We are bombarded every day with ‘success’ stories, where it is usually defined as wealth creation and accumulation. A young start-up founder who overnight becomes a multimillionaire is celebrated in the media and the subtle message is that others could do the same if only they worked hard and focused on business. Even celebrities are often measured by their net worth, rather than talent, and new influencers who make it big are now our gurus and heroes.
The Dharmic narrative of success is so different. It is about meaning, spirituality and inner fulfilment- with responsibility towards society and nature a duty NOT a choice. It is never about fame and fortune. If you choose a teaching career for example, the pay is low, the work is hard, but according to Dr Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan, teachers are precious influencers, role models and heroes. He said: ‘A great teacher takes the hands, opens the minds and touches the heart.’ September 5 is Teachers’ Day in India.
Our challenge is to change the narrative on success. How can we in our communities amplify sharing and giving, rather than making and taking? One way is to encourage these habits in children when they are young, by helping them to adopt other children who have no access to education or basic resources. If they experience the joy of giving, they are unlikely to be devoted to the joy of expropriation or exploitation of others.
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Income and wealth are needed for a basic standard of living and young people are really burdened by the cost of living. We have created a society where they are forced to abandon risky or low paying careers like the arts, education or care and wellbeing. For this we need to influence our governments to change policies and incentives for young people, including rent subsidy.
At any cost, in our communities we should avoid privileging the rich and famous, unless they share and care and are seen to be doing so. If they have skill in business and commerce, this should be shared too through charity and mentoring. We also need to accept the need for professionalism in our charities – which may need full time expert staff to help young people find jobs and opportunities. Business leaders should take full responsibility for facilitating this.
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