Your Choices Make You
I’m an old man sitting by the crackling woods of a bonfire. It is a starry night.
You, skimming articles cross me. Maybe you don’t even see my blanket and rush by.
But maybe you stop. And you ask me – What do you have to say?
I say – come, sit by this bonfire. Let us stare into the flames and warm ourselves a bit as we chat.
You say – c’mon I need to rush. I have an endless things to do. Some mugging up. Some group projects. Some placement preparation. So if you have anything useful to say to me, blurt it out or I am off.
Some of you leave. A few still stay. Out of respect for an old man.
I say – will you listen more keenly if I tell you of all the medals I’ve got and great companies I have worked for?
You look at my wrinkled eyes and decide to walk away from the excruciatingly long foreplay. Or maybe you stay.
I say – perhaps you will. So let me tell you that I had once, plenty to boast about. Now I have none.
You ask – What? Where did it all go? Why don’t you tell me about it?
I say – I flung it into a bonfire like this, long time ago. A long time ago, I was like you: a bright aspiring student wanting to make the most of my degree. By autumn, when placements came I had more bullets in my resume than your average Siachen soldier.
I look at you – maybe you are disinterested. Maybe I spoke too long – surely more than 140 characters. But something tells me you’ve permitted me to go on. So I do
I say – Beautiful job offers danced before me like tempting goddesses. They set my heart on fire and though my soul had seen its path, I wanted to stray. Though I had heard some faint whispers from my heart, I wanted to pretend that I hadn’t heard them.
You ask – so basically, you are trying to poetically say that you had many job offers?
I say – Oh yes, you can call them job offers. But they were not only that. They were not choices that I was going to make alone. They were choices that would have made me.
You ask – so you did not take up a job?
I say – That is not the point.
You ask – Then what’s the point because I am running late already.
I say – The point is that any job I would work in would also have worked on me. It would have made me LIKE the others who were doing those jobs. It would have a chemical effect on my brain – on how it is wired to take risks or avoid them. To compete or co-operate. To dominate or fly free. And all of that.
You seem to be listening….so I go on.
I say – So many of you think about doing something later; after some ‘experience’. After the ‘experience’ you won’t be the same person. Some of these experiences are designed to trap you – to blind you with light so bright that your starry eyes learn to see only that much. Like those horses with blinders who can only see the road, so all they do is pull the ghoda gaadi.
You say – Is this an old man’s tale or you have some model to justify this?
I say – Ah I forget! Truths need to be told to you in your language. So think of it from a systems perspective. Your choices are not single loop i.e. you make a choice and it ends. There is a second loop of how the choice affects you – and makes you a different person. And there is a third loop of how choice builds on choice, changes your surroundings and shifts your values to match those. And loop within loops, the outcome of a choice can’t be predicted as easily as you may want to believe
You say – Okay – so what does that mean for me?
I say – Yes yes, last slide. The takeaway. Your take away – here it is. Don’t kid yourself. If you want to take a leap of faith and go after your dreams – do it. Don’t wait. Any stories you tell yourself are your fears disguised. And there is a story of courage – the one with the heart. The foolish choice, that deeply calls out to you. The choice beyond all these distractions, these temptations.
Make that choice.
You say – but what if I don’t have such a choice? What if I have no clarity?
I say – then you are not still enough. You are a running hopping rabbit, your mind a turbulent sea. Slow down. Be silent. It is expensive, because there are so many other things clutching at your time.
Otherwise, you’ll suddenly die. And then regret postponing the search, the quest to what your heart truly calls you out to do.
You turn. You come and sit by the fire. And together, we gaze – into the flames and the starry sky in the background.
The author is a Gold Medalist and an alumnus of IIM Bangalore – Class of 2005. He contributed one of InsideIIM’s first stories in 2011. You can read other stories by Abhishek here.