The following are approximately the first 1000 words from Chapter 1 of Jonar Nader’s book,
How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People.
What can you see from the balcony of life?
Time is running out
Imagine, way up in the sky, a balcony that resembles a viewing platform where you and others stand looking down on Earth. You are but a spirit. From the balcony you can see the marvellous and wondrous things on Earth — spectacular surf, exotic fruit, delicious vegetables, tantalising ice-cream, mouth-watering pasta, remarkable flowers, awesome gardens, stunning animals, breathtaking mountains, splendid rivers, people in love, exquisite fashion, fast cars, exhilarating snow skiing, and romantic sunsets.
The one in charge, Spirit-Superior, approaches you with a clipboard in hand and says that the next tour to Earth is about to depart. The problem is, only 10 percent of those on the balcony can be granted permission to go to Earth for a period not exceeding eighty years. Would you put your hand up? Would you ask to be considered? Are you enthusiastic enough? Do you really want to wear a human body and experience the beauty of life on that planet below?
According to Spirit-Superior, all candidates promise to make the most of their time on Earth. They are eager to start their journey. They cannot wait to take their first swim, to enjoy a juicy orange, to bite into a scrumptious cake, to walk in the park, and to make love with a beautiful companion in symphony with the cool breeze. You push to the front of the queue and plead, ‘Please pick me. I promise to make the most of life on Earth.’
Well, here you are on Earth. Not long to go before you have to return to the balcony. Not long when you compare eighty-odd years to eternity. What are you doing about it? Did you bite into a delicious apple today? Did you take a swim? Did your heart skip a beat as the stars came out to bid the sunset a fond farewell?
Or did you waste the day and insult Spirit-Superior by allowing anger, that elusive intangible, to take hold of your body and spoil your moment? You are not guaranteed the full eighty years. Only ‘now’ is your guarantee. Tomorrow is not in the contract. You have no way of knowing when your tour will be terminated.
Every night, as you put your head to sleep, Spirit-Superior visits you and asks, ‘Would you like to go back from whence you came — back to the balcony of life where you will never again have the opportunity to come back to Earth? Or would you like one more day to give it another go?’ What would you say? Most people say, ‘Oh please, give me one more day. Tomorrow I will live. Today I messed up, but tomorrow I will go to the beach and grab an ice-cream, and feed the birds, and make my friends laugh.’
Doubtless, some do choose to terminate their stay. They cannot see what all the fuss is about. They want life no more. So, Spirit-Superior grants their wish and takes them back to the balcony. Tragically, others tamper with the process and take their own life when they can no longer believe that tomorrow will bring relief. Some of my dear friends have decided to leave me behind by terminating their contracts.
One young man of nineteen asked his mother for some money. As loving mothers do, she obliged and asked no questions. He bought a rifle, went back home, and did the deed. He used to love life, but a door shut in his face. He was convinced that the door would never re-open. Faced with that prospect, he bowed out.
Where are you at in life? Are you battling with time thieves? Are you being robbed of your moment? Who is stealing your chance to walk barefoot in the sand?
Flight 101 never returns
In the airline business, everyone knows that once an aircraft departs, any empty seats on that flight cannot be filled again. The opportunity to recoup that lost fare has gone. This is why many airline companies overbook their flights. They do not mind inconveniencing their travellers, so long as they can be sure to pack the aircraft.
For undersubscribed flights, and since the advent of the networked world, airlines are trying to sell the last remaining seats via Internet auctions, hoping to fill every seat, even if at cost. It is better to cover costs than to fly with an empty seat, because empty seats cost money.
Your life can be likened to this challenge. Every day that you allow to slip through your hands is irretrievable. You cannot decide to return to yesterday or ‘turn back time’ to mend the broken dreams. You cannot return to last Monday. So, yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not yours, and today is already packed with drama. Is this what you planned when you were standing on the balcony of life? If not, stand up and do something about it.
