How wealthy are you?

I guess it depends on which currency you measure your wealth in.

If you asked the uncle next door, he would lookup your bank balance and total up the USD, GNP, Euro (but with a prayer!), INR (with a bigger prayer!)..This wealth ages well – you can live off your grandfathers’ savings even today.

The doctor at the neighborhood clinic wouldn’t entirely agree. Money’s important but isn’t pedigree (number of certificates and the institutions which issued them) worth more – if you had the latter, you could get fulfillment and money

The merchant would think it was information alone that deserved to be the best currency. As long as he knew more about the market than the farmer and more about the farms than the buyer, he could make a tidy sum.

If you asked your friend at wall street, he would talk about his stocks and what he thinks they are worth. He may confess that the value of the stock depends not on a physical asset/ company performance but on market perception. And perception is fickle – remember man is kind, men are evil!

The youngster at work would elucidate the number of LinkedIn contacts he has and the number of testimonials he’s obtained. He may also flout his klout score and the reputation he has in the virtual world.

The teenage girl may carelessly show you her enormous friends list on Facebookand the massive likes she’s earned. She sure is popular, as she bobs her head to a blockbuster soundtrack on her iPod.

Her grandfather would shake his head reflecting on the ignorance and innocence of youth as he fondly remembers the titles he’s earned (not quite knighted by the queen but close) and the clubs he’s a proud member of. Did he mention the viceroy once gave him a memento – the only one in his entire province to have received the honor?

The social activist shudders at the selfishness of her dad’s generation as she goes to salvage the poor from poverty, provide education to the masses and save the girl child.

We finally stroll down to the ashram where the saint is seated under a tree smiling serenely. The saint realizes he doesn’t have any desires left nor has he the random thoughts that agitate the common man. For him less is indeed more.

Who amongst these is right? Or is anyone or everyone? Who would you like to be?

And here’s a lovely list of attitudes from Seth Godin – that may help clarify what you are after…

Information? Reputation?

So much for that experiment! I tried to put together a small note on what I thought was priceless information and in a pocket-sized format, and there were no takers (ha, ha!)! Not the regulars, not the folks coaxed by WordPress, nor those diverted by the search engines. Maybe the time wasn’t right, it wasn’t packaged right – or maybe it just plain sucked! So, let’s do the next best thing, call it off and move on to more sturdy ground…and do some meditation on “information and reputation” instead..

It seems to me information is no longer a “differentiated and powerful” currency. It’s a commodity – we have too much of it, and we have it everywhere. We have google to look up all sorts of worldly stuff, the newspapers for keeping count of all the depressing stuff, tons of metrics (and even more dashboards) at work and the psychiatrists to tell you more about yourself than you want to know. The age of “information being power” and the “middle managers ( please click to checkout a very nice piece from HBR)” – seem truly dead. Commodity exchanges (linking farmers and marketplaces), eBay (linking vendors to clients directly), social media (connecting news sources and client) and many like these – ensure brokers are going digital everywhere. As managers, information by itself seems to be a fairly ineffective  weapon in our arsenal. The quicker we recognize it, the better – unless we’d like to figure as  another pink slip statistic!
So what do we do after decades of playing the “parse and pass information” game? Do we have an alternative? Establishing a “reputation” of being able to assimilate different information sources and providing solutions seems to be one good alternate. In other words, technical consulting, implementation and support (advisory support on a technical or business aspect), mentoring (enabling a fellow human being achieve her potential), evangelism (espousing a cause we believe in, provided its not “information brokering!”) all seem to be dimensions we should tap into to avoid the failure game. Be the best and a beacon light for the multitudes to be successful – seems to be the mantra of the day. Isn’t “reputation” the currency which makes Eliyahu GoldrattKen Blanchard, Steven Covey, Anthony Robbins, Al Gore, Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and the like so very sought after?
Interestingly this “reputation” over “information” thinking seems to have pervaded the digital world too. The Wolframalpha search engine gets a lot of rave reviews due to its ability to serve you contextual info, klout scores and pinterest leaders seem to have no correlation to the account owners’ “bigness” but more on the quality and appropriateness of the content shared, quora emphatically believes that humans are better than machines at answering queries and YouTube continues to “discover” teen wonders (that was meant to shock you!).
So is this the moral – information is now hygiene – it cannot deliver greatness by itself? Are what we do with the information and how consistently we do so – what gets us the laurels?
If you are a manager, time to reach out for a  “knowledge to wisdom” transformation exercise. If we are a digital provider, time to introspect – are we an artist or a painter of houses? And is that who we want to be?

P.S: if you are intrigued by the piece that inspired the first para, I have decided to leave it in this blog (titled “mindfulness”) for a week or so…

Mindfulness – we aren’t talking about mind’s fullness!

You can watch the future pass you by, if you live in the past.

Watch the future unfold through you as you live in the present.

“Living” today is better than the “dreams” of yesterday…

Mindfulness requires an empty mind (not a mind full of thoughts and dreams!)

– a blog that wrote itself post a very inspiring browsing session…. Two sites you may want to check out with some great stuff on mindfulness:

Five reflections : some awesome haikus to get you reflecting on life in general

OnlyhereOnlynow – Also runs the “Present MOment Book Project”. Need we say more…