What can I do for 20 min a day that will make my life better in 30 days?
I asked this question to the wisest man I know.
He listened to me intently. Then, without saying a word, he went back into his hut.
He emerged five minutes later carrying a small glass jar in his hands.
“Twenty minutes is too big of an ask, don’t you think? I’ll make it easier for you. I will ask you to do something that won’t even take twenty seconds. Here, take this,” he extended the jar towards me.
I took it in my hands. It looked like an ordinary glass jar, nothing special or particular about it.
How will this change my destiny, I wondered.
“Keep this on your nightstand next to your bed. When you wake up in the morning, take a piece of paper, write that day’s date on it, and put it in this jar,” the wise man said.
“But this seems so trivial. I want you to tell me something earth-shattering — something that would change my destiny. I don’t see how this is gonna do it!” I protested.
“This task is far from trivial. In fact, it is so difficult that I can bet when you come back to me in thirty days, there wouldn’t be thirty chits in this jar. If there are, I promise your life would be utterly transformed."
I wasn’t convinced. But I trusted the old man. So, I took the jar and bode him farewell.
I was about to step out the door when I heard him call behind me - “Remember, thirty days. First thing after you wake up. If you skip even a single day, it won’t work.”
“I understand, old man,” I said.
The first day was easy. I had set a reminder with my alarm and as soon as it buzzed, I tore a corner from my journal, wrote the date on it and put it in the jar. I smiled with satisfaction as I closed the lid and placed it back on the nightstand.
Same thing next day.
The third day was Sunday. I had partied till 3 am the previous night. When I woke up, I had a severe hangover. I splashed some water on my face and made myself a glass lemonade. Then I went to other morning stuff. It wasn’t until midday that I suddenly remembered about the jar!
I hurriedly scribbled the date on a chit and put it in the jar hoping that the old man wouldn’t find out.
On Monday, I was woken up by a phone call from my office half an hour before my alarm. Something urgent had come up. I had to rush to the office.
When I went to bed that night, tired and exhausted from the day’s grind, something vague about the jar did come to my mind, but I was too tired to care.
By the fifth day, the jar was forgotten.
The month flew by.
It was time to visit the wise man again. I picked up the glass jar from the nightstand where it lay gathering dust. The three solitary paper chits inside it looked utterly sad.
When the old man saw the jar, a gentle smile appeared on his lips. “So, I see you have followed the ritual.”
“It wasn’t my fault, sensei. You gave me such a boring task which had nothing to do with life-transformation.”
“What difference would it have made if it was something life transforming?”
“Then it wouldn’t be mundane. I would have felt passionate about it. I would’ve done it, I swear.”
“That’s the problem. You think that passion is a magic pill that would carry you through anything. But the truth is that passion never lasts for more than a few days. When the going gets tough — when the grind gets brutal — passion evaporates. If passion is what you rely on, tell me - what would you do once it’s gone? This exercise - the life-changing thing you wanted me to tell you - it was never about ‘what’ you did for the thirty days, it was ‘that’ you did it. I could have given you anything, and you would still be standing here, holding an empty jar in your hands. Tell me, how could you have rewritten destiny in thirty days when you couldn’t even write the dates?”
“What have I done, sensei!” I cried in despair. “What do I do now?”
He paused for a moment and then, looking me straight in the eye with his piercing gaze, said -
“You go home, go to bed. When you wake up tomorrow, take a piece of paper and write the date.”
And with that, he handed the jar back to me.