You know what needs to be done. You do not need ‘motivational’ speakers to pep you up. This is your life. No-one is authorised to upset you. This is your turn. No matter how generous you might be, you cannot pass it on to someone else. If you choose to skip a turn, you will not be doing anyone a favour. The one thing you will be doing is ringing the alarm bells in the control room, and Spirit-Superior will have to take a closer look at your files. (For more about motivation, see Chapter 3, ‘The secret destroyer’.)
Every minute of every day
Have you considered that the Olympic Games would not have progressed if it were not for technologists’ ability to slice time into tiny bits we call a second, a tenth of a second, a hundredth of a second, and so on?
Electricity and the entire power grid, including street lighting and traffic controls, rely on disciplined and regimented pulses that must beat to time. The loss of one beat could stop a city. Traffic would grind to a halt, and the city could very well become grid-locked, meaning that no-one could move because no-one can move.
Computers operate to time. Not only for calendar and date-stamping purposes, but for internal microchip operation. One tiny beat out of rhythm and the computer fails.
Time, at its smallest, is precious. Even the big chunks we call day and night are great punctuation marks that herald a new week, a new month, a new season.
How well do we manage time? As a society, we manage it well. Things tend to work more often than not.
How well do you manage time? Do you divide your day into work, rest, and play? Is work something you do out of obligation? Is rest something you do because you are exhausted? Is play something you do to forget about work? This is not a pleasant cycle.
Life is life. To allow manipulating hounds to steal your life at the office through bureaucratic and politically poisoned meetings is theft of the highest order. Life is now, not after work. Life is shopping, not when you get home. Life is every minute of every day. So, how well are you managing your life? How well are you managing your time?
Time management is not about a list of things in order of priority that must be completed by a deadline. (How apt that we call it a deadline.) Time management is about life management. The issue is not what you do, but where your soul is at.
Do you put your pleasures on hold when you clean the house? Do you accept misery and boredom as unavoidable traits of your work domain? Do you accept domestic unrest as your lot in life?
Ups and downs
Life management is not about a delirious state of affairs. You own your life, so only you can live your life. Take charge of it. This does not mean that you must seek to be happy at all times. This is impossible. Not because it is too difficult in this day and age, but because happiness can only mean something to you after you have experienced sadness. From a young age we are taught that if one achieves happiness, one has achieved something worthwhile. However, although sadness, pain, and sorrow are not mentioned, or are undervalued or avoided, they are vital for the attainment of more happiness.
After one of my presentations, a young man approached me to thank me. He had the brightest disposition. He told me that although his colleagues were looking to build their careers in medicine, business, and the like, he just wanted to be ‘happy’, so it did not matter to him what profession he chose. He looked happy, but I knew that he did not know what he was saying. ‘How happy do you want to be?’ I asked. ‘Very happy,’ he replied. We sat for a while as I explained to him that if he wished to attain ten lots of happiness, he would have to endure ten lots of sadness. He finally grasped the concept and became scared. He specifically does not want to be unhappy. So he froze. I felt sorry for him, but such is life. Eventually he began to understand and assured me that he would brace himself. He valued happiness because he had experienced much sadness. However, he was unaware that more happiness could only be appreciated in the wake of more sadness. Even then, the process is not automatic, and much building is required. The trick is to use the sadness to build for yourself tools that can help you to get back on your feet again. You need to be ready to attain additional wisdom, to build shields that protect you, to enhance your attitude to cope with the situation. This is important because sadness knocks you down, and it is much easier to stay down than to lift yourself against the inertia.
Life management is not about being happy through ignoring society, or shedding one’s responsibilities, or resigning from corporate life to take up subsistence farming, or filing for divorce. These things in themselves do not make you happy. They might be important steps that you choose to take, but on their own, they do not lead to happiness. Life management is about being well adjusted. This means taking the good and the bad, and being able to stand against the wind of disappointment. It is the realisation that solutions do not come from escaping. Running away from unhappiness does not build happiness. A well-adjusted person responds well to what life dishes out, and builds new shields. In responding well to what life dishes out to you, be sure to arrest those who steal time — the essence of life.
Time is not really the important element. It is what time represents that matters. Time represents seconds. The seconds measure the division between the sun and the moon and these, in turn, ultimately measure the distance between life and death.