A framework that helps you decide when to keep and it and when to give up

Aphorisms and proverbs sometimes pack powerful wisdom.  We are fond of quoting them and using them to guide our behavior or to explain it. But have you noticed how many of them contradict each other? We should “Look before we leap” but, unfortunately, “He who hesitates is lost.”

We are all on Death Row. Don’t bother about dying – think about whether you are living.

For many years I was in thrall to ‘some day.’ My wife and I are both tennis fanatics and regularly tune in to the Grand Slams and most of the Masters. We knew we would go to the French Open ‘some day.’ And Wimbledon. And the Australian Open. Last year a friend asked me when ‘some day’ would come. I reflected and then bought tickets to the Men’s and Women’s semifinals and finals. I told my wife and she was able to re-arrange her schedule. We went and had a grand time. There is something we forget – we are all on an inexorable journey that will end with the obliteration of our individual ego. The change is all around us but we try to ignore it. I vividly remember bringing my daughter home from the hospital. Her foot was half the size of my palm. Now she is married and co-founder of a tech start-up in San Francisco. I taught my son chess and he was amazed at how the pieces coordinated to produce winning combinations. Now he beats me routinely and is about to graduate from Columbia Law School. I walk up flights of stairs that I would once run up.

I was looking for a really good example for a lesson I wanted to share with you. Today, I found it. You will be well served in the New Year – now nearly three weeks old! – if you pay heed. And I found this example, by happenstance, when I was not looking. In fact, I was goofing off and watching a movie. Let me give you some background. Saroo grew up dirt poor in India. He was very close to his elder brother Guddu who would watch out for him and play with him and promised to get him lots of jelabis – an Indian sweet that they were too poor to afford. He was also close to his mother who would hug him and cuddle him and feed him and care for him. When he was five years old Saroo went to sleep in a stationary train that started up and transported him to Kolkata, more than a thousand miles from home. Destitute and starving, unable to speak Bengali, the local language, he lands up in an orphanage and is adopted by affluent Australian couple. He is brought up in Tasmania. Flashes of his childhood keep recurring and, with the encouragement of friends, he estimates how long he was on the train and maps out places that could have been his home. He then spends months visiting these via Google Earth. Finally he strikes paydirt and hops over to India to meet his birth family. There is a tearful reunion with his mother. And then he asks, “Where’s Guddu?” Turns out that Guddu had been struck by a train and died the same night he was lost. He dissolves into tears and the heartache is palpable. For the curious, the movie is Lion and it is still playing in theaters. Doubtless it will appear soon on Netflix and other streaming services. The lesson?