[By Joshua Earle on Unsplash]
It was with mild amusement that I took in the sounds of loud music on New Year’s Eve, as I sipped plain water, sifted through the pages of an unpublished book and waited patiently for my daughter to get done with her first big “night out”.
She is now a teenager. The father in me thinks New Year’s Eve parties are pointless affairs. But it seems like yesterday when I was as young as her and argued much with my parents why partying all night is good. My history suggests arguing with her would lead to petulance.
Instead, the only advice I could offer her silently in my head, was a line attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every new year find you a better man.”
This line has stayed with me for long since I first stumbled across it. It has much to do with the nature of New Year’s resolutions. There is much research that proves all resolutions are broken within 4-6 weeks. As opposed to that, what Franklin said is not a resolution. It is at once a blessing and a call to action for people and organisations of all kinds. It is a line that, to my mind, can be deployed to ask where may our True North lie—both as individuals and organisations.
While I waited for my daughter, a thought gnawed: Am I growing old?
All doubts were laid to rest in the morning when an email from R Sriram, co-founder of Next Practice Retail, hit my inbox first thing in the morning. Clearly, I am not alone.
Sriram’s voice is one all of us at Founding Fuel take seriously. The subject line read “Here’s to grace, along with love and laughter, magic and meaning in our lives.”
There were pointers in the note that followed that all of us are now reading and listening in to. I’m delighted to share large parts of it and am convinced you will appreciate it. I hope my daughter will pore over it someday.
It is of the kind Benjamin Franklin would have approved. As Sriram wrote, to grace and meaning, this year, and in the years to come.
On behalf of Team Founding Fuel
What We Are Reading and Listening
12 truth’s I learned from life and reading
This talk by Anne Lammott, an American writer and teacher, is one that Sriram recommends. “Number one: the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is both a precious, unfathomably beautiful gift, and it’s impossible here, on the incarnational side of things.”
This is water
I had heard this commencement speech by David Foster Wallace in 2005 at Kenyon College. This now iconic 22-minute talk had slipped someplace into memory—until Sriram pointed to the full transcript.
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race”—the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.”
Questioning scale as we know it
Between my colleague N Ramnath and me, a little over two years were spent researching and writing about Project Aadhaar. Among the many things that struck us was the scale of the project and the complexities that come with it.
That is why this piece by Ingrid Srinath, founding director at the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy (CSIP) at Ashoka University, which questions scale and where may the trade-offs be, is one that came across as a pertinent one.
“It is a truism that the scale of India’s problems requires solutions of commensurate scale. However, prioritising scale over every other consideration—equity, justice, dignity, even relevance—has innumerable costs.
Scale leans towards reducing people to passive consumers of ‘development interventions’. Not only does that approach tend to ignore the all too real challenges of India’s diversity, it also leans towards reducing people to passive consumers of ‘development interventions’ rather than citizens who have the greatest stake in building their own lives, communities, and futures.
The pursuit of scale also privileges narrowness of focus, ignoring the reality that each issue is usually a mere symptom of deeper, interconnected factors. Unsurprising then, that each will achieve sub-optimal outcomes. Finally, this approach leads us to dismiss any solution that seems unamenable to scale on these limited terms.”
The 21 most important questions of your life
There is much else Sriram offered as pointers. What I’m still grappling with is—and now think haven’t given enough thought to—are the most important questions. This includes: What questions am I not asking myself?