I heard a charming, short Zen story recently.
A young monk asked an old monk: “Master, what is the secret of enlightenment?”
The old monk replied: “Eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired.”
It wasn’t the first time I heard this story. I still remember the incident clearly.
It was the year 1992, my secondary school had just produced a batch of 5 students who blitzed their ‘O’ Levels exams, scoring the maximum 10 A1’s. They were dubbed the “金牌五虎将” (The Fabulous Five).
The Singapore Chinese broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报)interviewed them, and asked the obligatory question “So what is the secret of your success?”
One of them (I vague recall he was the Chief Scout as well. Typical over-achiever) replied “饿了就吃，累了就睡。” which translated directly into the old monk’s words of wisdom above.
I laughed. After all, isn’t that just common sense? Doesn’t everyone do that?
That advice certainly worked well for me in school. But the corporate world is a different ball game altogether. From time to time, I find myself dropping off the bandwagon. It’s so tempting to squeeze in that couple of minutes more – just a bit more before I’m done.
What harm could it do anyway? Just ignore the pangs and noises emanating from my stomach, I’ll treat it to some quality grub later. Sleep? I’ll just make up for it over the weekends.
But no more.
I’ve recently made a conscious decision to continuously monitor my energy level throughout the day. Once it drops low enough to affect my productivity, I’ll stop to re-fuel and recharge.
This is a culmination of what I’ve learnt about how human beings function over the years. The major findings were neatly summarised into an elegant theoretical framework in a recent book.
I’ll talk more about that in the next entry.