Incredible India: P.S. (Top 10 Lessons Learned)

When I took off from the Singapore Changi airport bound for my Indian adventure, by a strange coincidence one of my favourite movies was on in the aircraft. This was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The idea of the movie is that travelling and adventure are great teachers.

So it was for me during the 24 days spent in the marvelous Southern India. In addition to diverse and splendid sceneries seen, and to fantastic people met on the way, I was constantly confronted with life-learning situations. Here is the list of my top 10 that India had taught me.

  1. Don’t plan too much.
  2. Let your goals be indicators on the way, not “must-achieve-by-all-means” destinations.
  3. Trust the Universe. Everything is OK in the end.
  4. Be open and friendly. Openness attracts beautiful people and situations.
  5. Be a ‘yesman’ (yeswoman). Be open for new experiences.
  6. Be here and now. Life is a wonderful gift.
  7. Be flexible.
  8. Be tolerant.
  9. Smile.
  10. Relax.

Wish everyone find his lessons in incredible India!

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Highways and Country Roads – Speed vs. Life

I like to compare life with road.

Both roads and our lives have ups and downs, straight lines and curves, hidden turns and surprising landscapes, new experiences and fellow passengers on the way.

Indeed, life is a highway.

Yet roads can be different. Some roads are first-class super fast motorways, others are more modest country roads.

While highways have a definite speed advantage, there’s not much you can see there. The best things happen on smaller country roads passing through hidden towns and valleys, the roads that connect people and destinies.

If you happen to travel by car or bicycle, or any another vehicle you drive yourself, take a moment and get off the motorway for the sake of a smaller local road. The longer – at first sight – route will bring many surprises that cannot be noticed at 70 mph on the highway.

After all, the shortest way is not always the fastest one.

Long Road

Per Aspera Ad Astra

This widespread Latin expression literally means “A rough road leads to the stars” or “To the stars through difficulties”. To rephrase,  there are no victories without battles. Or, to put it more simply – no pain, no gain.

Recently I had a discussion with a friend of mine on my post “I’m not an idiot – I am a dreamer!” which talked about the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. In that post I portrayed the film’s main character Walter Mitty as an example of a man who finds power and courage to take the responsibility and change his grey life into a bright adventure. In contrast, my friend suggested that Forrest Gump – another famous film character – was much more responsible, brave and adventurous than Walter Mitty. Such comparison led me to a few interesting thoughts.

I partially agree with my friend’s opinion. Indeed, Forrest Gump displays determination and courage in many situations, like saving his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War, or standing up for the love of his life when she got slapped, for instance. However, Walter Mitty also decides to perform a deed at some moment, and does so, and changes his life drastically. There is yet a more important difference between the two characters.

It is true that Gump makes amazing achievements, like doing a trans-American marathon or building up a super-profitable shrimp company out of nothing. Still, this seems to be easy for him, while Mitty strains himself and walks on the “road of thorns” towards progress. Forrest Gump is naturally endowed with such qualities as perseverance, determination, etc. On the other hand, his attitude is somewhat ‘automatic’, meaning he just keeps running in his life (“Run, Forrest, run!”). Perhaps this came from his childhood when he had to run away from bullies; since that he keeps running and achieves amazing goals, but without really being aware what is happening. In comparison, Walter Mitty makes conscious efforts to make a change. AWARENESS AND CONSCIOUS SELF-IMPROVEMENT – this is what really distinguishes a dreamer and truth-seeker Mitty from a noble “running man” Forrest Gump.

By the way, the background song that comes up several times in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. This song matches perfectly the film’s idea as it is also about the need to venture out for the unknown. I truly believe absolutely everyone can take up this attitude, not just the movie heroes. For a start, simply taking a different route from home to work can be a discovery. Anyone can find the unusual in his life if he looks for it.

I’m Not an Idiot – I’m a Dreamer!

