful male cricketers do. The money comes from viewership. The viewership for men’s cricket is huge, but there is something interesting about this. We all want our team to win all the time, but the truth is, if any one team wins all the time, without any competition from other teams, then there will be no interest in the sport! If you watch sports or any other competition for that matter (dance, acting etc), what keeps you interested is that you don’t know who will win. It’s the unpredictability, the suspense that attracts you to the game.
How will a game have an element of unpredictability? By having teams which are almost equal. By having players who have similar skill levels. So would it be correct if I say that your success as an aspiring cricketer actually depends on the success of your opponents as well? If your opponents are not good enough, then viewers will eventually get bored. In other words, your success actually depends on your and your opponents’ excellence? I mean, if you want to be known as a great player (chasing success), you have to defeat players who are equally great (to do that you have to pursue excellence?).