Arjuna and the Fish Eye: the fallacy of being over-informed, hyper-busy and multi-tasking

Focusing on what matters, The Redwoods, 2006

Focusing on what matters, The Redwoods, 2006

Does any of you recall the story from the Mahabharata, about the renowned archery master Dronacharya training the Pandava brothers in the art and skill of archery? Once, when the five Pandava brothers and Karna were assembled for an archery instruction session with Guru Drona, he tied a wooden fish high on a tree above a pool of water, and asked each student, one by one, to take the archer’s stance. He instructed them to aim their bow and arrow at the fish’s eye, while looking only at its reflection in the water below. As each student came along and took his turn, Guru Drona made them pause in the stance and asked, “Son, what all do you see?” The oldest, Yudhisthira, answered, “The sky, the tree, the …,” and before he could finish, Drona stopped him and replaced him with the next boy. Bhima answered, “The branch of the tree, the fish, the…,” and met the same fate. Even Karna was asked to step aside. When Arjuna, the ace-archer, was asked the same question, he stated without hesitation, “I see the eye of the fish.” And Guru Drona exclaimed with delight, “Shoot!” and Arjuna’s arrow unwaveringly pierced right through the eye of the fish.

One of the biggest obstacles to being fully present and allowing a higher Consciousness to lead the path, is our cultural, mass-scale obsession with what I’d call “more and instant.” More stuff, more food, more information, more news, more Facebook friends – all just now. Have you noticed how we are frequently awed by people who are very informed, hyper-busy, have little time, and multi-task constantly? Wow, we think to ourselves – she must be important! And with globalization and forever evolving technology, we are now essentially overcome with having and knowing more, and having it easily, instantaneously, simultaneously and incessantly. We are so busy that there is no time for doing things that really matter. We’re so informed that we don’t know what’s truly relevant. We’re so over-stimulated that we cannot fully feel. And we’re doing so many things at once that we’re not doing anything at all. (Sometimes I wonder if this is why we’re in recession – so we can stop and simply reflect.)

Just this morning, I came across a reminder of this phenomenon in a post by Howard Mann, who is a speaker, entrepreneur and the author of Your Business Brickyard. Here is an excerpt:

 “… I’m continually amazed by the number of people on Twitter and on blogs, and the growth of people (and brands) on Facebook. But I’m also amazed by how so many of us are spending our time. The echo chamber we’re building is getting larger and louder. More megaphones don’t equal a better dialogue. We’ve become slaves to our mobile devices and the glow of our screens … We walk the streets with our heads down staring into 3-inch screens while the world whisks by doing the same. And yet we’re convinced we are more connected to each other than ever before. Multi-tasking has become a badge of honor. I want to know why…”

As an architect, Mies van der Rohe’s timeless reminder that “Less is More” has molded and shaped my design sensibilities from an early stage. But what about my attitude and conduct in everyday life?  One particular repetitive experience when working in a large, global design firm proved insightful in this regard. As an expert in human-centered design research, I was focused on the client and their world with considerable breadth and depth. So, quickly, I became a strategic contributor in marketing – in interviewing and winning work for the firm. As in any industry, preparing for a job interview in order to land a big contract was always a highly strategic, competitive and high-pressure affair. The primary team sat with a host of advisors and experts in a closed room for hours on end, sometimes over 3-5 days, brainstorming, pinning up ideas on index cards, and shaping, honing and rehearsing a message. A senior managing partner, Scott, was almost always found as a coach in the room (if he wasn’t already part of the interviewing team itself). Scott was a quick study, a brilliant strategist, and an utterly charming salesperson. He taught us to be thorough in our research – to inquire into every single aspect of the client and their enterprise. He showed the team how to hone a precise message and build confidence in “asking for the job.” “Why should they hire you?” he asked with a fiery energy, making us answer the question repeatedly till we got it right. “Think in terms of benefits, not features!” he often reprimanded us. Unlike some others, I thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to these sessions with Scott, as I did to taking my lessons to the client interview.

One of the activities Scott emphasized was to learn everything you could about the competition in the fray. Who are they? What are their strengths? What do we offer that they don’t, on account of which we might outshine them? In my early years learning to strategize and win projects, and as an ardent fan of Scott’s, I followed his guidance to the letter. But after my awakening to a higher Consciousness, I began to see the fallacy of information, something I had so enjoyed all my life. I saw that there was a point at which you could become over-informed and thereby, de-focused and distracted from that which is really important and relevant. At the level of driving outcomes, I observed that by focusing on details such as competitors’ qualifications and shortcomings, we were not leading with the purity of what we loved and were good at doing. This often resulted in crafting “winning” sales messages which scored us work, but most of it only a reasonable if not poor fit with the team’s real passion and skills. Being stuck with unloved or half-loved projects for 3-7 years was like winning battles but losing the war! Like information, strategy – a talent for which I was known all over the firm – was also overrated. Maybe all we needed to do is to do what we love, with love.

