Of Pens And Phones
January 16, 2021
For most of my adult life, I saw myself as an absent-minded and distracted person with a tendency to lose my things.
This tendency was particularly bothersome when it came to pens and mobile phones.
“I am the way I am. I can’t do much about it.” That was my mindset. Therefore, I concluded early enough that it was better to buy inexpensive mobile phones and pens. That way, when I lose them, I won’t feel bad.
Between the years 1998 and 2008, I lost close to a dozen cell phones. Literally one every year.
I would buy pens by the dozens and lose them by the dozens. I would take notes at work and leave the Pen around. Colleagues around me did their best to return the pens I misplaced, but I still managed to lose them.
About twelve years back, a very dear friend of mine taught me a brilliant life lesson. He wanted to prove that no one is born absent-minded or careless and that I had a bad attitude.
My friend and I were flying from Dubai to Singapore on a business trip. At the Dubai Duty-Free, my friend forced me to buy an expensive Mont Blanc pen worth approx $400. That was the most expensive Pen I had ever bought. I was thinking, “I’ll keep the pen safe in my suitcase. I won’t use it.” My friend read my mind and forced me to use the Pen for all my work notes during that trip.
My absent-mindedness and carelessness vanished after that trip(at least with regards to the Mont Blanc Pen). I have not lost the Pen since then.
My friend wanted to repeat this success. He forced me to buy the first iPhone when it was released in Dubai- and I have not lost a phone since then.
So, what changed when I bought the Mont Blanc Pen or the iPhone that all my carelessness vanished overnight.?
When it came to the cheap pens and the inexpensive phones, even though they cost me money, subconsciously, I was not associating any value to them. And, this showed up in my actions and my distractions. I was careless and losing them.
When I spent the kind of money I did in acquiring the phone and the Pen, I became aware of how valuable they were. They meant something to me. I became more careful and conscious.
This same principle, I realized later, applies in all aspects of our life- time, relationships, things, objects, and experiences. Until we understand the intrinsic value of these, we tend to be casual about them.
In the case of the Pen and the iPhone, I could ascribe a financial value to them. But in the case of all other aspects of our life, there is no direct price tag we can put- on the day we live, the relationships we have, the experiences we go through. So, we don’t understand the value of what we have.
For the non-material things, the way life teaches us about value is through loss. When we lose a relationship, an opportunity, a loved one, we understand and appreciate the importance.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to experience the loss to recognize the value of something. We have to learn to associate value with what we have. E.g., how we spend our day depends upon how we associate value for the day and time we have. If we treat it like a cheap pen, we will squander the day pursuing meaningless, low-value activities. If we treat it like the premium iPhone, we will be conscious and mindful of what we prioritize.
Assign a high value to yourself, your time, focus, energy, relationships, money, and things. When you do that, you will be careful and conscious. You will not squander what you have. You will become valuable.