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THE BACK-UP PLAN

Let’s just be very clear about certain plans which by definition are only that one plan, there is no back up for those plans. Things go to plan or simply don’t. Good if they do; if they don’t, let’s come to terms with the fact that the mission has already been aborted, which gives us a clean slate to start over (again). Plans are aligned with goals, and therefore one needs to extend the interpretation of what has just been stated to the goals linked to those plans.

For everything else, there is (can be) a back-up plan. While this knowledge brings a great sense of relief when we start out and while we go about the plan, I would imagine that it does not bring out the potential we will have exhibited in the plans which have no back-up (the do-or-die ones).

Resilience is easier spoken about than grasped. Ask the young lady who married the man that wooed her believing the plan he proposed for their lives, being in shock seeing him chase other women and plans thereafter. Ask the parent who invested heavily in the education of their adolescent child that asked for support towards a dream career, only to realize the ward lost interest midway leaving all that investment actually sunk. Ask the person who lost all contacts and mails through a technological fiasco and simply didn’t know who to start with and where from. Ask the officer who risked and later lost his reputation endorsing a client/ candidate who needed the push to head towards a lofty dream that ceased to allure in gear. Ask a city going about business and life hit by an earthquake, a tsunami, a bomb blast, not knowing their bearings, surrounded by debris and clutter, further not knowing what to pick up and get on with in this thing called life and hopefully business. Shit happens indeed, but what is the back-up plan when such unforeseen contingencies take control of our lives?

Just what do we do? Clam up? Freeze and go quiet? Disconnect? Run away? Die?

I wrote the piece below five years ago and revisited the subject with more objectivity than feeling. Interestingly, I didn’t change much except for grammatical observations and one long line.

Of Breakdowns, Failure and Loss…

Let go.

Breakdowns are not so bad, in that they can crush us only as far as temporary setbacks. We anticipate them even when we start planning, tell ourselves they will occur and recur and break the plan every now and then. But their power is limited, hardly close to even remotely fatal. We recover, oh we surely do, sometimes sooner than the pace of the setback. We’d be blessed if we could treat them as silly disappointments for they are no more than that. They don’t determine or define anything conclusively. Don’t shed a tear nor keep record. Don’t even take them too seriously. Just fix them. Every time. And move on. Get on with it as if it never happened.

Failure is a mark, actually a scar – that will stay. Don’t forget it. For if we did, we would be losing out on the only good we could’ve derived from it (called erudition). Even if we forget, this is one thing others will remind us about. The failure… We don’t anticipate it when we commence whatever it is. It is one of the two outcomes of anything. In fact we work towards the opposite result, we work hoping for the contrary and when we end up standing on the loser plate (and we are also expected to accept defeat with grace and humility, perhaps even style…), what’s worse than the debacle is that we have to hold in the tears along with our broken pride. Only humans can do that! I would think that even God cries when He fails on account of our choices. And when we’re through the torment of failure and the aftermath, start afresh. Actually restart. Yes, they’ll call it rebound, but it’s better being called that way than actually remaining static for the rest of your life!

Loss is something that’s gone forever. It has truly gone. Tell yourself that, time and again… For there is a possibility of us holding on to the illusory version of that which was lost. We imagine the lost still exist in the ghosts of our mind. Memory is a dangerous thing trying to get over loss. We remember the vision, the sound, the touch and the smell of something that was, and the recall keeps us in a constant state of denial. It’s gone. Cry over it. Weep. And remember that we will never get over this. No matter what. There is no substitute for what has gone – no replacement in a person, thing or experience. There will be others, they are at best just that – others, and do not make up for what was lost. It will never return

(Added) So, let go, take a break if you need it, lose some time if you can afford it, and when you feel empowered with all that’s from within and outside of you, start again, come clean, face it, fight, run towards the plan (a new plan perhaps), soar and surge ahead.

Having worked with students extensively on their placements, having strived with my children for their internships, having supported random people and known associates in their pursuit for a better work fitment, having laboured at my own… I am convinced that one should never settle for less, not even for anything else; not in principle, not in reality. It’s a cardinal rule for living.

Story’s told about an eagle that was hatched from the egg by a hen and spent a while behaving like a hen even watching the mighty eagle fly high above the mountains; until it was faced with a storm that sent the other hens falling from the coop but this one braving the encounter and soaring above and beyond. This is not discontentment, this is not even arrogance; this is growing into one’s own.

