I am not sure when was it that I heard this term for the first time. Although I am almost sure that I did not hear it in any management or corporate training sessions. It was probably some random article I came across in some magazine. Yes, there was a time when I used to read certain magazines regularly; no longer the case though. The photo that depicted the situation was really simple to explain the situation. It clearly of course had a rat in it. But it also showed how it is stuck in a circle and does not matter how fast it runs, it will keep on running till its death. I did not bother to read more about the study and how they came to use rat and not a bunny or a parrot for that matter. It is probably related to some special circumstances in medical sciences when we ended up accepting rats as the reliable/affordable/disposable animal to be used for studies from which we can make some statements about us.
It is remarkable how we as species are so proud of us to be the most intelligent species on the planet. We are proud how we managed to control all other bigger and much stronger species in the world. In general we are so proud that we are reluctant to use words “dumb” or “retarded” in common use. We are offended by their use, despite the fact that we ourselves designed the tests to quantify intelligence. Isn’t it strange that while we know that every one has different “level” of intelligence, given by these tests, but still when it comes to ranking ourselves, every one of us feel like we have the intelligence of Isaac Newton or Einstein. It is even more strange that the same species accept it as normal when someone tells us that we are stuck in a rat-race and shows us a rat running tirelessly in the wheel. Do we suddenly forget that we are way more smarter than a rat or in fact we become too wise to go many depths deeper to realize that at the end we are not so different than a rat?
I am sure, if the rat is replaced with a human in that experiment, he will stop and find another way. But, of course the experiment is way more simplified version of real life. Well, I do not need to explain about rat-race and the life situations for everyone. Interestingly we all know about it. We read about it, we talk about it, we comment about it, we write slogans about it, we blame others about it, but hardly we do anything about it. Why? Lets try to find few excuses.
I know few people in my life, who would often talk about how they are stuck in this race. They will keep on complaining about their situation, but almost never stop to think and change the situation. Some of them change a part of their puzzle, simply to replace it with another one. E.g. Mark (a random name) was completely frustrated how we was working so hard. He was spending days and nights, weeks and weekends at work. He would complain how the employer is bad and not providing any help to solve it. He would also complain about the unfair demands by the customer. Of course he would complain about the non-cooperating and under-performing colleagues. He was working so hard that he ended up with burn-outs and had to take psychotherapy sessions. Every time he would start talking about his sad situation he would mention how it is there for last many years. Despite all that, he would keep on trying to find new things, new projects in the company to do. If some senior manager asked him to get extra work, he would take it only to complain later how they keep on throwing work at him. What if he stops taking that extra work? Won’t it make his life easier? What if confronts the manager or the company to align on the work requirements, won’t that make his life simpler? Of course it would, as long he still keep on getting on those promotions and higher salaries and position, which the company won’t give without squeezing out every minute of his time. He was afraid, if he says no, then he may be asked to leave, he would have to find new work. That in turn would hinder his plans to pay those house mortgages. What about the plans to send his kid to the costliest private school, which he believes will ensure the best education for his kid? What about those annual holiday plans to different countries, while enjoying in 5 star hotels with spas, Jacuzzis and other facilities?
Similar is the situation of another guy, Ramesh. He thinks the government/system has put chains around himself. He feels that system has trapped him into working days and nights for years to pay his costly house. He believes it is systems conspiracy to make him buy a house to keep on paying mortgages for a given number of years before he can sell it without paying taxes. Would it be a nightmare, if sells his house paying taxes, thus allowing him to reduce his work hours and live a little more relaxed life? Of course it would be, as the system is so bad that it made him incapable of letting go of that money in the form of taxes; the taxes that he so hates to pay. What would he do with his expensive car, if he does not have an expensive house to park it anywhere. Now that would be a shame, isn’t it?
Yet another one, Sonderson, won’t fail to mention his dream to grow his own potatoes and veggies in his big house with a large garden. He had bought a house in a country side for that purpose, where he can go and relax with his family. But in all those years, he only managed to go there for a week at max with his family and mostly ended up buying new things for the house to decorate it inside and outside. As it is a short vacation, so there is less time to relax. Before they end up their planned refurbishments, it is time to head back to the city and the work, which he would like to exchange for his garden potatoes. But, how? He just needs few more years to work, as with next promotion his salary would rise. This will ensure him a better pension plan when he retires. Also, he plans to sell his 5 years old Mercedes and buy a new Porsche to match his new status. The Porsche for which he may not get to push that gas paddle to the bottom, as he is mostly driving in city. But, it is clear that after his promotion, he already has planned to stay engaged in more fancy and expensive gadgets to keep on having debt to get rid off. Surely, this is not because he wants it so. He clearly knows that he wants to grow his own potatoes in his garden. It is just this company for which he is working, won’t let him get out of it. It is the kids that want to have new phones, new video games, new dresses, new and far away trips and of course this bloody taxes, health insurance and pension fund that he has to pay every month. If just all of those can stop putting demands on him, he will immediately move to his garden.
Some are on different dimension or let’s say in a different type of race. They are not working day and night to meet their fancy vacation. They in general are happy with the things as they are from work perspective. There is salary coming monthly from government/system and they are happy to say no to any additional work. After all why to run after money and not have time for yourself. Thus they are happy to go out on daily/regular basis for coffee/beer or other such social way of connecting with friends and acquaintances. However, more often than not they would end up discussing about how their salaries are so low that by the end of the month they have to think if they can have their 3rd beer or not. Of course, it also means that system is so bad that they may not be able to buy their own house/apartment.
There are even some special ones, who put working class in 2 categories. One, which is working on the papers, but they just do not do any thing, abuse the system and just care about their pay checks. No worker is a good worker for them. Second category is the of the people who just work too much. The ones who do not know how to enjoy life and are just running from work to work from money to money, and for what? Why not sit down with me have a cup of tea and categorize the rest of world in these categories?
Today, we have easy access to all kind of literature. Not all is available for free, but a whole lot is. I see a lot of articles about our need to provide a kind, comforting environment to help kids, help society. How “we” need to make it easier for people to reach their potentials. It almost seems like we are unanimously creating a make believe that if something is not right, it must be because of bad system or wrong environment or too hard a puzzle to solve. I am not sure, how we communicate about the comfortable environments of so many big names in the world that we can learn today. Just to list some from different working domains: Martin Luther King jr. Rosa Parks, Morgan freeman, Malala Yousafzai, Abraham Lincoln, Jack Ma, Jeff bezos, Abdul Kalam, Dr A Velumani and so on. They all faced tough situations, that is what made them what they are or became. If they were given all facilities sitting at home without giving any motivations, any reason to outperform others, all we get is ugly fat pigs and not stallions those wins the races!
I hope “we” find someway to engage ourselves at a little more deeper level with little more effort to see who is making us to stay in the rat-race. I hope we do not stop laughing because it causes pain in our stomach and we do not stop smiling because it hurts our cheeks.
Mulla Nasrudin had listened to the encouragement of a friend who had touted a certain horse pretty highly. The next day, after the horse had come in last, the Mulla saw the tipster and screamed, “Brother, have I got it in for you. That horse you told me to bet on came in last.” “Last?” the fellow said. “I can’t understand it. He should have been able to win that race in a walk.” “THAT’S THE WAY HE TRIED IT,” said Nasrudin, “BUT HE STILL CAME IN LAST.”