Of Ambition and Contentment

I had a really really strange dream a few days back. In the dream, I was acting in a movie ! Well, to be technically correct; I was not acting, but watching the premiere of the movie in which I had acted. The movie, titled "Of Ambition and Contentment" was about 2 friends Ram and Shyam. Since it was a dream, the story and all is a bit hazy.. but I'll try my best to put things as I remember them.

In the movie, I play the role of Ram, an average, middle class Indian family-bred, 21st century, guy in his mid-twenties; who is a total all-rounder in life (alas! this happens only in movies and dreams). Was exceptionally well in studies during school time, champion sportsman, talented guitarist and what not. Graduated with flying colours, got his masters with flying colours! Even now, this guy is doing well in his job, much better than his peers.

Now Ram wants to take the next logical step: go for his Ph.D. He has worked for a couple of years and now he thinks he has had enough of work, and wants to do some real learning and research.

The other character in the movie is Shyam. He too has an excellent academic background. And he is multi-talented too (This is always the case with movies na? The central characters are always good at everything. And I've got so used to such characters, I'm even dreaming them!). Anyway, Shyam has completed his bachelors degree and is comfortably settled in his job. He never did his masters, so he's been working for 5+ years now.

One fine day, when the 2 friends meet up, their discussion meanders to the topic of the futures of their respective professions and their personal future too. This conversation is the only thing from the dream which is crystal-clear in my memory. It went something like this:

Ram (Me): Hey Shyam, buddy, so what have you planned for the future?

Shyam (startled): What?? Are you by any chance talking about my marriage to {XYZ} ? C'mon man, I've just gotten into a relationship with her; marriage is not on the cards as of now.

Me: No no.. I was not talking about marriage at all. I was referring to your career.

Shyam: What about it?

Me (Taken aback by his nonchalance): Well, don't you have any plans? Like a change or something?

Shyam (Now taking a keen interest in the discussion): Change? I'm not sure I follow you.

Me: I'm talking about a job change dude. Or about your plans for further studies.

Shyam (In defensive mode): What are you talking about man? I'm not thinking about any such thing , atleast for a couple of years.

Me (shaking my head): Don't give me that bullshit. You MUST have considered a change. You have been in the industry for 5 years already man.

Shyam: Why would I think about anything like that? I am loving my job. I earn a decent salary. My career path has been shaping up well. Why on earth would I think about changing?

Me (Slightly irritated): Wake up dude! All this loyalty-stuff is not going to help you in the long run. There's a limit to how high you can climb with your current form. You HAVE to do either jump or go for higher studies to get more lucrative offers. And what happened to all that real learning you wanted to do?

Shyam: Look pal, I own a house in a metro, I drive an upmarket car, I've "been there, done that"; and all this at such a young age. I am also in a steady relationship. What more could I possibly ask for? And regarding learning; well I believe I'l learn as much during 2 years of work as I would in 2 years of higher studies anyway. True, it will not be research-oriented learning; but I think I can live with that. Thank you.

Me (In Lecture mode): Hah! I know why you are saying all this. You are earning well and without too much pressure. You have developed your own cocoon - your comfort zone. You're hesitant to come out of it. You are afraid that if you switch jobs, you may come under more pressue. And you shiver at the thought of studying because it would mean a break in earnings. I'm sorry to say this, but you're just too lazy.

Come on Shyam. Don't give up your dreams so soon. What about all the ambitions you had? Let me tell you man, its ambition which results in every human's growth in their career and life. As long as you are ambitious, you have a target to walk towards. You lose ambition, you lose direction in life.

Just think about all our peers who gave up their jobs to pursue careers which they were passionate about. You dont have to do that because I know you are already in a career you are passionate about. Just give it proper shape yaar. Dont lose sight of your goal. You are capable of doing lot more than what you are currently doing. After all, during school days, you were the one who inspired me. (Ending my speech with a triumphant smile; hoping I stirred him)

I'l never forget what Shyam said next.

Shyam (looking me straight in the eye): If I keep running after ambitions, I'l never be content with life. Today it's about earning ever-increasing salaries. Tomorrow it'l be about social status or job status. Every time I achieve one "goal", I'l immediately start looking forward to the next step in the ladder. So when will I be satisfied in life? On my death-bed?

I was totally stumped with what I had just heard. However, Shyam dint give me a chance to ruminate. He continued.

Shyam: Look, I agree that we should not stunt our career growth if we feel we can do something more. I am not one to lie down and be content with whatever life gives me. But, right now I am content with whatever I have earned, whatever I have worked hard for; not what has just casually come my way. If at some point of time I feel my talent is being wasted, I will definitely look for a change. But as of today, I am content with everything in life.

Now, I want to spend some time and effort on other things in life; like family and friends. And my social responsibility. All this while, I have spent all my time on myself, my education, my career. Now its time to do something for others. I just realized how involved I have been in my career and ignoring my near and dear ones. Its been months since I even spoke to my grandparents on phone, let alone meet them. I recently met a friend after a long time and realized how out of touch I have been with friends. I called up a few friends that day (yourself included), and that made me feel happy inwards.

Coming back to the topic, you are right about the ambition part Ram. But I want to strike a balance between ambition and contentment.

Me (Fumbling for words): Well, Uh..yes.. you may be right.. but..Uhmm..I still feel you can have the best of both worlds.. like..

At that moment, Shyam's phone started ringing; and I realized it was the alarm. I woke up but remained in deep-thought-mode for a few minutes. However, I just could not reach a conclusion.

I hate it when I am presented with two mutually exclusive options, both of which sound right; and to make matters worse, no "correct" option is identified or no conclusion is reached!

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