I’m at a crossroads. My mind and heart are at war. I’ve been working for the past three years but I’m becoming more and more disillusioned and unfulfilled in my life. Just like everybody else, I’ve been going through ups and downs and peaks and troughs, but the pull to walk away from it all is stronger than ever.
I see the business successes of those around me. My boss owns a multi-million pound business at the tender age of 29; colleagues I have previously worked with are now high-flying city bankers; and people I have grown up with are now earning hefty sums in healthcare. Like a lot of these individuals, I feel the pressure to earn a living not only to survive, but to be financially independent in order to enjoy life and support family. A few years ago I came across a book by Tim Ferriss about entrepreneurship and productivity called ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’. Ferriss describes how he re-prioritised his life to be able to earn money ultra-efficiently within four hours a week. Reading this shook up my world and changed my way of seeing financial freedom as something that I can achieve now, rather than aspire to in the future, freeing up my time to achieve success in other areas of life.
Society doesn’t promote this lifestyle (particularly the traditional Indian mindset that I have grown up around). It values an academic education, framed papers bearing your name and a traditionally white-collar career. Growing up from immigrant parents, there’s always been pressure to ‘succeed’ with your nine-to-five career. For years I doubted my skill set or ability to work hard and struggled with this idea, but over time I’ve come to realise that the struggle is because my values are not in line with society’s. Mark Twain says it better than I ever could, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect“. Upon reflection, I’ve decided that the achievements and successes I want from my life aren’t measurable and tangible in the same way as for others. My desires are to inspire individuals, to move people, and to help those who need it. It’s a cliché, but I’m beginning to realise that by being true to myself, following my passions and aiming for success in these endeavours, I will find success in every aspect of life.
Now I’m not some sort of do-gooder who lives in a bubble and doesn’t understand the intricacies of life. I am in my mid-twenties, have a degree, a regular paid job and lots of responsibilities. But if we take prominent Sikhs from history and look at how they lived and how they are revered – it’s not the grades at school or qualifications they gained that have made them timeless heroes. Bhai Maharaj Singh is remembered as being a revolutionary who led a movement against the British; Banda Singh Bahadur leaves a legacy of strength and character during the Khalsa Raj; without doubt these feats require intelligence, but not in the way we judge intellect and success today.
When speaking to my nearest and dearest, I was always told that I should work throughout my twenties to gain experience and get financial backing behind me. Looking back, I think my decision to follow this came from a place of fear. I finally feel like I have the strength and skill to get past these emotions. I’m nervous, but right now there’s something stirring and I’m truly excited. I’m on the cusp of embarking on some new adventures – I just need to keep on reminding myself that I have nothing to fear but fear itself… I have nothing to fear…