A few days ago I watched a beautiful movie called “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. The main idea is very deep. It’s about a tragedy of human life when everything goes wrong, and we retreat to our comfort zone (even if it’s only in our heads), from where we are so afraid to get out and back into the world. But this is also a movie about dreamers.

Walter Mitty is a man of great potential, brave heart and talent. He is simply scared to give himself a chance to put his great ideas into life, and drowns in his bright yet crazy fantasies. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a film about the first and most important step, about an event that pushes us to overcome ourselves and perform heroic deeds.

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I think many can draw a parallel between Walter Mitty’s life and his or her own.

If every second of your life is filled with sense and action, this film and post are not for you. Rather, it addresses those who think their lives lack brightness and who are stuck in everyday routine and chores. Walter Mitty sets a vivid example of how to turn “from a caterpillar into a butterfly”.

Action is indispensable. Only action brings true knowledge and moves you towards your goals and dreams. However, the very first step is to have a Dream.

They say one can tell a lot about a person by observing his friends. Others say you can understand someone by looking into the books he or she reads. Likewise you would learn a great deal about someone if you could know his dreams.

Take a few seconds to to address a simple question:

What is my biggest dream? Or, what are my biggest dreams?

If you can answer these instantly, congratulations! You have a direction, at least in your mind, where you want to go. A true Dream has noting to do with day-dreaming. Day-dreaming is an idle wasting of time that could be used for action. A real dream is like a vision where you want to stand after taking the road.

I believe once we know what ours dreams are, with hard-work, perseverance, discipline and patience, we are doomed to reach our destinations. And even if not, the lessons learned on the way will be an invaluable experience. After all, everything happens for the best.

So what if there is no answer to the question above? Then start dreaming! Who said a “small person” can’t have big dreams in his heart? Even an average office employee, not only a Superman, wants to perform sometimes maybe an insane yet heroic deed, believe in his or her strength and courage. Walter Mitty proves that is absolutely possible.

Quest Vs. Comfort

Everybody seeks comfort and security in his life. This is part of human nature, and can be partially explained by the survival instinct inherited from the animal kingdom.

The truth is, however, staying in comfort zone for a long time is dangerous.

Why is that? How can something rooted in our nature be dangerous to our own selves?

The answer is avoiding challenges in your life cuts you off from opportunities for growth and improvement. Like body needs regular training, soul needs regular challenges to stay fit. A weak soul cannot be happy.

A stabilized, normalized and settled down life is not bad in itself. It is bad when it becomes a life-long habit though.

A job that is not a dream one but pays the bills? Fine. A partner you put up with out of fear to stay alone? OK. A lifestyle full of TV and online games without bright emotions? No problem either. The issue here is that all these “OKs” finally lead you to live the life of someone else.

I am not saying we must constantly go extreme and do something crazy with our lives. The point is we need some kind of inner fire that must be always kept running.

For example, doing some interesting projects at your workplace. Trying to help homeless, disabled, or anyone in need. Going for a marathon run even if you mind protests loudly. Learning a new language. Starting a new sport. Reading the “Capital” series by Karl Marx. Acquiring a new skill.

The opportunities are indeed endless.

This kind of inner fire, or quest, or challenge is absolutely necessary not only to learn new things, develop yourself and transform. The problem is that if you don’t start this, sooner or later life will force you to do so, but in a way which will not be so pleasant compared to if you would initiate the change yourself. I like to formulate this principle as “Create a problem yourself so that you don’t get problems from the outside”.

To sum up, I believe both strive for comfort and challenge is indispensable. There is no contradiction in this statement, as man has a dialectical nature (like anything else in this world).

Comfort is necessary to stay peaceful and relaxed. Challenge is necessary to feel alive. As Richard Bach nicely put it in “Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit”:

It must happen to us all…We pack up what we’ve learned so far and leave the familiar behind. No fun, that shearing separation, but somewhere within, we must dimly know that saying goodbye to safety brings the only security we’ll ever know.