Monday, January 29, 2007

Tales of Survival

Two full meals a day is just right for me: brunch and dinner. My ideal routine for the day would be: wake up early in the morning to kick off the day with some work, then take a break during mid-morning to run errands and do brunch, before resuming work in the afternoon and early evening.

The early morning work session is great--it allows me to put in 3 solid hours of work before other people even begin their day. I reserve this 3 hours for "real work"; this includes any task that require a high degree of concentration, such as writing, analysis, coding, researching and planning. Thinking work. The rest of the day, I know I'll be constantly occupied with phone calls, meetings and e-mails--"regular work" or work that does not require deep thinking.

My ideal daily routine is broken whenever I have early morning meetings in town. Then I'd have to start off early to join the rush-hour procession of cars to the city. Usually I'll use the one-hour drive to enjoy a good audiobook or listen to my favourite podcasts.

Driving is never dull when I have my iPod with me. My current "read" is Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. This is an exciting account of Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous expedition in 1914 to the Antartica, to attempt an overland journey across the icy continent. On their way there, their ship, the Endurance was trapped and crushed by the frozen sea. It is a nail-biting (frost-biting?) tale of survival in the harsh sub-zero temperatures of the Antartic seas, a gripping saga of men forced to stretch to the very limits of their endurance. Even when I was trapped under the hot KL sun in a traffic-jam listening to the audiobook, I shivered and froze together with these men, as they overcame every obstacle that Nature threw at them--blizzards, stormy seas and treacherous ice floes--to rescue themselves from one of the most treacherous and inhospitable places on Earth.

Tales of adventure and exploration like this are such wonderful reads. A couple of years back, I read an exciting account of Magellan's journey to circumnavigate the globe--it was a satisfyingly thick hardcover book which I had lugged together with me during one of my projects in Bangkok. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recently found an audio version of the book and so I intend to "reread" it again soon.

These tales are also very inspiring; they demonstrate to us the strength of the human spirit in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We sometimes think that we face similar situations in our lives too--intractable personal problems that bother us day and night. But tell yourself to find comfort in the fact that no matter how difficult the challenges are, it is nothing compared to what these explorers had to face.

In fact, hardly any of the challenges that we face in our humdrum middleclass existence is a matter of life and death. I haven't heard of a yuppie starving to death before. Most of the time, it's just the ego that needs to suffer a bit of bruising. Compare that to losing a leg to frostbite.

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