by Archan Mehta
I ran into Ralph at a conference and he impressed me with his wisdom. A life-long learner, Ralph’s presence was mystical, and he seemed to have the answers to life’s challenges. Not exactly sure of myself, I decided to tag along and learn from Ralph. Whenever Ralph was in the neighbourhood, I would call him and try to schedule a meeting.
“So, what’s up?” asked Ralph. We were seated at a cafe, where people-watching was the norm.
“Life’s good,” I replied.
“What are the current challenges you are facing?” probed Ralph.
“Are you a mind-reader?” I asked, surprised.
“Come on, out with it,” said Ralph. “What are you not telling me?”
“Well, there’s a lot of talk about multi-tasking these days. The business world is full of people obsessed about it.”
“Look at these people.”
“How do you mean?”
“Tell me what you observe.”
“Well, everybody seems to be rushing around. Their cell phones are buzzing or beeping. They are busy talking, walking, eating….all at the same time.”
“Exactly. There is a lack of present moment awareness,” observed Ralph. “They are acting like a hydra-headed monster.”
“What’s the solution?” I probed. “What do you recommend?”
“Well, I don’t know the solution. And I don’t recommend anything. It’s for the individual to reach his/her own conclusions.”
There was a puzzled look on my face, so Ralph started to laugh. Ralph always had a way with laughter. You felt like laughing with him, so I started laughing too.
“Listen,” said Ralph. “Are you game for an experiment?”
“Sure, it depends on the experiment,” I responded.
“Don’t worry, Archan, I won’t send you to the cleaners or have you kidnapped by the mob.”
“What’s on your mind?” I asked.
“Exactly my point,” responded Ralph.
“When you talk in riddles, I don’t like it,” I said, exasperated.
“What’s on your plate?”
“A slice of buttered toast.”
“Good. I want you to eat it.”
“What? You gotta be kidding me,” I responded. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“No, I am serious. Just follow my instructions.”
“Eating a slice of bread won’t make my problems disappear. You’re pulling my leg.”
“Nope. We’re just experimenting, that’s all. But are you game for it?”
“Yes, I am.”
So, I polished off the buttered toast in a jiffy and looked at Ralph.
Ralph started to laugh. I wasn’t amused. I thought he was making fun of me.
“Why are you mocking me?”
“I’m not. I find your behaviour funny, that’s all.”
“What do you mean?”
“You eat as if are competing in a sprint and have to win first prize.”
“That’s how people eat these days.”
“Exactly, because they are too busy multi-tasking.”
“Well, when you are jumping from one task to another, speed becomes the essence of life. It’s only when you slow down, that you really experience life.”
“Yeah, I never really enjoyed the experience of eating, but it sure made me feel less hungry.”
“Exactly. Focussing on the end result prevented you from the pleasure of eating.”
“I see what you mean. I was never in the moment. My mind was rushing around from one moment to the next.”
“There are lessons here for your professional life too, but I will leave you alone to figure that out.”
“I get it. The key is to enjoy the moment, be in present-moment awareness.”
“Taking your time during tasks will enable you to simplify your life. You don’t have to multi-task if you don’t want to.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I have been spreading myself too thin of late.”
“Sitting here, we are just enjoying the conversation. Human relationships can be a pleasure if we would only take the time.”
“Yeah, like we are just sitting here and doing nothing. And yet, it is a great experience.”
“Yup, despite the miracles of technology, there is no substitute for face to face and open communication, right?”
Since that brief encounter, I have been thinking about slowing down. Too often, we rush around from here to there. Our minds are sort of like a wild elephant, rampaging through the jungles of Africa. We don’t enjoy the journey because we are focussed on the destination.
If you are a salesman, do you think your customer would appreciate it if you were only interested in making a sale?
Maybe it is better to slow down and get to know your customer personally, his/her likes and dislikes. Instead of talking, listen to your customer. When you slow down, you learn to listen with empathy. By getting into your customer’s mind, you can tweak your product/service to suit your customer.
Present-moment awareness makes you a better salesperson. When you take the time, you allow your customer/client to establish a relationship. Your customer/client will thank your for it when they buy your product or service. Ralph’s lesson made sense, finally, and I heaved a sigh of relief.
Archan Mehta is a freelancer and hobbyist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note from Costa Women: Don’t forget about being present with your partner, children, parents, friends and relatives too… Its important we all take the moment to enjoy our relationships. Despite what is going on in our world they are the constant that helps us through life!