Living bubbles.. and popping questions

What is life all about? What roles do I play? How do I play my role well? Am I doing a good job? How can I improve and be more effective? 

We ponder these questions at some point of our lives driven by introspection and desire for self improvement or circumstances thrust upon us. Irrespective of whether and how we actually answer those questions, life does roll forward and tends to take the form of ‘bubbles’.

Each bubble represents a functional area of our life where we play a specific role, interact with certain people and deal with situations and issues present in that bubble. Living through a typical day of the week, we switch our presence between these ‘bubbles’ and related interaction and activities.

Two of the most common bubbles is that of ‘working professional’ and ‘being a parent’. Those two bubbles are distinct yet interconnected. For working parents, the topic of work-life is often discussed and the balance that is sought is easy to comprehend but hard to realize.

What makes it hard is the daily effort to balance time for family, friends, community, spirituality, personal growth, self care, and other personal activities, in addition to the demands of the workplace.

the bubbles we live in..
the bubbles we live in..and the ??? that pop often.

As we live in each of these bubbles, the mere act of living gives rise to questions that need to be answered or issues that needs to be solved. Let’s take an example of a typical day in a typical household of working professionals with a growing family.

The day starts with the ‘being a parent’ bubble to get the kids ready for school. A question pops ‘What are some healthy lunch choices for my kids?’ On the commute to work, another one pops, “It is a 50 mins commute and radio is uninspiring. What are good podcasts to listen to”.

At work, just got informed through company email that enrollment is due soon. So need to figure out what health insurance option to signup that best meets the needs of family. Over lunch with my manager, she asked to evaluate a mind-mapping software to purchase for the team and asked my opinion on using Skype as a viable option to reducing international call charges, in part due to controlling G&A.

I also found out that I am signed for a business trip to Guangzhou, China. Since, it would be first time, I spend a good chunk of the afternoon trying to ask around anyone been to China and get a lot of opinions what to do and not to do. It’s past 5, as I get into my car, out of nowhere the thought descends upon me, that I need to find a CPA to consult on tax filing.

I reach home and catchup with family, my 8-year old son says “Dad can you get me a just right book in the non-fiction category for a book project due coming week” and my wife reminds me that I need to get a new grease filter for the microwave oven. I have been procrastinating since I haven’t just had the time to research the internet to figure out which one.

By now you get an idea, and I think you might not have anything close to this type of day but can I assume you will have number of questions through out the day just living a normal day.

Aladdin’s advantage

We all know about Aladdin and his magic lamp. By rubbing the lamp a genie appeared and said ‘your wish is my command’. Anything Aladdin wanted got done in a whiff and every question was answered.

Though we wish sometimes, we do not have such a special lamp which can make pressing issues magically go away. Aladdin must have had a wonderful life. The reality is very different for most of us.

We have many questions and each of those questions need to be answered, decisions to be made and issues resolved and some with urgent focus. That’s our reality.

Source of Information and Expertise

When it comes to finding information and advise for decision making, there are basically 3 sources:

    1. Free information
    2. Free advice
    3. Paid advice

The first is ‘Free information‘ comprising of mostly the world wide internet, local library and other free resources. With the internet being so accessible on our computers, tablets and phone, we often resort to internet search for researching information.

While it is a boon in that the vast amount of information is available on any topic, it is a bane since we have to pore through the information to find accurate and reliable information than can be actionable. It has just recently grabbed the headlines on the subject of paid reviews and the revelations on many popular e-commerce platforms.

One also needs to understand that the battle of first page results rages on. Those companies and entities with the biggest SEO marketing bucks win the game. In this scenario, the question a common man is left to wonder is what information to trust.

The second source ‘Free advice‘ that is available when we reach out to our network of friends and family for advice on matters.

The advantage is the easy accessibility and the information is trustworthy, but the drawback could be the lack of expertise. The network of friends and family might simply not have the expertise to provide us with competent advice. For example, one’s physician brother-in-law would be a great trust worthy resource on medical related matters, but might not be the best source of advice for investment related matters.

Finally, there is ‘Paid Advice‘ where we seek the guidance of licensed professionals for a fee. This is where one gets the most accurate and high quality advice.

The challenge is to establish a list of professionals such as accountants, legal, real estate, investment advisers, etc. Depending on individual situation it might not be cost accessible as the consulting rates could range from a few hundred to thousands of dollar per hour or engagement.

Irrespective of what source we use, we need reliable information and trustworthy advice to support making decisions on issues that are important to us and effect us.

Bubbles and Questions

Let’s look at the picture of the bubbles we live in and identify what bubbles are relevant to us today. For most of us, there will be 2-3 bubbles that are the most prominent and tend to be the center of our lives.¬†Additionally, there would be more bubbles that appear peripheral, those that tend to be present in our lives but not take up significant energy and time.

Now, if we do discover that there is one ‘a bubble’ that is big and center in our life and other bubbles are either few or small it would be obvious that that big bubbles is the dominant and defines us at the moment. This is typically the case when the first baby joy arrives where parenting becomes the biggest bubble and other things just as hobby, social, community moves to the periphery atleast in the short-term.

Over longer term the important question to ask is do we have the healthy balance that promotes a holistic perspective. As we deal with the fundamental questions we asked at the beginning, we are positioned to identify the bubbles we choose to create in your life and the ideal roles we seek to play within each of those bubbles.

Almost naturally, what begins to happen is questions start popping related to the current issues and challenges in each of those bubbles.

But here is the good news – if we have taken the effort to answer the questions “What roles do I play? How do I play my role well? Am I doing a good job? How can I improve and be more effective?” we are mentally prepared to be ahead in the game and take charge.

Instead of letting situations and circumstances dictate us, we can ready to take the bulls by the horns.

Let me know what you think. Share your comments below.

Mano Behera