“Tuesdays with Morrie”….this is a book that haunted me…and as a film, no less. Its lessons still linger – and today, I use them as a check point for all that I do.“An old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson”…this is the book’s signature, and what profound lessons!
Based on true events, this is narrated by Mitch Albom, a very successful sports journalist with a daily radio show in Detroit. He says he thought he had it all – love, fame and money till he accidentally saw his professor Morrie Schwartz on television one evening – and learnt that Schwartz was slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Like all serendipitous twists and truths of life, Albom reaches out to him to resume the spiritually enriching conversations that had meant so much to him in college. Travelling regularly from Detroit to Schwartz’s home in Massachusetts on most Tuesdays, Albom taped the meetings – and ”Tuesdays with Morrie” is the result.
Who was Morris Schwartz, and what did he have to say that Albom found so life changing? And what does it mean to us as professionals?
The first profundity lies in the courage we need to display to reject the cultural norm if it is not conducive to one’s own beliefs and happiness. As Mitch transforms from one entangled in the norms of living the life of the young, successful professional (who is too overrun with work to think of anything else) to his actual persona, he breaks free and accepts debilitation as a natural part of life and professional cycle. The truth is, conformance never breeds brilliance. But then, rejection is a negative reaction. The positive aspect of Morrie’s most important lesson to Mitch is that he must create his own culture or wither away in one that has turned him into a person he cannot recognize. As the pages flip, we see, through the eyes of Mitch, how Morrie has created his own culture and how we can too, in our own ways.
The second lesson is one that cuts across hierarchy and seniority.It brings home the truth that whatever be the age or rank, each one of us needs a person we can look up to or relate to – and that we need to be one such too. Genuine goodness forms a huge and integral characteristic of such a need. Mitch reunites with his professor because he is nostalgic for his former self and needs the man whom he so looked up to in college to regain some sense of the man he had been, the man he would like to be. And guess what? The relationship that Mitch and Morrie share, is not one-sided as the professor too benefits from his time with Mitch, regaining his mirthful spirit through the younger man. This rare dynamic between Mitch and Morrie is embodied by the nicknames they call one another, Morrie being the “coach” and Mitch being the “player”. Truly, a lesson of humility especially for all seniors with power and authority and for all others who will one day reach that height.
The third lesson, seemingly laughable at its naiveté, is what Morrie teaches Mitch about trust.Morrie teaches that that trust is blind and we can only trust another based on an instinctive feeling, not by any rational judgment or method of thinking. To trust someone is to close your eyes and fall back, hoping that the person your instincts have told you is trustworthy will catch you and keep you from harm. In the professional realm, this translates into working with our ‘gut’ feeling and “gutsy” actions!
Morrie’s advice to Mitch to “detach” himself from his experiences enables one realize that one can step out of tangible surroundings and into one’s own state of consciousness, to gain perspective and composure in times of stress. The value of such detachment reaches a positive high in his words “Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.”
Here are some quotes from the book that radiate powerful impact from not attempting to explain or dissecting them – they are best read as they are
“…Take my condition. The things I am supposed to be embarrassed about now — there is nothing innately embarrassing about them. It’s the same for women not being thin enough, or men not being rich enough. It’s just what our culture would have you believe. Don’t believe it…..”
“…You see, . . . you closed your eyes. That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too — even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling…”
“…As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed as ignorant as you were at twenty- two, you’d always be twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it…”
“…if you’re trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down on you anyhow. And if you’re trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone…”
“There is no formula to relationships. They have to be negotiated in loving ways, with room for both parties, what they want and what they need, what they can do and what their life is like.”
“…We…need to forgive ourselves…For all the things we didn’t do. All the things we should have done. You can’t get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened…”
And finally…”The truth is . . . once you learn how to die, you learn how to live…”