Rohit Malekar

July 31, 2021

The Irony of "I"

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Ever since we are born, we are wrapped in layers of labels to identify ourselves.  My name, my roots, my family, I am good enough at this, I am not good enough for that, my purpose...the list is endless.

Most Eastern philosophies suggest that one has to leave behind the many labels we create for ourselves to see the world as is. Trying to dissolve my identity has been one of the hardest mental exercise I have ever attempted. 

Every slice of your ego you dissolve will give back compounding returns for the rest of your life. 

I am sharing below two practical aspects related to one's career. However ironical it may seem, every time I have succeeded in diminishing my identity and ego, I have found myself better off at work on these topics.

Career Goals — Finding a meaningful purpose at work requires the removal of “me”, “myself”, and “I” from the search

नेति नेति (Neti Neti) is a Sanskrit expression that means “neither this nor that”. It is an analytical meditation to help understand the nature of reality by understanding what is not real. Like we disregard the sensations within a dream as unreal, the sages of Upanishads discarded everything that was in a constant process of change as unreal. When you dig into your personality deeper, you find layers of perceptions, thoughts, emotions, drives, and memories. The sages found that none of this is permanent — moods, desires, and opinions change with time. 

In their search for a constant, they defined what was left — the intense awareness beyond time and change in their practice of meditation — as the ultimate reality.

Similarly, a ceaseless chase for that next promotion, a lucrative hike, or that elusive role is an ever-changing goal post. It is almost near to impossible to discover a satisfying purpose in a self-gratifying pursuit of these milestones. Whereas, one enduring element throughout your career is how you join hands with people with whom you work with. 

Once you pass over the material pursuit, defining your purpose is no longer a “fact-finding” mission. You will organically discover your purpose as a by-product of the experience of truly bonding with your work habitat. Personally, the time I spend to discover, define, and build a culture at work that we all can be proud of is the time when I am least distracted.

Personal Leadership — The ability to see yourself in others is the most effective means to resolve conflicts

तत्त्वमसि (Tat Tvam Asi) is another Sanskrit phrase that can be translated as “You are That”. The sages of the Upanishads who discovered the core consciousness described above named it the Atman. They also observed a similar phenomenon of constant change in the physical world around them. Instead of a world made of solid objects, they saw matter constantly coming together and separating again to change form. 

In their pursuit of finding an invariant, they defined an indivisible changeless reality underneath all things physical as the Brahman. Through their meditation, the sages discovered unity — the indivisible reality without us (Brahman) and within us (Atman) as one and the same. 

Thus, the multiplicity of all things living and material is rendered merely as an illusion.

In fact, the underlying cause for any conflict has its roots in the notion that your existence (along with your perceptions, opinions, and conclusions) is distinct and special than anyone else’s. Work conflicts are best resolved by setting aside the debate on choices and spending time understanding each other’s underlying principles behind those decisions.

You would be surprised how many times you would discover that underneath the superficial differences in our choices often lies a shared objective for the desired result. Stephen Covey defines this as Habit 5, seek first to understand, then to be understood, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

(PC: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)