Luck versus Hard Work

One may always be in a dilemma if luck or labour is needed for success in life. We hear stories of both categories being successful in life. On the one hand, we hear of many successful people, who work their way up in life through dint of hard work and perspiration. On the other hand, we also meet people, who are at the right place at the right time and catapult to success due to sheer luck.

One is always in a dilemma whether luck or hard work is the mantra for success in life. If I have to look back at my life and also the experience of admiring successful people around me in all walks of life I would say that hard work is the foundation for success in every aspect of life. Hard work is necessary and luck can supplement hard work but not the other way around.

Sometimes people get carried away by some rare examples of lucky people achieving success. It may be true that some people are indeed lucky and they achieve success not because of their efforts but because of their luck. This in my view would be more of an exception than a rule. It is like some people having great health right through their life and living in their nineties inspite of smoking and consumption of alcohol on a daily basis. If one concludes based on these examples that smoking and consuming alcohol every day could help us lead a healthy life, this could be misleading.

One of the reasons why many people do not consider hard work as important for success in life is that we tend to notice people only after they have become successful. We are not privy to the hard work and the challenges many of the successful people go through before they become famous. A good example could be that of a sportsman or woman. After they become famous and earn a lot of money through advertisements and endorsements, we tend to believe that life is so easy for them. We do not realize how many hours of practise they would have put in day in and night out before attaining the glory in their chosen field.

This is equally true in every aspect of life. We see famous sportspersons, actors, singers, dancers, corporate honchos and others being successful in life. They lead a life, which many of us may envy. But, we do not realize the trials and tribulations they go through before they become successful in life. They burn the midnight oil and fail many times in their attempts before success greets them.

In life, we need to work hard and if we are fortunate for it to be supplemented with luck, we could be happy. Hard work is like our daily meal. It has to be healthy, full of vitamins and regular. If we get a desert once in a way, we could be happy and that could be the supplement of luck with our daily meal. I cannot imagine we becoming healthy only by eating desert every day. So luck can help us like a catalyst but cannot substitute hard work in life.

Another important lesson in life is that we need to patient to be successful. Every process has its time limit. We cannot expect to have a child in less than nine months in a natural way. We cannot expect the monsoon to last in India for more than 3 to 4 months. So, everything in life is defined by time. We need to put in our best efforts and wait for the time for it to ripen and deliver results. Sometimes we are in a hurry and hence we end up disappointed.

It is like we tend to visit a temple one day before the exam hoping that God will bestow us with luck even if we have not worked hard enough for the exams.

Lets work hard and hope luck smiles at us on the way.

S Ramesh Shankar

The journey is as important as the destination

Today our scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation almost made a landing on the moon after valiant efforts. The mission may have partly failed to land on the moon although the orbiter is encircling the moon and will give invaluable data to our scientists to explore further.

While the nation was watching the entire episode through the night on national television channels there was a sigh of despair amongst the mission team when the object failed to land on the moon. It was kind of the Prime minister of the country to watch this live and then go and address all the scientists the next morning to keep their spirits high.

One of the statements made by the prime minister of India was “The journey is as important as the destination”. It was a great insight for me personally. Many a time in our lives when we fail, we tend to focus on the failure which is the destination and forget the learnings through the journey.

Our wonderful space scientists would have worked for decades to achieve this impossible mission. They would have learnt a lot of valuable lessons through this journey. Hence, it is important for us to celebrate the journey as much as the destination.

It is true for scientists, sportspersons and even the common women and men like us. We need to enjoy our journeys as much as keeping the focus on our destination. It is like someone undertaking a trip to a beautiful hill station and keeping their eyes closed through the journey in a train waiting for the hill station to arrive. Imagine what all beautiful sceneries one would missed if one were to do that.

If we take any company in the world and even the most successful ones, they would never have achieved success unless they enjoyed their journey and celebrated all along their way to success. It is important to remember for every successful product in the market, there would be hundreds of products which would have failed and never hit the market before.