I make the exception only if one needs to keep the till moving and/ needs to sacrifice so that someone else can reach theirs sooner (as I have learnt well) and therefore cannot afford to land the right fit (for a time). Notwithstanding that, be clear about your bearing and focused on getting there (it had better be a realistic goal, for some of us can well overrate ourselves), and keep reminding yourself and anyone that asks, that you’re not going to settle in and for anything less. Without doubt, there will be setbacks, there will be failures, there will be all kinds of odds in the way of getting there. The penchant for quality, the drive for perfection and harmony in the universe happen only when people rise to their calling.

I am not implying that there is a noble calling and an ignoble calling. Every calling is noble; else how would one explain for instance a prince renouncing power and opulence to pursue enlightenment… Never settle for less.

The best way to get something done is to begin. – Anonymous

I’ve been meaning to write on the subject for a while now (smiles…, see what I mean?) feeling ever so strongly about the consequences of doing nothing (more)/ not doing what’s required. I always ask questions starting with, “What if….?”, “What if all the great men and women of the world did not do the noteworthy things they did?” – Now that would be a hundred points against inertia. “What if all the dreaded men and women of the world did not do all those terrible things they did, or just waited on them?” – Clearly, ten points in favour of inertia. It therefore is in the context of doing good or wrong that inertia is good or bad. Now, ruling out all bad intent and consequence; and taking into account just the universe of good and good intent, and individuals that make this good happen; how ideal is inertia and its twin, procrastination? There is the obvious error in doing things wrong; there is also the error in not doing things that should be done; like the sin of omission, the prodigy of these twins.

One of my favourite tag lines of all time is “JUST DO IT” of Nike. Being a corporation primarily selling sports goods and services, I would imagine a philosophy about ‘actually getting to it’ being fundamental for anyone interested in sport. I can’t stress enough how much I believe in acting on things; there’s even a song I wrote called ‘Live The Dream’ with ‘make it happen’ being repeated like an echo. I do not agree with maintaining status quo where things need to be actioned upon.

In a quick shot let’s take a look at the definition of the words inertia and procrastination.

INERTIA

From the Physics textbook

Newton’s first law of motion – sometimes referred to as the law of inertia is often stated thus. An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. It is basically the same as Galileo’s explanation of inertia. The term for a push or a pull is force. Therefore, you can only change the velocity of an object if you place a force on the object.

(Amongst other things you wonder why Galileo and Newton thought about inertia…).

From the dictionary

Meaning 1 – a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

Meaning 2 – inactivity, inaction, inactiveness, inertness, passivity, apathy, malaise, stagnation, dullness, enervation, sluggishness, lethargy, languor, listlessness, torpor, torpidity, idleness, indolence, laziness, sloth, slothfulness

PROCRASTINATION

From the dictionary – the action of delaying or postponing something.

Disclaimer

At this point I’d like to make a disclaimer. This piece of writing does not apply to individuals that are comfortable with procrastination. I’m aware that it has become a way of life for many, to the extent that their intrinsic mode involves postponing/ delaying just about everything. The reverse perhaps annoys them and I understand that. It also does not apply to those that do not want to get anything done. I respect that some are like that.

For the rest, I sincerely hope that this will remind you of a problem that you are very cognizant of. It bothers me when I struggle.

IF IT IS A PROBLEM, IT HAS A SOLUTION

Let me list what should be the obvious remedy or framework for ruling out/ overcoming the jinx of inertia.

  1. Do you set goals to begin with? Are they organized or all over the place?

Interestingly the twin thieves not only put off those great things we could probably achieve, they find their way into routine and mundane things placing us behind ourselves. Therefore break the goals into two categories:-

A. Those connected with regular life like work at work, work at home, working out, consulting a doctor, getting on a diet, meeting certain people, praying, working on specific business opportunities, chores, updating your profile; basically all those things that go on the “to do” list;

B. Those big things, some that we dream about, like wanting to learn to play a musical instrument, a style of dance, swimming, flying a plane; wanting to make a film, write a song, pursue a challenge, study a new course, build a house, getting on that dissertation, starting a project, taking that decision, resigning from that job, applying for other jobs, speaking with him/ with her/ with your son or daughter, with your parent, with your boss; going on that holiday, getting married, having a baby, retiring, writing your will…

2. Break down the goals if required. Plan them out – resources, people and places.

3. Put them down in a calendar. Set deadlines.

4. Finally – Do it. Run them through to plan.

P.S: Keep time for doing nothing. Factor in reasonable delays and breakdowns, time for other things that will pop up and time for rest. If the goals and / timelines were unrealistic, revise them and follow course. Set some challenging (almost unrealistic) targets, simply for the reason that we do not know what we are capable of doing and might just surprise ourselves.

