Sunday, August 30, 2015

Are we boxed in by our "Social Status"?

"So you take this antibiotic pill once a day, and see me next week if you are not better," I said to a young man, whom I saw in the office.
"Sure Doc. Is this pill expensive?" he asked.
"I'm not sure, it might be." I glanced at his chart and saw that he did not have insurance.
"Do you have samples, Doc? I really can't afford any expensive medication at this time," he said.
I looked at him a little closely. He was dressed very well. The keys he had in his hands displayed the Mercedes logo, and from the looks of it, it was one of the newer remote controlled keys. His shoes were 'Air-Jordan' -- probably fairly expensive too. So what was the deal here? But maybe he suddenly fell on hard times, I thought to myself.
"I don't have any samples now, but if you can come back in a couple of days, I'll probably have some," I said.
"Ohh... I won't be able to do that. I'm going on vacation tomorrow," he replied.

How do you make sense of people like the one above? Here is my own personal example, and that will probably help understand the dichotomy of our social structure. I was car-shopping at that time. At one of the dealerships, I was particularly interested in one car. And then the car salesman, says to me-- "Your social status doesn't allow you to buy this car. You need a different one." I just smiled in response. But his statement stuck with me for the next few days. My social status doesn't allow me to buy something that I like?

I started to think of the cars my friends drive. Apart from the people living in my neighborhood (because I see their cars parked outside), I realized that I really didn't know what brand or type of cars my friends have. And frankly, I don't really care. I am close to some individuals because I connect with them. I like them for who they are, and not because of what they have, or what they do. So that brings us to "Social Status."

Do I define my social status, or does it define me? Am I locked in a certain standard of living that society around me anoints? Human beings are social animals. As a general rule, we want people to think good of us. A few of us will go to extremes to make sure that we are in everybody's good books. A few, on the other side of the spectrum, don't care at all of what others think. Majority of us are in the middle, where we try to balance what is expected of us and what we think is appropriate.

A lot of factors define one's social status. Personality and maturity probably rank among the top. Educational status and professional / work success would come in a close second. Money and wealth provide a lot of prominence, but do not necessarily provide a measure of status. Being prominent, either due to wealth or title, does not ensure likability within society. Status and reputation is not given to us, nor is it bestowed. We earn these two unmeasurable parameters over the years, irrespective of one's education, wealth or title.

Life would be a lot less stressful if we all keep doing what we think is right, stick to our principles & core values, and let society worry about our social status.

"An individual who values his privileges and perks above his principles, soon loses both." ~ Dwight Eisenhower


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is all the 'Rush-Rush' worth it....?!

The other day, my wife and I were driving to a friends house and we got caught in traffic. So my wife says --"Isn't the other lane going faster? Why don't you go in that lane?"
So I change my lane and guess what happens? My new lane slows down to a crawl and the lane I just left picks up speed! And this happens all the time, at least to me.

And when I go to the grocery store, its a given that a wheel on my cart will always develop a squeal that makes heads turn. When its time to check out, I look for the shortest line, and then I try to gauge all the check out clerks. I get in the line with the most intense looking cashier, the one who seems to be working the fastest. And after all this, more often than not, the person ahead of me, has some issues with his credit card.

What is the purpose of going through all these permutations and combinations- changing traffic lanes or check out lanes in stores? Obviously to save time. And how much time do we save? Maybe a couple of minutes, maybe a little more but mostly less. So this begs the question -- is saving a couple of minutes worth stressing the brain with all those calculations?

A recent research study, by no less than the "Academy of Science" researchers revealed that if there was just one check out lane at retail and grocery stores (like in most Banks), where the next customer is called whenever a cashier opens up, reduced the sub-conscious stress levels for the day, by about 10-25%. That does seem like a lot. Cynics among us (and there are many!) will wonder how in the heck can we measure sub-conscious stress levels-- and to that, I have no answer.

But the point of the research study should be well taken. A lot of us need to to take a chill pill, relax and take it a bit easy. A couple of minutes here or there, in our day-to-day lives, is not going to change the trajectory of one's life. There is more to life than just speeding it up. 

When a person try's to control everything, that individual enjoys nothing. Sometimes, its therapeutic to let go and just let life happen. And you will be surprised how enjoyable and relaxing that feeling can be!

"The time to relax is when you don't have time for it." ~Jim Goodwin