It was at this juncture that I remembered the little story of Arjuna and the Fish Eye, which I had learned as a young girl. The insight I drew from this ancient story was fresh and powerful, even though I had known it all along. I began to train myself to look only at the eye of the fish, each time, every time. I noticed how tempting it was to study the sky, the tree and the birds. I noticed how we collectively, more often than not, looked everywhere but there, convincing ourselves that we were working hard, learning more, doing better … when all we did was foster an illusion that we were gainfully busy. On one of these pursuits for the Los Angeles International Airport’s expansion, I dared to digress from the high-pressure preparation at hand, and took the time to relate Arjuna’s story to two very senior gentlemen on the project, one of whom was Japanese. I recall the look in his eyes – it was as if a lesson from one ancient culture had struck a deeply resonant chord with a person from another ancient culture. He came by my desk at lunchtime to thank me for the simple wisdom I had shared, letting me know that I had turned into a strong mentor for interview teams!

While our higher Consciousness is at peace with uncertainty (and a deeper, more innate knowing), our minds always want to know more, mainly so that they can predict, shape and control outcomes. This focus on outcomes (also an important subject in the Bhagvad Gita of the Mahabharata) may be why it has been said that information is power. But the real impact of excessive information is the creation of a tremendous amount of noise, on which our minds love to feast and obsess. As a result, two important and related illusions are propagated:

The first illusion is that we are faced with an acute shortage of time.  

The related illusion is that an important life is terribly, inordinately busy.

Our minds, obsessed with information, buy into the fallacies of less time and more busyness. They become crippled with the limitations they perceive, multi-tasking their way into “success.” And when they win, they win for the wrong reasons, winning the battle but ultimately, losing the war. Focusing on the eye of the fish allows us to edit irrelevant information and harness the timeless moment – what some have called the Eternal Now. It allows us to be present. Time expands to allow the needful to happen; many athletes jumping to great heights or people in a life-and-death situation will tell you how “time stood still” when they took their one and only shot at life. Our Consciousness is always naturally tuned into these constraint-free, timeless moments; we simply have to get out of its way.

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta



170 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Just today I was reading that some Kellog school of business researchers have found that happiness is unrelated to the time you have for your self, the hours your work etc. One of the most important reasons for happiness was reducing distractions such as TV or idle browsing.

  2. Khushi

    I waste so much time on the laptop -thanks for the reminder to focus.

  3. Anonymous

    Welcome back to the ssite. Nice post.

  4. neelam

    Lovely post, Tana!! What a great and powerful way to reinforce this simple fact that we all lose sight of in this ‘fast’ moving age. We definitely needed the reminder to slow down and focus on what’s important and filter out the rest. I have always maintained that you cannot blame the lack of time to do what’s truly important to you, you can only blame the lack of focus and determination.
    Thanks for sharing this eloquent message. As always, I truly enjoyed your piece.

  5. Howard Mann

    Thanks Tana! So glad to hear my post made an impact. Thank you for sharing it and expanding on it so well!

  6. I really appreciate your efforts.This post has served my purpose. Related to this Post I can tell you about   “luxury villas in gurgaon” which is crafted with the impact of Spanish culture.

  7. An interesting diiscussion iis worth comment.
    There’s no doubt that that youu should publish more on thiis
    topic, it might not be a taboo matter but typically folks don’t talk abou such issues.
    To the next! Alll the best!!

  8. These commercials have no gay or lesbian content, but at least these
    individual lesbians are being embraced by corporate
    advertising campaigns. The weird thing is I really don’t think I want to end my marriage.
    For the past century more straight women have become bisexual and have contributed in the dating.

  9. There’s definately a great deal to learn about this subject.
    I like all of the points you’ve made.

  10. Hackear Facebook actualmente esta disponible en todos los dispositivo (PC, android, iphone, pill’s…
    )con posibilidad de conectarse a internet.

  11. Important things can be less complicated for those who decide on high quality
    tax debt guidance which often can reap some benefits for you to compensate your dues and turn into clear of tax debt.
    The effect makes the past-due loan current, while the accretion of past-due charges and penalties will cease.
    Once the return is reviewed by someone who is knowledgeable in the field of the return, the accountant will either
    endorse the filed return as is, or put it aside for a
    complete tax audit.

  12. Helpful information. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I am shocked why this coincidence didn’t happened in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  13. Pour faire pousser rapidement du cannabis, celui-ci
    suffit juste de se procurer des graines de cannabis autofloraison et suivre les étapes de culture.