It’s bad enough if we lag and hamper our own destiny. It’s terrible when we are part of a team/ unit, where our contribution is a part of a whole or where others depend on our keeping a commitment. One cannot even excuse being a deterrent putting a stumbling block in the lives and paths of others.

NOT INSPIRED TO DO IT

Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing! — Donald Gardner

Creative people often justify not doing ‘work’ because they are not inspired. Without doubt there is an output which is the result of a creative burst that no routine energy can produce; however, how long will one wait not feeling that burst? And if we are waiting for it to drive us, would it not be better that we set a timeframe for this waiting? I believe that one possesses at any given point in time the creative potential required to do what one sets one’s mind on. In fact, in maintaining such a disposition (practicing creativity), the default mode over time becomes the creative mode and not the opposite.

NOT FEELING LIKE IT

A year from now you may wish you had started today. – Karen Lamb    

That we do not feel up to it is not unnatural and far from ridiculous. In many instances we will simply not be able to take the (next) step; not be able to make a change in motion. That unbalanced force (as per the definition), push or pull, just does not emerge to the rescue. Such inability is not necessarily lethargy or depression; it’s simply what it is – “I don’t feel like it”. Every time I start ‘feeling’ the “I don’t feel like it” heart/ mindset to the extent that it deters me from striving towards my goal; I tell myself that those feelings are not more important than what I set out to do in the first place; an extreme condition being waking up in the morning and not wanting to even get out of bed! I tell myself that it is costly in every sense to defer. We lose time!

Here are a few buzz words for when we continue to be in this state – Push yourself! Don’t sit on it. Don’t let things be. Do it. Just do it! Get it done. Get it out of the way!

PATIENCE IS NOT GOOD PROCRASTINATION

Successful people know the difference between patience and procrastination. – Anonymous

Some of those very things that we wait on for (better) results are things that we would do if we could do them/ if they were best done. They are not the things we should wait for. There are other things we will and must wait for. And just as procrastination is hard to deal with for what it affects, patience is harder to deal with for what requires it. One literally needs to fight impulsiveness in those cases just as we would fight inertia for the rest.

YOU DON’T HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

Procrastination is the thief of time. – Edward Young

While you’re putting away the inevitable, you’re running out of time. You’re going to look back some day with regret for what was not done when the time was right.

Conclusion: In writing this, one more thing is taken off my ‘to do’ list. And I’m now getting closer to my dream.

  1. Do all that you’ve wanted to do. Explore your talents and work on them. Aim big. Dream big. Have clear and well defined goals (in terms of what should be achieved, how and in what time) and dreams. Keep reading them loud, keep looking at them. Revise goals from time to time. Junk those that you were wrong about.
  2. You matter, you can make that difference. Be proactive. Be reactive only to the extent of being adaptive to your goal; else don’t bother.
  3. Know your friends, know your enemies; know those that will be willing to help and those that will not; engage accordingly. Tell keen people upfront if you’re not interested. Invest in people, this is both for yourself and to build those that you were meant to build. Remember that the most precious things in the world are people.
  4. Hedge yourself. Expect nothing when you help someone or give something.
  5. Be grateful, be happy (and content, not in a lacking-ambition-sense) with what you have, recognize what you have. Keep trying for what you do not have but that which you want, but do not attach a sense of discontentment or frustration not having those. Just be at it, relentlessly.
  6. Be reconciled with losses and failures. Forgive and let go. Remember the learning so you can apply it if it recurs. Apologize and make amends (if possible) if you have broken anyone.
  7. Keep a journal. Make organized notes of anything relevant. Clear the clutter from every part and space of your life.
  8. The words you speak have power, make sure they are worth it. You do not have to tell people what you do not want them to know.
  9. Even what is considered luck had some steps that you first took, take those steps. It’s called preparedness/ faith.
  10. Find alternate income sources. Don’t spend more than you are capable of borrowing. Don’t keep liabilities which grow more than your assets.
  11. Eat what’s good for you. Stay active and fit. Play hard. Do things that make you laugh, things you enjoy and things that give you rest. Sleep enough. Don’t work more than you need to.
  12. Set aside time for family and friends, for yourself and for God.
  13. Do not procrastinate. Do not waste time unless you have planned to not keep a tab on some time.
  14. Don’t get into habits, vices or relationships that control you or give you a sense of regret.
  15. People’s opinion of you does not define you, not even public opinion of you. Don’t apologize for your personality. Carry yourself with pride. Have a positive outlook and an attitude that helps yourself and others.
  16. Know that death can happen at any time. Be prepared to meet God and live every moment fully, always connected to God to whom you will return.

