Being a Banker, I love to gather perspectives from Relationship Managers who work and interact with highly successful people. A popular quote that has remained with me, was the insight that an RM mentioned about what separates the ‘Boys from the Men’ in terms of being successful and in control of one’s life. He said that most people worry about possibly the same set of ‘right questions’ – career progression, securing their kids future, saving for their retired life and managing the elusive ‘work-life’ balance. The successful people seem to have found the ‘right answers’ that reflect their individual choices.
I have not yet reached there myself, but I can understand that it would be very fulfilling to know the ‘right answers’. It can function as an effective bridge between the heart and the mind. To quote Pascal’s witticism, ‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing’. And it depends a lot on how was your childhood and what choices you made early on in terms of education and your early career in Corporate life.
I hail from a Middle Class family and am the first one to acknowledge to have gained a lot on account of the liberalization wave that started in the 90s in India. I was lucky enough to be able to pursue my post-graduate degree in Management and also decided early on to pursue my career in the Banking industry.
I had read about Alfred Lubrano’s book ‘Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams’ that was published in 2003. It traces the Identity Crisis experienced by people who achieve social mobility and straddle the class barrier. The writer talks about how successful people feel alienated from their childhood homes & companions, and yet are not quite comfortable in their new world.
Lubrano uses colorful expressions to convey his message : his father was a bricklayer who built a lot of places that he couldn’t get into, the plain stubbornness that he inherited compared to the slick diplomacy that works far better in the new world, the distance he felt with his childhood friends while still not quite belonging to the old boy networks that easily develop in Ivy league colleges. So you do pay a price for achieving a ‘Class Transition’ as in case with anything else.
Well there are some solutions to manage this angst that, if not properly understood and addressed, can last a lifetime. It begins by acknowledging ones roots and accepting that certain parts of you will never quite culturally fit in your new world. At the same time you need to appreciate that often your spouse, colleagues, friends & children come from a very different background and will never quite feel the intense emotions that you went through while making the transition.
Men generally don’t quite enjoy talking about their feelings but on this count one would be wise to open up and acknowledge the differences. You are likely to derive a certain amount of empathy and emotional connect even though the ‘others’ can never quite be in your shoes.
The final strategy would be re-discover your childhood passion and just unleash it. Quite often it would have got lost in your single-minded focus to do well in your academics and initial years of Corporate life. There is nothing to match rediscovering your touch for what you really enjoyed doing in your teens.
At the heart of it all is the Serenity prayer that I enjoy so much for its simplicity and effectiveness –
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.