  14. – Couvercle transparent anti-projection.

  15. Great web site. A lot of useful information here.
    I’m sending it to a few friends ans additionally sharing
    in delicious. And obviously, thank you to your effort!

  16. Nice weblog here! Additionally your site rather a lot up fast!
    What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link to your host?

    I want my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  17. Erection problems and size insecurities can be devastating to a man.
    It is necessary that partners discuss with one another their sexual needs and wants particularly in relation to the regularity or
    frequency aspects. To get more softball training aids such as softball
    pitching aids, please visit.

  18. Es un producto que saldrá еn breve a probar suerte ƴ parece quе hhay buenas posibilidades ԁe serir a una buena porción del
    mercado.

    mу paǥe :: errajeros sevilla (Nannie)

  19. I believe that is one of the most vital info for me. And i’m satisfied studying your article.
    But want to commentary on some general issues, The site style is wonderful, the articles is truly great
    : D. Excellent activity, cheers

  20. Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the issues.
    It was definitely informative. Your site is
    useful. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Enfin, avec le presse agrume vous pouvez realiser de magnifiques jus d’agrumes sans puple
    tres.

  22. Download safe content, be it games, wallpapers, movies, music, and more.
    I could not impose upon Doc as his place was very small and my mother would never agree.
    Not all unit types are allowed to enter buildings; in fact only certain kinds of infantry are.

  23. What’s up, every time i used to check website posts here early in the break of
    day, for the reason that i like to gain knowledge of more and more.

  24. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing issues with your blog.
    It seems like some of the text in your posts are running
    off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them
    too? This could be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
    Thanks

  25. I read this paragraph fully concerning the difference of most up-to-date and
    earlier technologies, it’s remarkable article.

  26. This paragraph is really a nice one it assists new web users, who are wishing
    in favor of blogging.

  27. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking the
    time and actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never manage to
    get nearly anything done.

  28. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished
    to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing on your rss feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!

  29. Hi, after reading this remarkable paragraph i am as well
    glad to share my experience here with friends.

  30. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog
    and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your weblog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing in your rss feed and I hope you write once more soon!

  31. I was recommended this website through my cousin. I’m not sure whether or not this submit is written by means of him as no one else know such exact approximately my trouble.

    You are incredible! Thanks!

  32. Don’t delay and book today to get the best hotel deals in Tuy Hoa
    (Phu Yen)!

  33. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about arjuna and the fish eye.
    Regards

  34. Hiya very nice web site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I’ll
    bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally? I am glad to
    find so many useful information here within the publish, we need
    develop extra techniques on this regard, thanks for sharing.
    . . . . .

  35. Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice idea, article is pleasant, thats why i
    have read it fully

  36. Superb blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go
    for a paid option? There are so many options out there
    that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Kudos!

  37. Awesome website you have here but I was curious if you knew
    of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get responses from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!

  38. What’s up, after reading this amazing post i am too happy to share my
    familiarity here with friends.

  39. Unquestionably believe that that you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to
    be on the net the simplest factor to consider of.
    I say to you, I certainly get irked while other folks consider concerns that they just do not recognize about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the entire thing without having side effect , folks can take a signal.
    Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  40. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m
    happy that you just shared this useful information with us.

    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  41. I go to see everyday some blogs and sites to read articles, except this weblog offers
    feature based posts.

  42. If you wish for to improve your familiarity just keep visiting this web site
    and be updated with the most recent news posted here.

  43. The question is, should we buy numismatic or bullion. The true worth of a currency is set by the buyers and sellers on foreign exchange markets used by
    governments and investors. You may browse the net for suggestions if you are new
    to the place.

  44. This hub will highlight the various health benefits of Manuka
    honey as well as describe its origin.

  45. Very quickly this site will be famous amid all blog visitors, due
    to it’s fastidious articles

  46. Why people still use to read news papers when in this technological globe the whole thing is accessible on net?

  47. It simply is an enclosure where steam is used to nourish the body and to make it to be at its best.
    Living a healthy life is a long-term commitment and it
    requires effort in adjusting one’s lifestyle- activities, habits, diet and all.

    And, endocrine gland can be kept healthy only by eating healthy and, by exercising regularly.
    It is a common term used in India, China, Japan and Korea.

  48. Thanks for any other informative web site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such an ideal approach?
    I have a mission that I am simply now working on, and I’ve
    been at the look out for such information.

  49. I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing issues with your website.
    It looks like some of the text within your posts are running off
    the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if
    this is happening to them too? This could be a
    issue with my internet browser because I’ve had
    this happen before. Cheers

  50. Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs
    I stumbleupon every day. It will always be exciting to read
    through content from other authors and practice a little
    something from other websites.

Leave a Reply