Rest

God rested after He worked.

There’s no way we cannot rest.

Rest is needed for healing, restoration, recuperation and revival. A whole lot of things at work become productive after that time of rest when we approach work again. Some things will have been forgotten. Some other things resurge fresher than ever. Some things find resolution. Some things self-resolve. Working continuously without rest and forcing one’s self to work thus can sometimes be counter-productive and eventually fatal.

Rest needs to be total, wholesome and complete. And work no less – total, wholesome and complete. Doing either half-heartedly, we could end up being causal while we work and being busy while we rest.

The body needs rest, the mind needs rest, the heart needs rest, and the psyche needs rest… The soul rests at death, but even otherwise, the soul benefits from all else forming the whole of us observing that God/ nature prescribed time of rest.

Rest is not necessarily sleep, although sound sleep is rest. Rest is certainly inaction, it is being utmost passive, alternatively earnest and active about being passive. Where most people rest with God in prayer, doing things with God, or doing things for God; as long as the person is still ‘doing’ something, it is not rest. Similarly, play or a break from work doing fun things/ taking a vacation is still not rest, if the person does not actually rest.

If you’ve been through surgery, you will remember a period post-surgery when you were forced to rest and when you actually rested. That was rest. God/ nature sometimes forces such rest on us through a system shutdown/ collapse, a system overworked, a system subjected to abuse through the deprivation of rest.

The ratio is one unit of time of rest for every six units of time worked.

Now think about your rest and the rest will follow. Needless to say, one should not feel guilty about taking this rest. The world will carry on albeit. You just wake up so much the better after that much required rest.

When a customer comes to you for customer service, it is by virtue of the ongoing value which was promised to the customer when (s)he put down his/ her money to buy what you had to sell, and when (s)he chose your product or service over a competitor’s.

If you do not have customer service, do not promote the same during sale so that the prospect customer can make an informed decision; do not have a counter or contact number which says “Customer Service”, if it is namesake.

When a customer approaches you with a concern/ grievance, it is not your understanding that (s)he needs, but a solution. If you have none, say that you have none rather than that you understand. Once again, the customer did not pay for your understanding/ empathy, but for the ongoing value perceived at the time of purchase. Take away that line from Customer Service. It is not about understanding, it is about service and solutions. Needless to say that the lack of alignment between the department that sold and the department that manages aftersales, is not the customer’s problem. Needless to say again, sellers must sell good products and manufacturers must manufacture good products!

Companies should be rated not for ‘managing’ their customer service well (in some instances manipulating customers), but for actually addressing and resolving issues connected with the product or service sold.

Those working in Customer Service, are you championing the cause of your employer or your customer? Both! It is not a virtual reality that both the seller and the buyer are aspiring for the best; and it is in both their interests being adequately/ delightfully met, that the sale/ purchase is a true win-win.

Every seller these days has a User Agreement. Some of them are asked to be agreed to prior to accepting the product or service. If this hasn’t been done, nor a disclaimer mentioned during every interaction made with the customer, the seller cannot claim and advocate the terms of the user agreement displayed on their website or on a wall in their store!

Where the philosophy of sales challenges sellers to seek the customers’ delight, one really needs to ensure the amount of regret (instead) minimized; regret of investment, of time and of effort. Good old marketing theory held that ‘Customer is King’. Even if customers may not be treated as royalty (and hats off to those that try), they ought not to be treated as pawns. Remember, they had a choice and they chose your product or service; they chose your brand; they chose you.

