By Harman S. Pandher
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama once said, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” But it’s not just advice fit for a travel magazine. It’s advice tailor made for life in the 21st century, on a planet that’s as small as its ever been, with people connected more than ever before by manmade technologies, yet sadly still divided in so many ways by manmade bigotries.
And the Dalai Lama’s words of wisdom don’t require you to break the bank either. You see, “someplace” doesn’t have to be on the other side of the world. It could be on the other side of town, where people are lining up at soup kitchens for a decent meal. Or it could be on the other side of the fence that separates your yard from your neighbour’s.
Distance is not the key. The key is stepping outside of your comfort zone and engaging with other people, who might not look like you, who might not talk like you, who might not think like you, and who might not be as fortunate as you. But they have dreams just like you. They have needs just like you.
And they have fears. Fear of the unknown. Fear of whether they can afford to live in the city they grew up in. Fear of whether they’re studying the things in school that will get them a career that won’t be obsolete by the time they graduate, because companies can get the work done cheaper by people in other countries, or they can get the work done more efficiently by machines.
These uncertainties raise questions which demand solutions. And that calls for creativity. It calls for innovation and entrepreneurship. Which in turn calls for research. Like I said, we all have needs. But those needs aren’t the same as they once were. To identify the needs of today and tomorrow, you have to be in touch with people. Lots of people. From diverse backgrounds and different segments of society. Isolation is counterproductive to being able to successfully serve the needs of others.
Introspection, on the other hand, is absolutely essential. You need to be in touch with (and realistic about) your own inner strengths and passions before you reach out to help others. Guidance counsellors at secondary schools and post-secondary institutuons can assist students to put them on the path that’s right for them now personally, and one that will be right for them into the future professionally.
But there’s still no guarantees or crystal ball. The world continues to change rapidly. So flexibility is crucial. The average person is said to go through five or six career changes in their lifetime. Therefore it’s the skills and knowledge you acquire along the way that will determine how bumpy your career path is.
If you get in the habit, like the Dalai Lama said, of going to new places and meeting new people and trying new things, then you’ll be someone who can not only adapt well to new challenges and circumstances, you can write your own ticket. You’ll be able to upgrade your seat on the plane from sitting alongside the “job seekers” to sitting at the front amongst the “job creators”. And that’s a liberating and comforting feeling. With a broad worldview. Free of fear. Full of hope and endless possibilities…