Chapter 1: What Do You Want To Be? Somebody Or Anybody?

Make the decision right now. Do you want to be just anybody in life, or do you want to be somebody in life? If you want to be just anybody in life, then merge with the crowd. Get lost in the crowd. However, if you want to be somebody in life, then stand up and be counted. If you live like everybody, you will become like everybody. If you don’t want to be like everybody, then you have to do what nobody has done. Walk a different path and you’ll create a new destination for yourself.

He couldn’t stop smiling. There was overflowing happiness. Two hours from now would be very special moments for him. Anticipation filled the air. Avyakta was boarding the flight at Chennai. He would be in Pune a couple of hours from now, to be received by a man who has had one of the greatest influences on his life.

Memories of the ‘firsts’ are always special and they enjoy a very special place in all our hearts. Pune was Avyakta’s first experience away from home. Pune gave him his first job. He earned his first salary at Pune. He bought his first gift for his parents and brother from Pune. It was Pune that opened the doors to what eventually turned out to be an illustrious career for Avyakta. Pune had given a series of ‘firsts’ to Avyakta. In many ways, Pune was a home away from home for Avyakta. Avyakta was extremely ecstatic as he boarded the flight; it didn’t seem as if he was going to just another city. It seemed like he had been given a multi-entry visa to heaven with all the tickets paid for.

From where to where, Avyakta wondered. He recalled his first journey to Pune by train in a second class compartment. Having paid Rs.80 on the ticket, all he was left with in his pocket when he went to Pune for the first time was Rs.20. All he had was three sets of clothes and a pair of oversized shoes borrowed from his cousin that had to be stuffed in the front with old newspapers. Avyakta’s family was in dire straits and being the eldest son, Avyakta decided to bear the cross of his family when he was barely 19 and still in the final year of his graduation. He was on his way to take up a job at a software training institute.

Here he was a decade later, sitting in an aircraft, where his airfare was actually more than his annual take-home pay then. So much had changed. Actually, everything had changed. Why is the man whom
Avyakta is going to meet in Pune so special? Peter was Avyakta’s first boss. Avyakta used to tell his friends, “I went to Pune as a boy and Peter made me a man. When I first met Peter, I was an unseasoned, unimpressive, unsystematic employee and he made me a seasoned, impressive, systematic, organised and mature professional. I am Peter’s creation.”

Avyakta was still an adolescent when he started his career. He allowed himself to be distracted by the girls who attended classes at the institute. He used to frequently bunk office and go for movies. He always had a justification for the compromises he made at his work. He was angry at life, for he believed that life had truncated his teens a little too early by dumping responsibilities on his young shoulders. He was frustrated that the joy of youth had been snatched away from him. Circumstances had driven him to take up a job, but his heart was constantly rebelling. He felt he hadn’t been allowed to be a 19-year-old.

As providence would have it, Avyakta was working for Peter – a strict disciplinarian, a perfectionist and a very demanding manager. Peter had started earning for his family when he was fifteen and hence had no sympathy for the 19-year-old. Finding it difficult to cope with Peter’s demands, Avyakta decided to resign and get back home.

Holding Avyakta’s resignation letter in his hand, Peter told Avyakta, “I will not accept this resignation till I have a personal conversation with you. Office isn’t the place for a personal discussion; no matter how much I try, you will not open up. You will see me only as a manager talking to you with some ulterior motive. Let’s meet at Boat Club this evening.”

On his way to Boat Club that evening, Avyakta kept telling himself, “Don’t let Peter manipulate your thoughts. Stand your ground. Don’t give in. Be firm. If you want to enjoy life, you have to leave Pune and return home. What ever be the demands of the family, this is the age to chill out, not the age to be burdened with responsibilities.”

In spite of Avyakta’s reluctance to have that evening meeting, Peter made that evening the defining moment of Avyakta’s life. Once at Boat Club, they occupied a bench by the river, each holding a plate of bhel. Looking into Avyakta’s eyes, Peter said, “With our relationship being barely a few months old, my easiest option would be to let you go. But by doing that, I will be allowing enormous human potential to let go of what it is capable of becoming. I can understand how a 19-year-old feels. I too have missed my youth and longed for it. But Avyakta, the big question is, ‘Do you necessarily have to fit into the
definition of a typical 19-year-old?’ Movies, parties, hanging out, girls and guys, and chilling out – everybody does that. Why do you want to be one among the crowd? Why not be the one above the crowd? How many people are lucky enough to have an early start to their career? Avyakta, you’ve got a headstart. Why not make the most of it? Don’t lose this advantage.”

By then, they had finished the bhel. Peter got up from the bench and suggested that they take a walk. As they started walking, Peter threw his arms around Avyakta and it meant so much to the 19-year-old. He felt respected. He felt an unexpressed affection in that gesture. He also felt an inexplicable sense of nervousness within. When someone you look up to in life relates with you as if you are a contemporary, then you experience slight shivers. Avyakta was going through exactly this. Nevertheless, Avyakta hoped that Peter wouldn’t remove his hands from his shoulders. For Avyakta, the very experience of being with Peter was more overwhelming than his words.

Peter continued his empowering talk. “Make the decision right now. Do you want to be just anybody in life or do you want to be somebody in life? If you want to be just anybody in life, then quit your job and jump on the bandwagon. Merge with the crowd. Get lost in the crowd. However, if you want to be somebody in life, then stand up and be counted. If you live like everybody, you will become like everybody. If you don’t want to be like everybody, then you have to do what nobody has done. Walk the path everybody walks, and you’ll reach the destination everybody reaches. Walk a different path and you’ll create a new destination for yourself. Avyakta, answer this simple question: ‘Do you want to be a typical 19-year-old or do you want to be a 19-year-old who will be looked up to by other 19-year-olds’?”

Peter took his hand off Avyakta’s shoulders. But now it didn’t matter to Avyakta. Something within him had been awakened. There are certain moments in life that are too special and such moments happen only a few times in an entire lifetime. This was one such moment.

Seeing the determination in Avyakta’s eyes, Peter continued, “There are just two options in life: ‘Either subordinate your likes and dislikes to the purpose of your life; or, subordinate the purpose of your life to your likes and dislikes’. My boy, if you want to be somebody in life, if you want to stand above the crowd, if you want to be a 19-year-old who will be looked up to, then there is just one choice for you.” Saying so, Peter pulled out Avyakta’s resignation letter from his pocket, tore it up and tossed it into the next dustbin they crossed.

As the announcement of landing was made and passengers were asked to fasten their seat belts, Avyakta wiped the tears from his eyes and whispered to himself, “Thank you Peter. As a 29-year-old, I still keep reminding myself that I can either be a typical 29-year-old or a 29-year-old who will be looked up to by other 29-year-olds. Of course, it leaves me with no choice but to subordinate my likes and dislikes to the purpose of my life. Thank you so much Peter.”

The flight landed in Pune, the place from which Avyakta’s life took off.

Do you necessarily have to fit into the definition of a typical 19-year-old? There are just two options in life: Either subordinate your likes and dislikes to the purpose of your life; or, subordinate the purpose of your life to your likes and dislikes. If you want to be somebody in life, if you want to stand above the crowd, if you want to be the one who will be looked up to, then there is just one choice. So, do you want to be a typical 19-year-old or do you want to be a 19-year-old who will be looked up to by other 19-year-olds?

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