One ought to make the most of social media for one’s own benefit and set of objectives. The danger lies in being sold to it and often times not even realizing how much it’s taken/ is taking from us.

Disclaimer: In reading this, although you may disagree entirely or agree partly, it is almost certain that if you have not as yet spent a few minutes thinking about this subject, through this brief discernment, you will embark on a process that will perhaps help clear much clutter from your life, enabling you to realize that when a day had 24 hours, it had enough time for just about everything.

THE BIG QUESTION – Why social media? What is the objective for an individual using it? How much of it is needed? Does it not need to be avoided in many circumstances?

TIME – How much time needs to be spent/ invested on it? How much time in a day/ week/ month/ year is spent on social media, both personally and professionally? Is it truly time well spent? The likes, shares, comments, messages, endorsements et al, received and given… what gratification do they amount to?

PEOPLE – Who is one involving with on social media? Do these people really matter? On a professional note, is time spent on a virtual network truly beneficial in translating to business?

PERCEPTION – Does it not matter how one is perceived on the network? Does it not need to be more defined in terms of who is being targeted? Does it not need to be more specific in terms of what goes up and what doesn’t? Isn’t so much simply better being aborted or not initiated in the first place?

TRADITIONAL MEDIA NOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA – It’s interesting to see that TV cannot reach its TG on TV, nor radio on radio; as they used to prior to the social media boom; amongst other things we now find TV and radio on these as well.

My thoughts…

On the Professional Network

It is an investment of time and effort to enhance visibility to the world at large, hoped to lead to benefit in:-

  • Profitability in one’s own business
  • Making a worldwide declaration about an opportunity
  • A better career prospect
  • Widening one’s network
  • Being a voice, sharing knowledge

How long will one be at it not experiencing any of the perceived results?

If one does attain some of the anticipated result, does the lack of fruition of the rest of the time and effort justify the results obtained? Notwithstanding this, is there no upper limit in terms of how much time is worth it?

Does one ever retire from the network? Should there not be some kind of a timeline in mind to achieve certain goals and exit thereafter?

On Other Networks

It is an expense of time and effort for the following reasons:-

  • To see what’s trending
  • To post information that you would like friends, family and a real network to know
  • To expand one’s circle of friends to a whole lot of fictitious friends/ one’s network to a virtual network, and keep them also posted about things that are conveyed to friends and family
  • To vent/ express/ educate the world. How much should we actually reveal about ourselves, our status, our thoughts and what’s going on in our lives? Often times although we are specific in our response being sent to a certain person, our intention is that everyone and not just the recipient should know. Do we really want people to perceive us as our responses convey or would we prefer not to be as known? An alcoholic wakes up in the morning hung over and regretting things expressed when tripping. Do we have second thoughts about anything posted?
  • A place to be at when one feels lonely (this is a truly sorry state for anyone to be in…)
  • A place where one gets attention and can call for attention
  • To publicize anything for benefit/ popularity
  • Engaging with people one doesn’t know – Is this reasonable by any standard?
  • One is simply hooked on to it and cannot resist the urge to keep checking/ keep posting for any or all of the above reasons (this is akin to any addiction replete with withdrawal symptoms, and one needs to be delivered/ freed from such a fixation, no less a vice; no wonder it is referred to as ‘social media detox’, the bigger picture being media detox)

How long will one be at it seeing that in effect, much of it is wasted time, in the larger context of applying time judiciously?

In conclusion…

Do we not have other meaningful pursuits that could do so much better with our time, or for that matter, individuals in our lives that we could actually spend/ invest our precious time with? Parents poking at their phones when the family is out for a meal. He and she staring at the phone when they are sitting beside each other, what on earth for! Children playing games on screens when they should be out in the field kicking a ball, swimming, dancing, drawing, singing, playing a musical instrument or sitting with friends and having a conversation ex-gadgets. While the transcending generation is adapting quickly to the change in media culture forsaking a state, pace and ethos that they were accustomed to; the concern is about the emerging generation that only knows this state of being once the parental filter is lifted. Only a breakdown will take them to a premise without, and the cold turkey we are referring to is something we can barely imagine…

 

Education of the future will be determined by the present age’s objective of education.

  1. Raising more species of the educated

I believe that the education of the future needs to raise inventors, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, reformers, evangelists, leaders and philosophers over and above the doctors, scientists, consultants, advocates, manufacturers, engineers, managers, experts and skilled workers in ancillary services in various domains that the system is churning out at present.

