What will they think…Do it my way
One of the most challenging social issues that people face is handling the worry of what others feel about them. ‘Others’ can be neighbours, classmates, friends, family, enemies – in fact, anyone we know of. This is what cramps us in every thing we do. A lot of our time is spent on worrying about what others will think about anything we do.
I will be lying if I say that this has not vexed my mind on many an occasion. In fact, a lot of what we do in our day to day lives is controlled by our fears of what others will think or our desire to make others think in a particular way about us. A friend , during our younger days, had the habit of buying loads of shirts. One day, when he was showing us the shirts he bought we asked him how it mattered if we liked it or not as he had bought it because he liked it and he was going to wear it. He then replied, ‘It’s also important that people who see it like it”. This stuck in my mind and has never left. In my life, the only people who needed to like what I wore were my wife and children and most importantly ME !
A few years ago a friend of mine was going through a very difficult period as the family business had run into rough weather. Going across state borders by air was turning out to be expensive and not economical for the business he was running. I gently asked him why he did not consider the train or the wonderful buses we had nowadays? He hesitated in his reply. I understood. I said, ‘ Listen, it doesn’t matter what people say about your mode of transport or that you are financially strained. You are paying for the ticket and you are working to put bread on the table – screw what others think. It doesn’t matter’. I’m glad he listened.
In a very important stage of my life, when I had to make a decision that was going to be a life changer and could end up upsetting my mother and siblings, I was tired of the confusion that was created, the multiple views and pressures. Seeing me almost break down and give up on what I really wanted, my mentor in my first company sat me down. He asked me one question – Make a choice. Do you want to be happy yourself or do you want to do what others will feel happy about? If you do what you want, you spend the rest of your life happy in the thought that you did your thing. Else, you will always wonder what you missed out on. You will be in the news, for doing your own thing, for a maximum of two weeks – then you are history. The Choice is yours.
This is applicable today but the only difference is that you will be in the news for a maximum of seventy two hours, at the most. Beyond that, its old news.
I have been lucky that I have lived with my family, away from my siblings or parent. I have never asked permission from anyone outside my own family about anything I did. No one came forward to advise me and I never asked. I was never obliged to anyone outside my mother and my own three girls. However, being obliged to my mother did not mean that I did what she wanted if it did not go down well with me. What she or my siblings thought of my actions did not alter what I did. Why should it? I listened to the small silent voice inside me whenever I did something. I’m not saying do not listen to parents or elders, just that, your life cannot be dictated by them.
My wife and I had a set of rules on how we lived. Oftentimes we had differences when I wanted to buy a new car, an upgrade from what we had as she felt we were being ostentatious. Eventually, we realised that it was our money and our choice. It is a typical Indian middle class ( where we come from) problem. What will others think? I heard once that the second Chairman of Infosys was very uncomfortable moving from a Toyota Corolla to a Mercedes Benz, when he had enough money to buy a fleet of such cars. It was that typical middle class thing…of course he is now not in the middle class, but it worried him when he was there.
Successful people do what they think is the Right Thing to Do. While we do not have to cock a snook at society, we should not be hemmed in by unreasonable and downright selfish ‘rules’ of behaviour. If we spend all our lives doing things to make others happy and ensure that others do not think badly about us, we will, in the end, be the most unhappy people on earth.
We must teach our family, friends and colleagues to do the Right Thing. It is very difficult as peer pressure in today’s world exacts a massive toll on youngsters. We want to be IN with our peers. It’s a tough call that kids and youngsters in general and often older folk like me have to take. Today, while i struggle to keep my company afloat and work on plans that will need patience to fructify, I am faced with the dilemma of what others think. People talk – they talk more ill about you than good. Avoid those who come and tell you what others say. They do not do it for your good. They do it to hear your response and take it back to someone else. Don’t get into that trap.
The same people who rubbished you when you are down will clap when you climb up. Simple as that. In my current struggles I tell people what my real situation is, how much I am struggling to cope, how tough it is and that I am trying hard to survive. It is the truth. What can anyone say to the truth? How does it matter what others think or say, when you are living the truth?
To end, I guess, it’s not strange that my favourite song of all time is Frank Sinatra’s – My Way. When we organised a show by Usha Uthup in our club in Whitefield, I had asked for this song. She sang it beautifully and when it was over someone asked for another song – she replied – what can be better than “My Way” to end the evening. My take is – I’ve done it my way, and if it displeased others, tough.
On a professional front, one must realise that Companies take ” What will they think ” – very seriously. Why else do they hire Public Relations (PR) Agencies? Perception Management. I have mixed thoughts on this as I know that there are people who try to seriously damage Companies by throwing mud at them and these companies need defending, but I am not too sure of it’s honesty when perceptions are changed by clever management. This is a different subject I will dwell on in another Blog.
( I do hope you gain something from what are my experiences and thoughts. Doing it my way sounds easy, it’s not really so but just stick to it. If my tone appears cocky, I’m sorry, it wasn’t meant to appear so. Cheers)