Switched off my MP3 player and got to office this morning after wrapping up my son’s football practice and dropping him off.  Late, as unusual, by about 15 minutes.  I’m usually here before the security guard has his uniform on and it is lonely for sometime.  This incident started a stream of consciousness about life, the universe and everything, which I am going to record here.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 7 to 9 a.m. the ten-year-olds in my son’s school gather for their football team practice;  dads, moms and faithful servants invited.  So what if the timing is closer to midnight than anything decent?  Leonardo (my son) wants to make the inter-school team.  A couple of days I cheered for two hours from the sidelines.  A couple of days I dropped him off at the gate and zipped off to see my 80-year-old mum who lives alone.  And today I drove my wife off to the fresh vegetables stockpile.  Next week my three kids go to Summer Camp for seven days from 7 to 7 – guess who drops them and picks them up?

So what’s this got to do with MP3s and other music formats?  Nothing, yet.  After work tonight and twice a week I sit with ageing, expanding, musician friends and play our unfit-for-public-consumption version of the great Jazz standards.  Sometimes piano, sometimes bass, but always music.  And while doing intensive, creative development work for the good of this great company I have some light Latin on MP3 playing in the background (tech policies notwithstanding).  My music interests extend to organizing the annual Jazz Fest and attending performances by upcoming musicians of all types wherever, whenever.

This article is taking long because one of our ex-consultants, now doing an MBA, called to ask for help on what she should be doing in her research for parts of the HR syllabus.  In between designing training programs I sit with young people from the Calcutta office and talk about their careers and development.  Kids at the church and club also use the ‘off-time’ to chat about what they could be doing in life.  Late night e-chats are reserved for nieces and nephews in other parts of the world.  Foster parenting goes a long way.

Next weekend I could be part of the winning team at the DI Open Quiz – we won it last year. Social obligations get me to sit on the team whenever needed.  Or, I could be designing and uploading the club website. Or, involving myself in a dozen other social programs along with my ever-suffering wife (who enjoys this as much or more).  Sunday mornings – no, I don’t even get a Sunday to sleep late – is for playing the keyboard at the local Church.  The loosely organized choir ranges in ages from 8 to 68 and who cares if tempo and tune are given casual treatment?  The enthu and gusto makes up for the lack of practice – now we know what practising Catholics can do, they can sing in tune!

“So, what’s this got to do with MP3s?” I hear you cry.  Your patience is shortly to be rewarded.  A few weeks ago I attended a talk on “Work-Life Balance” by Dr Zahid Gangjee, a renowned Organisational Behaviour consultant and a dear friend.  Last Sunday, over a beer, he reminded me to think about that talk and to slot the things I do into those areas.  So, here’s the story behind MP3S – yes, it’s a capital S.

He talked about investing in things that are unlikely to fail like Stocks and Shares (I almost said ‘shocks and stares’ – which is probably closer to the truth).  He talked about five areas of investment, represented in his words by 3 Ps and 2 Ss … I like to make easily recalled acronyms out of everything, so I converted that to MP3S.

M – Myself.  It’s easy to see that work-life balance works a lot better when you invest in yourself.  Self-development, changes in career, new learnings, certificates, diplomas – whatever.  As long as I am learning I am investing in myself.

P1– Partnering.  Finding things to do around the house – did I mention the new kitchen shelves, the plumbing, electrical repairs?  Me and my SmartKit.  I still have to work up courage to go shopping … or walking Tornado, our three-year-old boxer.

P2– Parenting.  Not only my kids but all those with whom I can share my experience and knowledge, not necessarily kids!  I’m sure people collect on the dividends of my investments.

P3– Profession.  I’m not going into that here.  All the great people I work with give me enough feedback to indicate that I have invested heavily and continue to make recurring deposits into my profession.  Old investments made in my one-and-only previous job are still paying dividends.

S – Society.  At my brother’s funeral in November, when I saw the Church bursting at the seams and the graveyard packed to capacity, I realized how much he had invested in society. A motley crew from several disparate walks of life were all there together.  I have much to invest and have started late, but I hope to get there. Portfolio overhaul in progress.

There, I have explained MP3S.  Now, like a good teacher (old habits die hard) I shall set you some homework. 

You have two choices (either a & b or b & a – the order is interchangeable).

(a) Go back on my article and slot all those activities into M-P1-P2-P3-S and check out my investments!  Am I rich or poor?  You decide. 

(b) Go back home and slot everything you do into MP3S – are you investing enough?  Or is the P3 overshadowing the rest?  Like the stock market, if you put everything into one stock and it crashes … sayonara (that’s Goodbye in Japanese, not to be confused with cyanide which is goodbye in all languages).

Choose life!

Leslie D’Gama

May 22, 2009