  1. Developing more experts

We have heard it said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing…” The world of work benefits more from people who know more, and who have gone the extra mile in the pursuit of knowledge. Not jacks of all traits, but masters. Not learning just towards exams but learning towards attaining knowledge in the field of study. I am not suggesting that in this age of e-books, people should save knowledge in their brains, but rather study deep and know the reference for use in the future. In any field of work, when a person aims at being an expert, the bar is already raised from the otherwise accepted average. Every field of work is evolving and has scope beyond what has already been unearthed.

  1. A widespread choice of subjects

Subject choices need to be a rich spread, relevant to the present times and as envisioned for the future. Both in school and college, students should be able to combine varied subjects of interest in their major and minor specializations. Forced feed is the worst thing that an education system can do to a student.

  1. How irrelevant are hobbies in the larger scheme of education?

How often have we seen people have an education in one thing and eventually pursue something else? How often do we see people with strong hobbies that are kept on the side and sometimes even neglected, when the very same subject/ field of work will be a mainstream professional choice for others with half that talent? Should the system not allow the individual to pursue a hobby seriously? At least not cause an individual to give up a hobby on account of making an alternate professional choice for whatever reason.

  1. Turning out an educated class that will be able to make their study financially viable

If making money was so important in adult life, why is it that we do not have a well purported course in school and college where the growing mind is taught the nuances of making money? Why do we leave it to graduates to figure out their living when the system barely provides them jobs after years of purported study?

  1. Ensuring connectivity with the universe of application

Education needs to be connected with the world of application. Perhaps the universe of application has much less to offer than what the education system turns out. In which case, entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged by the government and financial organizations (tax exemption until a certain level of profitability is attained, subsidies, banks providing more effective funding for projects and businesses, etc.). Entrepreneurship also needs to be taught in school. We need hundreds of thousands more of business organizations in every sector of industry and commerce than we now have, in order to make sense of what the education system is working so hard to produce!

  1. Understanding that technological advancement is not the objective of education

That people should be abreast of their times technologically, goes without saying; but that is never the goal of education. Why do we confuse technology and education? When one is a means and the other the end? If we are moving towards our objective, then reaching there by more efficient means is certainly commendable, but the focus is first on well-established goals. When we want to travel from Southampton to New York, we have the option of taking an aeroplane from the nearest airport or a Titanic that would actually get us to New York. The point of the matter is that the objective was always moving from one point to another, not moving by one means instead of another (that can at best be only secondary!).

  1. Giving art its due

We have done fairly well with sports I should think, but what about art? If the adult world is so full of art and entertainment, art should cost more to make it viable for artists to pursue what they are intrinsically good at. What will have happened if a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did not play the piano or a Vincent Van Gogh did not paint? That these geniuses lived in poverty was the bane of their times and this essentially needs to be rectified in the present age, lest art fades away. It is shameful that an artist has to be ashamed of a natural skill par excellence and live in denial doing something different from a calling in order to make a living. Do we even consider what the universe is missing out on the omission of so much output such as this and which could be monetized through a well-evolved system? What will the world of music be like if Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” was never heard? I am only referring to good art, not mediocre art. One cannot make a career out of art that’s mediocre.

  1. Developing responsible citizens

Seeing as children spend more of their time in their places of study than they do in their homes, much of what was previously formed by thoroughbred parenting needs now to be synthesized in the place of learning. This does not convey that the system of education substitutes for parenting, but given the circumstances, it most definitely needs to compensate for the deficiency to enable a wholesome education.

Social consciousness, global awareness, the individual’s responsibility to the State in terms of paying dues and taxes and treating with care what belongs to the State, respect for life, the essence of duty and hard work, the importance of family life, sex education (the significance of sex after and not before marriage), moral education, religious tolerance, the role of prayer and a disciplined life, eating healthy, teaching on vices, the work-play balance/ work-home balance/ social-home balance, the value of network, time management, the concept of thrift, an understanding of abnormal behavior, personality development and student counsel, and such facets integral to adult life are often not impressed upon the growing-learning mind. Not meaning to impose all or any of these, the student should have at least been introduced to them all. In many ways, redefining the objective of education will essentially mean moving back in time, where the reformation of humankind brought about certain precepts that were well-ingrained in individuals, and most certainly in educated individuals.

