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What I Learned From 3 Idiots

I watched the movie, 3 Idiots, again last weekend. For some time now, I had been struggling with my ‘Why”

Photo credit: Cinema Express

Have you watched the same movie a second or third time and each time you watch the movie you discover different things, depending on what was going on in your life?

I watched the movie, 3 Idiots, again last weekend. For some time now, I had been struggling with my ‘Why”. Everyone tells me that this is the most single important thing to keep one going and driven. It is the ‘magic’ connection that will make everything worthwhile again. 

It’s been sometime now that I’ve lost my ‘Why’ – therefore, I had tried different things and when they got overwhelming, I quit.

Everyone tells me that only I can answer that question and I haven’t been able to. I had my ‘Why’ all these years and it was externally focused. It was a ‘Why’ of responsibility and accountability. Now that this responsibility and accountability had been somewhat fulfilled, I’ve lost that ability to be as driven and passionate – because my ‘Why’ is no longer strong.

I’ve struggled to answer it and it has been so evasive. Perhaps like everything else, the answer is staring at me right in my face, but I can’t see it yet.

What if I can’t find my ‘Why’? 

Most of us pursue a Degree so that we can get a good job, a credit card and get married, all as a sign of success and affluence

In 3 Idiots, Farhan knew his ‘Why’ but his whole life and career had been planned by his family, so much so that his ‘Why’ was drowned. From the moment he was born, his family had wanted him to be an engineer and as he had narrated, his fate was sealed.

I’ve been there before, as children – parents and teachers would always ask, what do you want to be when you grow up? My Dad had determined that I was going to be a Doctor. I, on the other hand, gagged at the sight of blood as a Red Crescent member, treating an athlete, whose foot had been stepped on by a spiked shoe – so that career path went down the drain…

When asked, what do I want to be when I grow up? My response had always been – happy, and that would be greeted by disdain, as that wasn’t an ambitious enough goal.

Rancho’s advise of – doing what you love and it will not feel like work so you will always enjoy it, resonated with my beliefs.

Finding ‘Why’ was tough for Farhan, because everyone around him had told him that his ‘Why’ was not profitable. His parents were convinced that it was not a serious career option and not something that their neighbourhood could be proud of. It took his friends support and promise that gave him the courage to do so. Eventually, he did pursue an apprenticeship under his idol wildlife photographer and became a famous author of several coffee table books.

Raju knew his ‘Why’ but allowed his responsibilities to weigh much more and overshadowed his ‘Why’. He loved engineering, wanted to succeed, but allowed the pressure from wanting to provide for his poor family and the principal to stress him out. He allowed external factors to influence his decisions in selecting roommates, determine how he studied and when the stress got overwhelming, he attempted suicide by jumping off a building. 

He was extremely lucky that he had Farhan and Rancho to coax him out of his coma and that showed how we as humans, need to have a strong relationship with others, especially in times of troubles.

I did not have such luck and remember going through college years, pretty much on my own. High school and college students can be pretty tough for some.

It was years later at a reunion dinner did I discover that the isolation was because some of us we were deemed too smart! No one wanted us to be in their study group or roommate and we had to fend for ourselves as best as we could. It, however, taught us to become independent, perhaps too independent and this was something I had to unlearn and relearn in the years to come. This friendship support group, if you have it, is something to be cherished indeed.

The third character Rancho, his ‘Why’ was simply, to just absorb as much knowledge as he could because he simply loved knowledge. He used to invent things and simplifying them for practical use. He had unconventional wisdom that endeared him to the students and infuriated all his teachers, especially the Principal who had strict traditions to uphold the school’s reputation and rank.

Most of the lessons in the movie come from his simple philosophy. For example, when life gets you down and no matter how big a problem you are facing – say All is Well! 

Hold on to this or any mantra that you find that gives you a sense of security. When asked whether this will solve the problem, his answer was No! But you will gain the courage to face it, trick your mind so your heart is calm. When your heart is calm, you can think better and solve the matter at hand.

My favourite was his life philosophy of pursuing excellence – don’t chase success, be good at what you do, and success will chase you.

In a way, that is what I have done most of my life, I’ve let my curiosity and thirst for learning new things, learning things from bottom up in any new field tasked to me has led me to be a maverick in my field.

In recent years though, I’ve lost my ‘Why’…

Can my ‘Why’ really be as simple as it used to be, which is seeking the next new knowledge related to what I’m doing now? Or can it be as simple as to simply be happy?

Perhaps as I grew older, more experienced, I had forgotten that my true ‘Why’. In the need to be a responsible parent, a responsible leader, expectations on managing the financials, the KPIs and the complex myriad issues and challenges that I was required to resolve, I had forgotten that my ‘Why’ could be as simple as to do things that makes me happy…

P.S. Watch the Official Trailer here 

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Written By

Anneliza Zainal has been a communications practitioner in the corporates for more than 25 years before becoming a consultant, specialising in crisis communications and customer care. Apart from a Bachelor of Education, Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL), she is also an accredited NLP Practitioner (ABNLP), Time Line Therapy® Practitioner, Master Class Educator (BKI) & certified HRDF Trainer. Follow her on Linkedin.

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