Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chase the Rainbows or Smell the Roses? It's your choice

“The future is yours to make. Chase the rainbow. Go for it.”

This was a caption that went with a beautiful picture. Someone had sent Prime Minister Lee a picture of the Gardens by the bay - two domes and a spectacular rainbow arching over them. He posted the picture on his social media. On facebook, he got 55,000 likes, on Instagram, 10,000 likes.

I read this anecdote in Straits Times last month, during the election fever. It was one of those election sound bites, but it struck a chord with me.

Many of us are at the age where we are chasing rainbows now. Some of us left our home countries and are now in a foreign land, chasing for a better future. Some of us are chasing after the next promotion, or our dream job.

There is nothing wrong with chasing after your dreams. However, all this “chasing” leaves me a bit breathless at times. I think we need to strike a balance. We can chase our dreams with all our strength and energy, but we should also take the time to smell the roses on the way.

At this point I would like to share two distinctly different stories. The first is about a bull, and the second is about a fisherman.

There was a bull called Ferdinand, who would rather smell the flowers than fight in bullfights.

When he was young, he did not enjoy butting heads with other young bulls. He would rather just lie under a tree smelling the flowers.

Ironically, when the calves grew up, Ferdinand turned out to be the largest and strongest of the young bulls.

All the other bulls dream of being chosen to compete in the bull fight in Madrid, but Ferdinand still prefers smelling the flowers to fighting. 

One day, Ferdinand was stung by a bee. He ran wildly across the field, snorting and stamping. Some men saw the bull, and felt that he had great potential as a fighting bull. They renamed him Ferdinand the Fierce and took him away to Madrid.

All the beautiful ladies turned out to see Ferdinand the Fierce fight. When Ferdinand was led into the ring, he saw the flowers in the ladies hair. Instead of fighting, he lay down in the ring, and smelt the flowers.

What does this story tell us? Ferdinand had lots of potential as a fighting bull, but he chose to lead an easy life. He was contented with just lazing around all day, smelling flowers.  

What a wasted life! You may say. Or is it really?

Let me tell you a different story now about a Fisherman.
There was a MBA graduate who went vacationing by the beach. One day, he met a Fisherman who just came back from his fishing trip. The Fisherman was lazing by the beach, enjoying a leisurely morning.

The MBA graduate saw that the Fisherman had a basket full of yellow tuna.

“What a great catch!” the MBA graduate said. “How long did it take you to catch it?”

“Oh, only a few hours.” The Fisherman said.

“Why didn’t you stay out longer?” the MBA graduate asked.

“I have enough.” The Fisherman said simply.

The MBA graduate scoffed. “Why, if I were you, I would stay out longer, and get more fish. I will then sell the fish, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. Eventually, I will be able to buy a fleet of fishing boats. I will then expand my business until I can open a factory selling canned tuna. I will move to the city and run my expanding enterprise.”

The Fisherman asked, “How long will this take?”

The MBA replied, “10-20 years”.

“But what then?” asked the Fisherman.

The MBA graduate laughed. “Why, by then you will have millions. You will be able to sell your factory and retire early. You can then buy a home by the seaside, and laze around the beach the whole day.”

I have just told you two distinctly different stories. If you put the two stories side by side, what do they tell us?

Chasing the rainbows is well and good. But sometimes we have to remember what we are chasing after.

I must confess that in real life, I am more like the MBA graduate than the Fisherman. 

I feel that there is nothing wrong with being the MBA graduate. When we are young and still have a lot of energy, we should chase after our dreams, and achieve the best that we can achieve in life. But at the same time, I feel that there is great merit in remembering the Fisherman story. Sometimes, the more we get the more we want. So we end up in this never-ending chase for success.

The key to all this is balance. Chase the rainbow, but remember to smell the roses on the way. Enjoy yourself while you strive for your best! As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

At the end of the day, we all make our own choices. If you want, you can be Ferdinand the Bull, or the Fisherman. Take each day as it comes. Be more with less. Or, you can be like the MBA graduate, and take the advice of Prime Minister Lee. Chase after your dreams with all your energy.

Chase the Rainbow or smell the roses all day? It’s your choice. Just remember to choose wisely, and strike a balance between the two.

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