  1. Education should cost no more than a basic necessity

We know that there are different kinds of education – ### league, international, residential, local, basic – just so may variants. Regardless of which kind, any educational entity must essentially cover all the points mentioned earlier.

Who are the stakeholders in the education system?

  • Students for whom the system exists in the first place
  • Parents/ guardians/ benefactors that pay for the education
  • The education provider rendering a service for a price with an explicit profit motive or with no profit motive; or rendering the service free of cost
  • The educators, teachers, professors, managers and facilitators that run the enterprise
  • The stakeholders/ investors, if the education provider is one for profit

If the ones paying for the service reach a position where they cannot afford the service anymore due to the escalation of price, the larger eco system of the government and corporate organizations (through the wing of corporate social responsibility) have to intervene to bring about stability through whatever support they can offer the institutions that need to invest much to possess a certain infrastructure and faculty composition meeting well-set benchmarks. This however will not resolve the price problem per se, for the market itself will have to respond with more educational institutions springing up, where by the economies will come in play and price will be stabilized. Essential commodities and services of good quality certainly don’t need to be cheap, but they don’t need to be unaffordable either. And education is rudimentary.

The writer is one who was sent to a boarding school at the age of four with the objective of being provided a world class education. Her journey with education and work is a rarity and therefore not worth elucidating, but she is extremely passionate about the education system and more importantly that individuals arrive at their true calling and optimal potential, enriching themselves and society at large. But the story in parallel of her children in which she has invested almost all of her earnings is a showcase thus far. Her son was only interested in Sports, History and English Literature all through his schooling. He had decided at the age of thirteen that he wanted to pursue Sports Journalism, and that is what he is doing now in his Bachelor’s Degree, although he is considering applying himself to broadcasting, beyond writing, in a sports media company. Her daughter was interested in too many things all through her schooling and was an above average scholar and performer. After joining university she discovered she had a serious gift in drawing and writing. She has therefore made these choices in her Bachelor’s Degree:- Major – Business Administration, Focus – Marketing and Minor – Education. Her subjects include Drawing and Children’s Literature! She is more likely to be an entrepreneur.

The future of the world is the future of all the people that will live in the world and who will leave a legacy when they pass over. – Swapna Abraham

Three months to Christmas and all the retail stores start preparing for the bumper season of the year. A month to Christmas and the radio stations start playing carols and running competitions, choirs start their practice, some others, the nativity play rehearsals. Twelve days to Christmas and we start adorning our homes with the tree, crib and decorations – red, green and gold, not to miss the star! For those that started from Advent, a pilgrim’s progress for 24 days; then again, is the journey towards just the commemoration of the birth of Jesus or towards the mission of Jesus? A mission that is ongoing and still to be completed; a mission in which we all/ each have a part as His disciples working with Him; a mission at the end of which even we will be subject to judgement.

How we love Christmas! The temperature is different. The sounds are different. It’s almost as if magic fills the air. Families unite, relish elaborate meals, feast on cake and wine, and all the paraphernalia that go with it – holly, mistletoe, candles, fireworks and festivities. Calendars purged with parties. Children wait with baited breath for the arrival of Santa, waking up to presents beneath the tree. At Midnight Mass we remember the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, even King Herod, Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus, a manger in cold wintry Bethlehem, the Son of God born in a stable amidst cattle and straw and the star looming over it. Heaven’s choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.” – Luke 2:14. Christmas, as we know it, was only the start of this colossal mission of Jesus. However, during His life on the earth, He made negligible reference to it, while in fact, He kept reminding His disciples and even the crowds at large, time and again, about His second coming, about fifteen times! “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.” – Matthew 16:27.

Have I just spoiled all that was merry about Christmas by trying to put things in perspective?

For in truth, the mission of the Son of God was/ is twofold. Where His first coming was to save humanity from sin and death (God’s reparation of what went wrong in the Garden of Eden), the second will be to judge the very same humanity to eternal life or separation from God in hell. Both, through the same Christ.

Christmas brought the all holy God to sinful man, to live amongst man and to save man. Reminding man of all that the prophets spoke about, and which God Himself uttered from time to time, revealing the heart and will of God as only God could’ve done. We see this in the very name of Jesus – “The name Jesus which means He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:20. We see this when the angel quotes Isaiah’s prophecy when he speaks to Joseph, “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

And thus, through Christmas, the mission of Jesus started.

