I quit working full-time at the age of 48. Today, eight years later, I am possibly busier than I have ever been, but I have a lot more control over my time. A large part of this is thanks to some advice I was given way back in 2002—“Focus on the important things in life.”
I was driving in Bengaluru, with one of my mentors, M Chandrasekaran (more popularly known as ‘Shekar’). Something at work was bothering me and he knew that. He took out from his briefcase a small picture frame with an image of Lord Ganesh. He gave it to me and told me, “Luis, I know you are a Catholic. But keep this on your desk and whenever you are upset about something, look at this frame and remember what I am going to tell you—Focus on the important things in life.”
It has been 16 years and I have changed many desks. But that framed image is still on my desk.
I have told this story so many times since then. The main challenge people have is to figure out what is important for them. Once they’ve done so, life becomes simple. I have so many friends who have made much more money that I have, who hate their jobs, and who still stick on, while at the same time messing up their health and their personal lives.
They struggle finding out what is important to them. For someone it could be a career. For someone else it could be looking after elderly parents. For someone else it could be creating ‘me’ time. For me, in 2002, it was clearly my family, starting off with my two kids and wife. That was it.
The little framed image of Ganesh has given me huge peace of mind. Whenever I was hassled about something, I asked myself if that issue was really important to me—how does it impact my kids or wife? And if it did not, I did not get bothered by it. Be it an irate superior. Be it a deal gone bad. Be it bad weather. Be it a delayed flight. If it did not really impact my wife or kids, it wasn’t worth fretting over.
If we lost money on an investment and that loss did not impact my kids or wife, it wasn’t worth getting my blood pressure up. Or if my boss was acting like a jerk and that didn’t impact my wife or kids, it wasn’t worth worrying about.
Try it yourself. The peace of mind and clarity of thought that this brings is phenomenal. You no longer sweat the minor stuff. Decisions are much easier to make. Focusing on the important things in life helped me decide to quit full-time work—so that I could stay at home and traumatise our teenage kids before they headed off to college (something I think I did very well!).
It also helped me decide who I want to spend my time with. I don’t need to attend corporate galas just to clock in my presence. I don’t need to attend mindless meetings which serve no purpose. I use the very simple filter—is this really important for me?
So, go ahead. Figure out what is important for you. And then simply focus on that. Life will become very simple. And Shekar will be happy!