Nowadays no project is complete without a 'lesson learnt' session. Project Managers make extra efforts in codifying the mistakes made and corrective steps taken before any project is closed out. The purpose is to present a full picture for historical purposes and more importantly to improve the way similar projects will be handled in future. But it is highly surprising that such an exercise seldom takes place in the most important project i.e.. our own lives. And if at all we attempt to do it, there remains atleast some lessons that we never learn. It is said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat the mistakes and that is exactly what most of us do. Let me make an attempt to list out the six vital lessons that we never learn from our lives, nor from those of our own forefathers.
Differences are Forever
We are different and our differences are forever. It is foolish to think of complete agreement in anything between any two people. Plurality, variety and compromise are more realistic than uniformity, consistency and consensus. Instead of wasting time whitewashing war scars and pushing dissent under the carpet, what needs to be done is to accept the differences and resort to co-existence & dialogue if necessary. Only those who can recognize the differences and manage them can succeed in the present day world. The ideal policy is the one propounded by Voltaire in his words "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it'. Democracy and dialogue have come to be accepted as the best forms of co-existence. All our political, social and economical differences will remain despite our best efforts. If something disappears it will invariably re-emerge in another form at another time. It is unrealistic to think that differences between religions and regions will ever disappear. Yet we never learn that our differences are forever.
Nothing Comes Free
We know it is impossible to get anything for free, yet we rush in whenever there is a discount sale at the nearby supermarket. The rules of trade are very clear from time immemorial. If a trader is selling at a loss he has a specific reason and definite plans to make it up in another way or another transaction. It would be foolish to assume that anybody is making a sacrifice and that too in trade. Every action has a reason behind it and traders have only the profit motive in their minds. It is rightly said that even charity is a trade where the balance sheet is not in dollars. And if such is the condition among dispensers of charity, how foolish are we in assuming traders to be benevolent. Everyone expects something in return for extending anything in kind or deed. Yet we never learn that nothing comes free.
Earn to Become Rich
No one has ever saved to become rich and you can only earn to become one. With the kind of income and expenses in the present day world, it is almost impossible to make a million out of our savings in one lifetime. All those who have become rich have only to thank a windfall (including inheritance) in their lives or a suspect transaction at some point in their growth. Of course many would refuse to admit it, especially the latter crowd who would present all sort of reasons to justify the 'extra' income which set them rolling on a lucky trail. Money begets more money and millionaire to multi-millionaire is always easier. All those who yearn to become millionaires should find a way to get the lucky break that would earn them that 'extra' money instead of struggling a lifetime trying to save from meager incomes. Yet we never learn that we cannot save to become rich.
Perfection is Illusion
A lot of people waste their life in search of perfection in what they do. Be it painting a picture or living a life, the end result is always a compromise. Nature has perfection in logic but we never find perfection in any of the natural monuments. We live in an imperfect world and struggling to be perfect is never productive but often counter productive. Those who yearn for perfection in what they do end up with unhappy results because very often they miss the target while concentrating on perfect means to reach them. In every aspect of life there are ideal ends and means. While ends do not justify all type of means it is acceptable if we can attain desired results by compromised means. Only thing to avoid is hurting others while in pursuit of one's own ends. Perfect means will never yield perfect ends. Yet we never learn that seeking perfections in all is mere illusion.
Value Money by Spending
Money has value only when you spend it. Even millions in your bank account can prove completely useless (and helpless) when you are in real trouble. Only those millionaires who can judiciously use money end up enjoying its value. But most of us (especially Indians) give undue importance to saving money than spending it. It is rumored that rescuers found diamonds & necklaces worth millions of rupees while searching for survivors among medium type houses in quake affected Bhuj. If only they had valued such kinds of money by building better houses, atleast a few of them could have survived to enjoy the richness. Saving is indeed a good habit. But developing judicious ways of spending is as much important, if not more. Only those who can excel in spending money can legitimately claim to be rich enough in our present day world. Yet we never learn how to value money by spending it.
Help Only When Asked
Helping others in distress is a humane act and there is hardly anyone who would shy away from it. But some of us make the profound mistake of extending help to those who do not need or seek it. In most cases, such unsolicited helps end up in great discomfort to the one who extended it. This is partly due to the high expectations on the part of the helped one who never asked for it. It is like waking up someone asleep and telling him that you are standing guard for him. It may be true that the environment is hostile and standing guard is a necessity, but the very fact that he was woken from sleep is enough to turn him against the benefactor. The situation is much more compounded when the helped one doesn't deserve it too. More often the result is worsening of relationship than in its warming up. Yet we never learn that only the deserved ones should be helped and that too when asked for.