Life is no different. We need to keep our focus on our life goals. However, it is important to learn throughout the journey of life and celebrate each milestone on the way. If we do not do that, we may stop learning and that can be our biggest failure.

Another important lesson learnt today from the ISRO experience is the role of a leader. The leader should be with the team more during failure than during success. It is the inspiration of the leader during failures that makes a team succeed again and again.

Our best wishes to our Indian Space Research Organisation scientists and every Indian is proud of their accomplishments today. We are one of those pioneers in space research in the world only because of them. Let us salute them. I dedicate this blog to my brother in law was a scientist with ISRO for four decades.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th September 2019

Ways of life

I enjoy walking on the sea shore along the sea with my naked feet making impressions on the wet sand. Many a time I prefer to walk with my spouse, friend or relative. Sometimes, all alone too. Today I encountered the sudden death of a close relative and this made me wonder as to what would happen if you were walking with that relative and when you turn around and find that there are only the impressions of your feet and your relative’s disappears in the sand behind you from your trail.

This was the feeling experienced by me today. It is a feeling of emptiness. You feel as if you were going through a storm and suddenly without your knowledge, you enter a state of vacuum. This space makes you feel weird. A state of helplessness. But you can do nothing about it. All of us go through such moments in our life and have to learn to deal with it.

It was a wonderful feeling to feel the imprints on the sand when you are walking with a partner. But, when you realize that your partner has left you suddenly and without notice, you realize you are left alone in this world to fend for yourself. One is born alone into this world and one also realizes that you leave this planet all alone. But the journey in between is life. You need a partner during this period. Your parents partner you till your adolescence, then your friends and finally your life partner. Of course, your parents are with you through out your life but the presence or absence of a life partner makes all the difference.

My mother’s death preceded by father’s. I was just 25, when I lost both my parents. But, I did realize the value of the partner after my mother’s death. My father lived all alone after my mother’s death with my brother. Although he was a man of few words right through his life, my mother’s death made him more lonely then words could express. I could feel the vacuum in his life although he never shared his grief with us.

Within two years’ of my mother’s death, my father passed away. He did suffer from diabetes and hypertension, which made his kidneys fail. Although, this was the primary reason for his death, I also felt that he died due to separation of his partner in life. All of us, who have experienced the warmth of our parents, friend or spouse in life understand the meaning of true partnership. You are energised by the mere presence of your partner without expecting anything from each other. Their mere presence adds value to your life. The physical presence of your partner is enough. Even their silence adds meaning to your life. Their absence kills you.

When you miss your partner in life for a few days, you miss them. Imagine what happens to you when you lose them for eternity. You end up talking to their photo for a few days till you digest the truth that they are no longer with you. You keep asking God as to why was he so cruel on you ? God answers you through his silence and then you realize that this is the new reality of life and you adapt to it.

After spending many years in my life and after losing quite a few relatives and friends, I realised that this is new phase of life God has planned for you. The only way to remember your partner or friend in your future life is to live their values and fulfil their unfulfilled dreams if you can. There is no point brooding what you could have done to increase there longevity in life. It is better to spend one’s energy to live their spirit in your life.

The ways of life are complex and unpredictable as in the design of the photo above.

Life is a journey and there are a few shocks like these, which mould you to be a better human being

Time to wake up is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

24th November 2017

Emotions versus Emoticons

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Man is a social being and hence needs the company of other beings at most times of his life. Another dimension of life is the emotions we go through at different stages of life. It could be joy, sadness, anger or irritation. Every emotion is stirred by a stimulus and then it impacts your life and moods. Most of us enter the world crying and leave this planet without any emotions.

Every emotion stirs our being and we want to know why it happened. When we are happy, we are keen to share the joy with others. The spirit of sharing makes us more happy. Even in moments of sadness, we want to share our sorrow. It is said in most religions that you should never miss a funeral if you come to know of some close friend or relative’s death. This is because this will be the last mortal journey and you can express your grief to that person.

On the other hand, on the birth of a kid to a relative or a friend, you will always have a second chance to wish them in the future if you miss the first day of birth due to any reasons. Interestingly, our religions and rituals do teach us a lot of basic humanness provided we are willing to learn from them. We generally tend to consider these rituals and either ignore them or disregard them.

