Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Ramblings of a Retired Mind


When someone offers you money to do a job – they pay you for two things:

1. Of course – you are paid for your expertise

2. But more importantly – you are paid for your time

When you are paid money to do something – you work under obligation.

When you work under obligation – people have expectations from you – and you have to meet deadlines and deliver results.

Let me give you an example.

Towards the end of my “work-life” – I taught at a University.

Since I was paid a salary – I was “obliged” to take lectures and conduct various types of training courses.

I could not “pick and choose” – and though I enjoyed training more than teaching – I had to do both.

Of course – you were given choice of subject to the extent feasible – but sometimes – I had to teach subjects I did not like to students who were more interested in grades than learning – though I preferred training young inductees who were keen and enthusiastic to learn.

Now – I have retired.

Many institutions/organizations do call me as a “guest lecturer” for teaching/training.

But now – I am free to pick and choose – yes – as long as I don’t take money – I am under no obligation.

So – I go where I enjoy myself – and I decline where I do not want to go.

During my long career in the Navy too – I was quite lucky – as most of the time I enjoyed autonomy to work in my style.

Most of my bosses gave me a free hand.

And my “abrasive personality” helped in the case of “nosey-parker” bosses who tried to “micromanage” me – after a few “encounters” – they stopped interfering and kept a safe distance.

In the Navy there is a dictum:

When you are given a task – You “like” it or you “lump” it.

I tried to make sure – that in most of my jobs – I “liked” it – and my bosses “lumped” it

However – since I was paid a salary – I was “obliged” to meet deadlines and deliver results – which I did – and – sometimes – I did have to do jobs that I did not enjoy doing.

Yes – if you are paid money – then you are under obligation to “sell” your expertise and your time to your employer/client who has “bought” your expertise and time.

While your “expertise” is important – your “time” is more important.

In order to realize your full potential – you must have the “autonomy” to optimally utilize your expertise.

And – if you want to enjoy autonomy – you must have total control on your time.

Not being under obligation gives you full freedom on how to use your time to realize your full potential while enjoying the work you want to do without being under pressure to deliver.

Unless you are a “Maharaja” or “Nawab” or a “Freeloader” – you may have to “work” to earn a living.

However – you can certainly try to strike a balance between “salary” and “obligation” while choosing your job.


Obligation can be non-monetary too.

You may “promise” to do something – you give a “commitment” to someone – and you come under “moral obligation” to do the task you have promised/committed to do.

In your relationships – you can come under “emotional obligation” to do something for your loved ones, friends, colleagues and others.

So – you must be careful before you make “promises” and “commitments” – especially those you think will be difficult or laborious to keep.


Obligation is akin to “extrinsic motivation”.

“Working” without obligation emanates from “intrinsic motivation” – when you do something of your “free will” because you enjoy doing it.

Working under obligation can be stressful (because of the “obligation” to meet deadlines and deliver results).

Working without obligation is sheer enjoyment – in fact – “work without obligation” becomes “play”.

Let me give you an example.

From my early days in the Navy – because I have an academic bent of mind and have penchant for reading and writing – I was involved in various “intellectual” and “literary” activities – writing articles/research papers, editing in-house magazines/reports/special news supplements, compiling/collating reference documentation, organizing conferences/seminars, conducting training etc.

Then – I could not do as I pleased – I had to work within the framework under constraints and deadlines – because I was “obliged” to do so.

Now – after retirement – I enjoy my creative writing as I please – I am free to write what I want to, when I want to, where I want to – no deadlines – no constraints – no pressure to deliver.

Working without obligation is fun.


You must be careful not to be “tricked” into obligation by bosses who will try to make drudgery appear enjoyable – and fool you by making “work” appear as “play”.

Daniel H. Pink, in his insightful book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” describes the “Sawyer Effect”.

Pink defines the Sawyer Effect as “practices that can either turn play into work or turn work into play” – derived from an episode from Mark Twain’s book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in which Tom Sawyer tricks his friends into painting a fence for him by convincing them painting a fence was a fun activity.

Many smart bosses use this “Sawyer Effect” to trick their subordinates by “convincing” them a laborious task is indeed fun.

The Military makes use of this “Tom Sawyer Trap” concept very effectively.

By using “pep talks” and jingoistic terms like “josh” – Military Training Academies use the “Sawyer Effect” to “motivate” Cadets into believing that tough physical tasks like combat training, parade drill, boxing and cross-country running are actually “fun”.

Various jingoistic motivating stratagems like “Regimental Spirit”, “Esprit De Corps” etc are used to whip up intrinsic motivation and morale.

Of course – this is fully justified in wartime when it is required to raise soldiers’ fervour to a fighting pitch.

Business and Corporate Organizations also justify the use of “Sawyer Effect” in order to extract “value for money” from their high-salaried employees.

But – as far as you are concerned – you must be careful that someone does not trap you into obligation by cleverly using the “Tom Sawyer Trap” against you – especially by playing with your emotions.

You can be trapped into obligation due to your financial, moral and emotional vulnerabilities.

I have seen many persons get trapped into social obligations since they allowed their emotional vulnerability to be exploited by the “Tom Sawyer Effect”.

I was trapped many times into taking up writing, teaching and training assignments which appeared to be “enjoyable” but turned out to be quite painful.

That is why I have stopped committing to doing “guest blogging”, editing, reviews etc – and I avoid teaching and training assignments which create a sense of obligation.

I like to keep busy – so I never sit idle – and I am always “working”.

But – I try my best to avoid any “work” where there is a sense of obligation.

Now – I want to “work” without obligation.

As I head towards the autumn of my life – my most precious commodity is “Time” – and – I do not wish to trade my time for anything else.

I want to be free to use my time as I want to – without any obligations.

“Work” without obligation is “Fun”

Yes – for me – “Work” is “Fun”

And – I want to have Fun.

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1. This article is a spoof, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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