What money can’t buy ?

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One of the challenges every generation faces is the craving for wealth. We all grow up dreaming of accumulating wealth so that all our needs in life can be fulfilled. We also tend to believe that with money one can buy anything and everything in life. This dream appears to be the ultimate truth till reality hits us some day. I met a youngster today in my office. She is a talented young professional and is married to another talented professional by choice. They have one kid and both are doing well in their careers.

This young professional made a confession to me. She said that till recently she believed that money could get her all that she wants in life. However, she had a set back in her health and this made her realize that money cannot buy her health. It shook her so much that she decided to take a career break so that she can focus on her health and her family.

Another young guy shared another interesting insight. He said he has all the money he needed but his quest for happiness was elusive. This may be because that money cannot buy happiness too. Happiness is a state of mind. It is an attitude to life. You can find a man on the street in abject poverty who finds it difficult to earn for the food and shelter of his family every day. But this person is content and happy with what he has and finds ways and means of giving back to society. On the other hand, many of us with abundant wealth have our desires and needs unfulfilled forever.

One of my fundamental learnings in life is that money cannot buy health or happiness in life. We need to work every day to evolve habits of diet and exercise so that we lead a healthy life. We need to work to fulfill our needs and manage our greed so that happiness does not elude us. Happiness is function of gratitude and contentment in my view. As long as we are grateful for what we have in life and content with ourselves without comparing with others when our needs are fulfilled, we may be happy in life.

This may be easier to state than to realize. I may confess that it took me many years in life to realize this. Today if I look back at my life, I should state that my family and societal values have helped me to be content and grateful in life. I should thank my diabetes and my spouse’s encouragement for my maintaining a healthy diet and a good daily exercise routine. This has enabled me to maintain good health and be happy in life at all times.

It may be worthwhile to reflect on this issue. I know of the richest people in my country who could have bought islands around the world with their wealth. But they could not buy health nor happiness in their sunset years. This proves that wealth can never buy health or happiness. The earlier we realize this axiom of life, the better it is for us. It may help us lead a healthier and happier life very early in our life time.

The happy kids in the photo above in a remote village proves that wealth and happiness are not correlated.

Another interesting insight is that both health and happiness are self dependant. You can never delegate your exercising or attitude to life to someone else. One has to be self disciplined in diet and exercise to maintain good health. Similarly one has to be content and grateful to everything in your life to be happy. You can neither buy, rent or lease health or happiness.

Try it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Loneliness

I have always wondered as to why people feel lonely in today’s world. I have met people in different age groups and in different classes of society who are lonely. One may have thousands of friends in the social media but still feels lonely. My insight is that technology and social media can help you improve your reach and efficiency but it can never give you solace or share emotions with you.

This could be the reason for the loneliness of people. Today people travel around the world and are able to earn wealth to their heart’s content. But they do not have people around them with whom they can laugh or cry. They can share their joy around the world with their online friends within seconds. But virtual sharing does not touch the emotions in their body. They cannot share their tears of joy or sorrow with anyone.

I remember an incident where a young colleague working with me in a multinational company wanted to work in a foreign country. I tried my best and then sent him on a delegation to New Zealand from India. He was excited and profusely thanked me for this opportunity. He was very happy to land at this beautiful country of milk and mountains. He was enthralled with the natural beauty of this country.

I was happy that he got an opportunity and he was enjoying his experience. But within two weeks he called me that he wanted to return to India. I was worried as to what went wrong. I enquired about his health and welfare. He said everything was ok. When probed a bit further he said that he felt lonely in this country. He drove for miles on the road and did not find anyone around. He could only see a few herds of sheep and cattle at a distance. He had nobody to share his joy or loneliness.

This made me realize that man is a social being. He needs to have people around him to be happy. If you are bought up in place where you meet thousands of people on the road even on the highway when are you driving you get used to this scenario. When you end up in a foreign land where you hardly meet people on the road, you are anxious and lonely. This may lead to anxiety and depression in your life.

Today people are busy on their mobile phones finding friends and relationships. They neither have the time nor the skills to meet people face to face and build relationships. They do not have many people around them to share their emotions. Joint families have broken down into nuclear families. Children are not encouraged to play in the park and make friends. They are busy on tablets, mobiles or televisions playing games and making friends. No wonder human beings are getting lonelier by the day.

The only difference I can see between human beings and animals is that we have emotions and we can express ourselves. We are capable of sharing our joy and sorrow with others. However, when we deny ourselves of this privilege we end up as lonely beings only fiddling with our mobile phones. We feel awkward to talk to co-passengers in a plane, train or bus. We are busy watching a movie, listening to music or playing games in our own electronic devices.

As in the photo above, you may feel lonely in a crowd or even in a heritage monument surrounded by pillars.

It is time to wake up to this reality. It is time to learn from our fore fathers. It is time to realise that we are a social being. It is time to share our feelings and emotions with others. It is time to use technology to enable our efficiency and share our feelings and emotions with others to be socially alive and happy in life.

