Guest Writer (a sikhpulse first)

As a Sikh, one is expected to earn his livelihood by honest and creative means. In my opinion, this means that one has to become a master of his trade. To become a master of one’s trade requires hard work and commitment.

My trade happens to be electrical engineering. In September 2001, I started my university studies in this field. As any engineer will eagerly tell you completing the degree is like reaching the summit of a mountain. From the first lecture in Math 101 till the thesis defence, obstacles of all kinds must be surmounted.

Being an engineer requires one to understand mathematically complex theory and apply it to the real world. Beside analytical skills, teamwork, and communication, an engineer’s work requires the highest level of commitment. The word “commitment” had been burned into my memory since a conversation with my professor during my freshman days.

For six summers and winters I did my best to demonstrate commitment to my work. While my friends from other degrees went sunbathing in Ibiza or skiiing in the Alps, my classmates and I would pore over textbooks trying to make sense of Maxwell’s theory and Differential equations. When our motivation would sink we would tell each other that all sacrifices would be worth it in the end. The only question was when this end would come.

As I sit now, many years later, writing the last chapters of my Master’s thesis I realize that the much anticipated “end” of my studies has come. While I cannot deny that every sacrifice helped towards developing the knowledge and abilities, I question what was the most valuable lesson that I had learned from my experiences.

While I had done my best to work with 100% commitment I was not happy from inside with the quality of my work. Despite my thesis supervisor praising the work produced I had often questioned its worth countless times. This was due to the fact that I had spent so much time at it and that I saw more imperfection than quality. I do not think that any person should feel like this about their work. My supervisor pointed out that I had been perhaps too committed to my work to pay attention to other areas in my life. Stifling my umpteenth yawn and wiping my red-set eyes, I nodded in agreement.

As a Sikh, I have always tried to work honestly towards mastering my trade. In hindsight, I should have taken more time off from work and concentrated more on other areas such as sewa and simran. I would have been much happier and satisfied with life.

I have learned now that honesty and commitment towards one’s profession or kirat karni does not mean working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week towards your goals. Commitment involves regular breaks especially when things at work are not turning out the way they should be. Otherwise one’s happiness and confidence can be torn apart by his very desire to produce quality work. I will treasure this lesson more than the ability to work through complex math equations or write technical reports.

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