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The other side of the hill

January 4, 2010

The other side of the hill is a line I got from Frank Capra’s 1937 classic Lost Horizon. Capra based his story loosely on the novel by James Hilton (1933). The movie stars Ronald Colman, who plays an English diplomat, in charge of flying Western refugee’s out of a Central Asian war zone.

The plane however never reaches its final destination and crashes in a remote valley. Contrary to what you might expect, this is not a bad thing. For the hero finds himself later on in the story in what seems a paradise on earth: a Shangri-La. A place where the inhabitants — completely cut off from the real world — live in close harmony with themselves, nature, beauty and wisdom.

It’s a black and white movie, but so beautifully made you can feel and smell the colours of spring all around as they enter Shangri-La. And then there’s of course that line, “the other side of the hill”. The hero uses it as a metaphor for questions he isn’t sure he wants the answers to.

In pursuit of perfection

An old colleague of mine had a calendar with daily quotes hanging on his office wall. One quote read something like this:

One who’s in constant pursuit of perfection, will always be wanting and never happy

The down-to-earth quote stuck with me as I’m a dreamer and a perfectionist. Always in pursuit of that one ‘key’ to open all blissfulness. Whether it’s that one learning concept that feels full-circle or the spirited and visionary employer. I’m always and incurably in pursuit.

With the breaking of a New Year and decade, I find myself pondering over an old black and white movie and an old calendar quote. Is there a lesson to be learnt here?

Dare dream the dream

Okay. Hold that thought. Just for the sake of it, I’m going to juxtapose the above with Steve Jobs’ talk he did a few years back at Stanford University.

It’s a good talk. On the power of dreaming and the importance of following those dreams. Jobs lays out the simple secret: follow your passion, trust your gut feeling and live in the moment. But most of all, keep the faith it will work out somehow.

#1. Your passion. Do what you love — love what you do is a personal credo. Especially where work is concerned. I need to feel that connection. And lucky for me I found my passion in E-Learning and all concerning learning and designing learning. I love building a learning program from scratch. But most of all, after some figuring out and putting pieces together, I love making something that fits the learner to a T.

I’ve found my passion and I intend to stick with it, even though times are presently hard career wise. Changing horses in mid-stream, would be settling.

#2. Connecting the dots. There was a time I felt like a flimsy scrap of paper, fluttering anywhere the wind took her. Doing any and every odd job.

With hindsight I can now connect the dots, as Jobs puts it. Not to everything; but to most of it. I look at my resume, I see the various turning points in my career and I understand why I am where I am.

It was all meant to be. Every single job experience, be it good or bad, lead me to my passion. And it’s this little gem of knowledge that at the moment gives me strength as I’m seeking new employment.

#3. Live in the moment. Living each day as if it’s your last, is definitely sound advice. But like I said, I’m a dreamer. I dream of what could’ve been and I dream of that which is still to come. So this one’s a hard one.

The next time though I’m fidgeting over my castles in the skies, I’ll remind myself of what Jobs says so eloquently, “Remembering that you’re going to die, is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you’ve got something to lose”. Death has a sobering way of showing you what is truly important in life.

A little further on he says, ”Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma; which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinion drown your own inner voice.”

Yes. I see it too. This is Jobs’ dogma. But it’s a thinking I can live with.

So now what?

One side there’s Steve Jobs who tells me to keep following my dreams and passions and live my life to the fullest. Never ever settle.

On the other side, we’ve got it’s realistic counterpart, telling me that settling may not be such a bad thing. For when all is said and done, the Shangri-La I’m chasing is within me. There’s no need for me to be going to the other side of those hills.

In other words, I can either ‘Make it happen’ or ‘Get real’.

Here’s the Acceptance/Serenity prayer my mother taught me as a child.
I think it best sums it all up:

God grant me
The Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The Courage to change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference

So, go out there. Be wise. And make this your best and most passionate decade ever.
May Your Dreams be with you.

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