Is it time to wake up ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Learning to accept a defeat with grace…

Today we lost to New Zealand in the cricket World Cup and a billion hearts are disheartened. It is natural to feel that way. Even I am a cricket buff and felt disappointed at India’s defeat.

However, it is important to remember that our team played very well and topped the league table before the semi final. They lost only one game to England and then the semi final. We had a bad day today and our batsmen failed and so we lost.

I see a lot of negativity in the air. A lot of criticism of our team, especially our batsmen and I think it is unfair. After all the highest run getter was Rohit Sharma so far and he may remain so at the end of the World Cup too. Nobody has hit five centuries in a World Cup so far and it is a world record.

Our fielding has been excellent and consistent right through the World Cup. Our bowlers have done a magnificent job and Jasprit Bumrah is the number one bowler in the world in this format of the game. One defeat should not make us demoralised. After all it is a game and someone has to win and someone has to lose.

Many people have criticised Dhoni during this World Cup. They forget that 47 out of 52 innings in such situations where India was about to lose, he single handedly won the game for us. Today he could not and we end up blaming him. After all he is human too like all of us.

Life is no different. We tend lose our heart by just one failure. It could be poor marks in an academic course or even not getting an offer after a good interview in a job. It is important to remember that life is not over with just one disappointment. We need to get up and bounce back.

Let us applaud our cricketers for reaching the semi finals of the cricket World Cup for the third successive time and let us celebrate their efforts today. I think we have a great team. They have been consistent and have focussed on batting, bowling and fielding. Let us not beat ourselves too much.

Today the better team won the match. Let us give the credit to New Zealand and congratulate them. However, let us not beat ourselves too much. We need to accept defeat with grace and move on to the next big tournament.

It is like learning from kids ( as in the photo above). They don’t give up after one failure. They persevere till they succeed and reach the peak of a mountain.

Similarly in life, we need to accept a failure and move on. Learn from our mistakes but focus on our efforts so that at the next opportunity we will be a winner again.

Congrats team India and our best wishes to New Zealand to win the finals.

S Ramesh Shankar

Wilderness

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I sometimes wonder if it is good be structured and perfect in everything we do in life. Or is it it a great idea to be wild and crazy in life. The truth may lie somewhere in between these two extremes. In my early career and life I always believed that systems and processes can solve everything in life. This belief continued till I read a book that challenged all my assumptions in life and work.

This book made me realize that if we have the courage to break all the rules, we may not only survive but we may even be able to thrive. This turned my belief systems upside down. I started challenging my own mindset and started experimenting. This led to new pathways and new insights in my life and work. I was more flexible and open to newer ideas.

Life became more exciting. I did not give up my belief in systems or processes. However, I started believing that systems were not an end in themselves. They were only a means to an end. As long as one is able to make this distinction, systems and processes do play a role to improve your efficiency and effectiveness in life. If a system or a process does not serve a purpose, we should have the courage to challenge the same or even give it up without a second thought.

On the other hand, to explore wilderness without an end in mind might be a wild goose chase. We need to balance the creative and analytical part of our being. The left and right brain of ours have to find a mid way in dealing with issues. It may be a good idea to be structured in all our problem solving methods but willing to give up structure if the need arises and the problem never gets resolved with that system or process.

While structure provides direction, wilderness creates the space for creativity. I remember once leaving my home with my spouse for a holiday. Normally, we would plan everything from the place to stay, the route to take and even the stops on the way. This time we decided to leave home without a destination in mind. We drove the car through the city and decided to drive on to the highway which was empty that day.

We landed in a temple town around 300 kms from Bangalore, which we had not visited earlier. On reaching this place, we did not get any accommodation since it was a festival day. We could not even visit the main temple in that city. So, we took a diversion and tried to stay on some small motel on the highway. It was adventurous but fun. Then we visited another temple city, which is in the midst of a beautiful forest. This was one of the best drives in our lives so far.

So, structure may be desirable in most situations. But structure may be the barrier to solve some problems in our lives. We need to be flexible to adopt a structural approach or be willing to explore in wilderness. Either way a solution may not be guaranteed. However, our ability to be willing to experiment makes our chances of success better.

Life is journey. We may define our goals in life and pursue them. We may succeed at most times if we are willing to work hard and go about systematically. However, if there are some unforeseen events or stops on the way, let us not get bewildered. It’s fun to be deal with the wild and crazy part of our lives. We have to believe that we are not alone and many others would have faced such situations.

It may be fun to take the road in the forest, ( as in the photo above) sometimes even without knowing your ultimate destination.

Let us enjoy the wilderness.

S Ramesh Shankar

CHRO 2.0

How the world is changing and the role of HR along with it ?  We have more questions than answers to this question.  The rate of change is more evident than the change itself.  How does it impact HR ? What are the capabilities of the future CHRO ?

A.  Simplify complexity :  In my view, the first and foremost capability for HR is our ability to simplify a complex world.  Today everything is complex.  It is tending to get more complex and ambiguous as time passes.  In this ever changing world, how do we as HR simplify things and focus on the basics will be a good quality to possess.

B.  Be human :  The advent of technology has made human beings mechanistic.  We tend to react like computers without any emotions.  We fix processes and systems and automate everything.  While automation will help efficiency, it may not always result in effectiveness.  Hence, it is critical for HR folks to be in touch with employees and apply their mind.

C. Be the change :  HR has to lead the change in the organisation.  While in the past, we may have been happy to support change and facilitate change, it is necessary to lead it in the future.  We have to be the change we want to see in the organisation.  This strategic mindset of change is critical for future success.

In all of the of the above, we have to be the conscience keeper of the organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

We see what we want to see…

Someone said – “Perception is reality” and I think it is true. I find it interesting that we all see what we want to see in our lives. I can sit on the sea shore and admire the sea for hours together with nobody around me. I love sunsets and can keep watching them every day. On the other hand, some others may find it boring to sit on the sea side or watch sunset every day. We may both be right. After all each of us have our own likes and dislikes.

Life is no different. We all see what we want to see. Some of us are born optimists and see possibilities whenever we are confronted with any problem. On the other, we may have some pessimists around us who may see only problems in the same situation. It is like the pessimist may not find the dark night summer sky interesting. But the optimist will admire the stars all around the sky.

I can recall many incidents in my life where I have enjoyed the uncertainty whereas some of my colleagues have fumed and fretted in the same scenario. I remember during a vacation we had not planned for our stay. We had not even decided where we will go. We just took out the car and decided that we will go where the road takes us and our heart says yes. In similar circumstances, I have seen many of my relatives and friends getting very upset.

Even within the precincts of the home, each of us see what we want to see. If kids are playing around and making a lot of noise, some of us are very upset. While others enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of the kids and play with them. While some perceive noise and disturbance, other perceived joy and energy in the same scene of energetic kids around you.

At work, the scenario is not very different. While challenges are opportunities for some, it saps energy of other employees. An interesting sight is in the area of sales. It is noteworthy that for some sales guys, month end and year end are fun as they can set new records and over exceed their targets. While for other sales guys, they have a nervous break down at the end of each month and always wish and pray to God so that month or the year never ends.

This is equally true on how we look at each other. As a leader some of us look at developing our colleagues an an opportunity while others see it as a waste of time or even a threat to their own existence. No wonder employees are keen to work with some managers and not with others. Even kids in school prefer some teachers and not others. This is because on the same issue one teacher always looks at the glass as half empty while the other teacher looks at it as half full.

My learning in life is that it is up to us to decide on how we want to look at life. If we look at life as full of possibilities, then life turns out that way. On the other hand, we think life is full of struggles and challenges than every day is a drag on ourselves. It is like some people say, we get what we deserve. In my view, we also get what we want to look for.

It is like in the photo above, the monsoon magic can mesmerise me every day. But for some others, it may be a dull boring day.

Life is a puzzle. But the ability to solve it or not to solve it is in our hands.

Lets enjoy the jig saw puzzle and solve it every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th Oct 2017

Celebrating father’s day

I sometimes wonder if it is worthwhile to celebrate all these days in a year by sending flowers or gifts to our near and dear ones. I believe these days are created by the marketeers to sell more products for their brands.

In my personal view, it is not worth killing flowers by sending bouquets or sending gifts to our mothers, fathers, siblings or friends. It is more symbolic and does not serve any purpose. We may end up sending gifts which they don’t need or already have them.

What could be a better way to celebrate these days. I reflected on it since I realised that the third Sunday of June is considered Father’s Day. I lost my father when I was 25. It took me more than a year to recover from this shock. However, assuming he was alive today, I may not have sent him flowers or gifts. On the other hand, I would prefer to commit to myself to imbibe one great quality of his in myself.

When I started my career in 1981, I was a very impatient guy. I lost my temper the drop of a hat and was least bothered about the impact it would have had on the people around me. I was given feedback by my family members, friends and colleagues, which I ignored it at my own peril.

But over the years I had seen my father as an epitome of patience. I have seen him lose his cool only twice in my lifetime. I decided one day that I could learn and imbibe this quality from him. I have since then tempered myself and can happily confess that today I have a lot of patience at work and at home. My family and colleagues will vouch for it. I may lose my cool once or twice a year.

So, my recommendation is to pick one great quality from your father and imbibe it. It may not be easy and may take many years to inculcate. But, this would be a better gift to our fathers than gifts of bouquets, which may not mean much to them. Our transformation into a better human being will be valued by them much more than any gift can do on earth.

This step could be for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day or sisters day or brothers day. It does not matter whose day we are celebrating. After all we can learn goodness from all people around us – younger or older, relatives or friends.

It is time to challenge some of the rituals imposed by the marketeers of the world. It is time to be different and lead by example for our future generations. We should leave behind rituals for our future generations, which are inspirational and not those which are mechanical in spirit.

Time to start is today as it is Father’s Day.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th June 2019