Moonlighting is just unshackling by another name, says Charles Assisi

Oct 07, 2022 04:47 PM IST

Don’t buy into the idea that all your time must be ruled by someone else’s clock. Every minute is not a resource to be plumbed.

What I don’t get is, why should there be any debate around moonlighting? What I hear instead are the voices of two kinds of people. The first are those who believe that when people sign an employment contract with them, they gain ownership over a person’s lives and time. They don’t.

Be your own fairy godmother; opt to sometimes ignore the clock. Above, Billy Porter is the godparent, Camila Cabello is Cinderella, in the 2021 retelling. PREMIUM
Be your own fairy godmother; opt to sometimes ignore the clock. Above, Billy Porter is the godparent, Camila Cabello is Cinderella, in the 2021 retelling.

The second are voices of those who make a living out of “Productivity Porn”. This is an industry that thrives by promising to teach us how to squeeze the most out of every day. It has gone kaput.

So, the debate, if you insist on calling it that, are actually protests from those who stand to lose. Look at how the narrative around time has evolved. Our ancestors thought of time as something wedded to us, not a “resource” to be deployed well or exploited like ore or oil. Everyone went about their work from sunrise to sunset. When it got too hot, people took a nap. When it got cold, they went inside. Then they’d get on with what had to be done. And, when sauntering back home at dusk, if people flying kites got their attention, spending time to watch them wasn’t thought of as a waste of time. Life was tough. But no one measured time or thought up productivity hacks.

My only submission here is, people lived in the “now”. Then the mechanical clock was invented, and time started to get measured in units. The idea that time is a finite resource that must be managed started to take root. This idea found its way into management textbooks with teachers such as the legendary Peter Drucker who introduced the idea of productivity in the 1960s. It would be a matter of time before this idea percolated into our personal lives. Time, once infinite, now had to be managed.

There are some issues here. At a personal level, it compels me to measure how much of it I have and assign a value to it. That is why two weeks ago on these pages I pointed to why I work off the assumption that I have 1,000 odd weeks left. And therefore, I prioritise certain things over others. While I can argue that this boosts productivity and allows me focus, it also dramatically narrows the scope of all that I can potentially do.

To place that in perspective, there’s a legendary teacher of medicine based out of Pune (whose identity I shall withhold for now). He decided to take up stand-up comedy at age 75. Some practice later, when he took the stage, he brought the house down. I am told people are now willing to pay through their nose to watch him in action.

Is this moonlighting? Yes. Why? Because it is a second job. Is it at odds with his profession? Completely! But it appears the genial man does not care about what his patients may think about a veteran doctor cracking jokes that are out of whack with his otherwise sombre demeanour. But if prevented from moonlighting, his creativity is kept in check. Not just that, whoever would have imagined he could have turned into a student of a new craft at his age? When looked at from his eyes, he simply discarded all notions of how we understand age and time.

People such as him, who challenge the idea that time is a finite resource, are all around. They compel us to ask questions of the self: When I sign on a contract to work for someone, do I sign all my time away? Does that imply I surrender my freedom as well? Certainly not. People such as him provide fodder to ask leaders who think moonlighting is unfair to shut up.

(The writer is co-founder at Founding Fuel & co-author of The Aadhaar Effect)

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