I can’t help but recall the facets and magic of the Christmas that really was. Christmas as God and His angels and all of heaven chose.

God chose poverty – He was King of Kings. He was the only begotten Son of God. He was Lord of heaven and earth. He made heaven and earth! There is nothing that came to be, that was made without Him. And yet, when it was time for His salvific mission on the earth, He chose the lowliest, humblest and poorest circumstance. He chose a place that was not even on the world map! “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” – Matthew 2:6. Just as He owned no place where He could be buried (thanks to Joseph of Arimathea, He had a tomb where He was laid), He had no place for His birth (again, thanks to the inn keeper’s wife, His parents were led to a stable where their child could be born). He who made everything possessed nothing. Let me repeat that. He who made everything possessed nothing, but lacked nothing either!

We know of tales of the monk who sold his Ferrari, the prince who renounced power and opulence in pursuit of enlightenment. Surely we admire such courage and mettle displayed by mortals… But how long are we going to merely look up to those that set an example knowing fully well that we have as much a choice as they had? And what do we choose? What matters to us? At most perhaps for a season, we choose penance and fasting; only to gorge once that’s through. Would we allow our children to make such a choice, if they felt drawn to it? Gone are the days when people from the affluent nations went to the poorer ones carrying the good news of salvation, with not a care about their lives, solely driven by the mission God placed in their hearts! Our Jesus whose birth we celebrate with pomp and splendour, wouldn’t He expect better from us, setting out into the world as He did?

God chose to reveal His coming to the lowest of the least – Of all the people that lived at the time, it was to certain shepherds that the angel appeared with news of the Saviour’s birth followed by the acclamation by heaven’s choir.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14.

Jesus said something on the same lines, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” – Matthew 11:25. In a world where the famous and great, elite and successful are the lauded VIPs, we see God honouring the inconspicuous and meek. We don’t need to introspect too deep to discover those we eulogize, those that come to mind when we want to announce something of importance. It is one thing revering such as these, it is another disregarding those that God approves.

One cannot overlook the fact that these shepherds were not sleeping but watching over their flock at night. In the light of what Jesus said about His second coming, these shepherds pretty much seemed all set for the first! “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when He comes. I tell you the truth, He will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if He comes in the second or third watch of the night.” – Luke 12:37-38

God’s coming was heralded by praise and worship – While there are a million things that separate the sons of men, let us recognize that praise and worship unites, not just men the world over, but earth and heaven as well. The language of praise and worship is our native tongue. Let us remember, “But our citizenship is in heaven.” – Philippians 3:20. It is from there that we came and there that we will return one day. Christmas reminds us of our identity and our eternal activity. Let us praise and worship God at all times and whenever and opportunity presents itself. In doing so, we show ourselves to be God’s children.

God announced peace on earth – Until the coming of Jesus, God made no wish of peace to man. Man has/ had no peace in sin. But the coming of the Saviour brought peace for the very reason that He brought redemption from sin. It was through Jesus that God made peace with man. Isaiah prophesied, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5. Jesus Himself wished peace on two occasions. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”” – John 20:18. The second greeting was after His resurrection, after the price for that peace was paid in full. And this peace that we have received from God, let us share with one another, as we see Paul do in 1 Corinthians 1:3, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

God chose to reveal Himself to those that sought Him – The Magi knew that a great King was about to be born. They were cognizant of the universe’s response to something most magnificent that was about to happen in the history of kings that the world had ever known. They prepared themselves with gifts to greet this great King, and in faith traversed miles to find Him. And lo! They did find Him. In Jeremiah 29:13 He says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Here’s more – “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6. And again – “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him, if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Deuteronomy 4:29. If there is one thing we will take from our learning and experience of Christmas, it is the Lord Himself. And if we truly find Him and make life all about Him, we will start to be the ambassadors of Christ as Paul says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20. So much about seeking the Lord. Here’s a word about preparation – what are we preparing for every Christmas? Preparing to celebrate His birth? Well and good. However the preparation required is for what He wanted accomplished through His birth and beyond, for His second coming.

As the angels came to rescue Lot and his lot before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, as God Himself sheltered Noah and his family before the flood, may our preparation for and experience of Christmas and Christ bring us in God’s favour now and when Christ shall come again.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas…