Vishal Jacob: Most of the larger problems that we face tend to be people related. But we need to realise that the term ‘people’ is not just about others but about ourselves too! So we need to begin by understanding the reasons behind our own thoughts, feelings and actions. You need to learn how to truly connect with yourself. The ideas in the book rely heavily on concepts from neuroscience and psychology.
Well both “smart” and “successful” have many interpretations. Knowing oneself well and living a centred and balanced life is important. Let me illustrate. Consider one person who as per our current societal norms is considered smart – for example, he has excellent verbal and reasoning skills. His skills would have resulted in him taking up more technical options in his higher studies and career, reinforcing our society’s norm of him being “smart”. He may end up reaching great heights and be happy with his “success”. Alternately he may reach great heights, yet feel trapped – maybe he has the riches and comfort, but some areas of his life feel incomplete to him. He is not centred.
Now consider another person who was not considered smart in the societal sense. Instead he was smart in another intelligences, like music, sports, acting or something similar. If this person succumbs to societal pressure and ends up in a corporate job, do you think he will consider himself successful, irrespective of how others may regard him? He may not consciously be disappointed. But it is a fact that 75% or more people dislike their jobs. So this disappointment will catch up with him maybe 5 years or 10 or 15 years later.
As you see in both cases, it isn’t smartness (they were both smart) that is important. It is whether they stayed connected to who they were.
VJ: Change is constant, which is why adapting to change must also be a constant process.
You should learn newer skills or unlearn old lessons that are no longer valid in the new and changed circumstances that you are in. Learning new skills is the easier of the two and can be achieved with time and effort. Unlearning older lessons is often more difficult as these may have become ingrained habits. These are possible to change too, but go beyond the mere application of will.
VJ: A habit is a compulsive process and can only be formed as long as a strong sense of gratification is felt upon performing that action.
Research has shown that as much as 45 percent of all our daily actions are habitual. Therefore, it is through our small daily actions that we can define a life of our own making. So cultivating the right habits, giving up the habits that jeopardise us and learning to change the ones that need to be bettered are the crux of leading a productive life. Any success we hope to achieve lies here.
VJ: Procrastination is one form of a weak will. Habits are mostly honed over years of repetition and conditioning. This makes changing even one habit very difficult. Habitual procrastination pervades many different areas of our life. As a result, its effect can be debilitating. It is therefore extremely important to learn to control it. To control procrastination, you need to understand the methods that strengthen the willpower and the methods you can use to tame habits.
VJ: I have tried to advocate the need to live a centred and balanced life. Life throws challenges at us mainly in four key areas of our lives - work, finance, health and our relationships with the people who matter to us. It is important to balance all four equally. If one or more of these elements go out of hand it will cascade into other areas as well. If we address them, we live a fare more centred life by staying connected to ourselves.
VJ: I believe this journey of looking inward and connecting with yourself is a never ending one. For me it started at a very young age. As a child my parents used to have long conversations at home with my school principal. The three of them were friends, all working in the field of education, though in different schools. The conversations often turned to philosophy, spirituality, and life in general. I used to hide behind the balcony door and listen to these conversations. Some of these talks had a lasting impact on me and especially the way I looked at life. Years later, I noticed that the major problems we all deal with are basically people related. Every challenge that I managed to overcome helped me understand myself better.