Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
— Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005
The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18, Verse 47) says that it is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another person’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.
We are all born with unique talents. When we choose a profession that puts these unique talents to use in the service of humanity, we are following our Dharma. For a businessman, it is to offer products and services that improve people’s lives. For an artist, it is to create art that inspires other people. For a financial advisor, it is to help secure the financial future of his clients.
We tend to make decisions about our profession based on the amount of money we can make. We are influenced by the success of others and try to blindly imitate them. However, the Bhagavad Gita says that this is a sure recipe for disaster because by imitating another person we are disengaging from our Dharma. If a person with clumsy hands chooses to become a surgeon just to make money, he will pay a heavy price for his wrong choice.
Following one’s Dharma applies not only to an individual but also to a company. Too many companies mindlessly imitate the behavior of their peer companies. Warren Buffett calls this an institutional imperative. Too many financial institutions that were under the influence of the institutional imperative placed risky bets on various financial instruments. In doing so, these companies disconnected from their Dharma. The consequences were disastrous.
We are at our best when we follow our true calling. So let us stop pretending to be someone else and start following our Dharma.