Today, technology is increasingly making us emotion less. I am the first to adopt technology in every aspect of my life. I use the social media and all possible apps to ease my life. They are indeed very useful and makes my life easy and enjoyable. However, I do realize that wishing a friend or relative in person on their birthday cannot be replaced by millions of posts on social media. There is no substitute for the personal touch.

I realised this lately in my life. It’s always a good idea to use social media and emails to communicate with family and friends. It is indeed very efficient. However, if you want to touch someone’s life, you need to visit them, give them a hug or at least pick up the phone and speak to them. Virtual messages and emoticons cannot be filled with emotions. Our voice and physical presence are capable of sharing our emotions.

I am used to instantly recognising my colleagues at work. I feel good doing it publicly and as soon as the incident happens. I recently started writing appreciation letters in my own handwriting and when some of colleagues said that they framed and preserved these letters for their life time, I realised the value of personalisation and its impact on their emotions.

I would urge people from all generations to continue to adapt to the digital world to make themselves more efficient. However, I would further urge everyone to keep their emotional connect intact. The virtual world is untouchable. It is emotion less even with a million emoticons. The real world is a world of feelings. The emotions expressed by us to others and others to us, touches us.

Children and animals best express emotions without any inhibitions. We can learn to be spontaneous from them.

We need to learn to laugh and cry every day. We need to be like the child unadulterated in expressing our emotions. We need to be willing to be generous in sharing joy with others and make them happier every day. Every emotion expressed and shared helps us to be healthy and wise. An emotion less person is lonely and depressed. Even the animals are touched by emotions. So, why cant we as humans learn from them.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar.

Sleeplessness

Yesterday was one of those rare days in my life when I could not sleep. I had gone on a tour to Germany and when I returned I had a bad cold and cough because of extreme change of weather conditions. Although this has not been new to me but I do not know why I could not sleep. I have travelled to Germany multiple times and have never missed a whole night sleep. But today was different.

I do not even remember as to when I last spent a sleepless night. Yes in the past on a few occasions, when I have travelled to places where there is a huge time zone difference it does take the human body to adjust and adapt. But four and a half hours time difference is not that difficult to adjust or adapt after a day’s rest. I do not know why nor do I want to know.

But this sleeplessness has helped me to further kindle my writing spirit. In a matter of less than an hour, I wrote four blogs. The thoughts started flowing like water in an open tap, There was no traffic on the road and no noise in the environs. It is dawn now and I can only hear the sound of the Rooster in the background. I realize that it may be sometimes wonderful to sleep in the day and enjoy the night this way.

However, on a serious note of reflection, I realised today how privileged I am. I have never complained of sleeplessness in my life. I have been an honest tax paying citizen and have lived my family and society values to the best of my ability all through my life. But today I realised how important sleep is for the health of a human being. If the body is not able to rest, it may not be energised the next day. It may be like a engine running twenty four hours and three hundred and sixty five days a year without any stop. The engine is likely to break down so will the human being without 8 hours of sleep every day.

I realised that there millions of people around the world who may not be sleeping every day this way. Of course some of the highly creative people like music composers, scientists etc sometimes work day or night when their calling comes. It is not sleep which is their way to relax but the work they do and their calling is not determined by the working hours of ordinary human kind like many of us.

Similarly, there are millions of people around the world who cannot sleep because they do not have a shelter above their head or food in their stomach. How privileged I am in comparison to these people. I did realise today after just one day of sleep deprivation. I may sleep during the day tomorrow as it is a weekend but everyone around the world does not have that privilege.

Another learning for me is to be grateful for what I am and what I have in life rather than what I am not and I do not have. There can never be day in my life where all my dreams will be realised. This does not mean I stop dreaming. But gratitude lays the foundation for humility in life. It also helps us balance need and greed. The day we realise we are grounded.

It is almost 5 am now. It is either time for my morning coffee or a quick nap.

What do you think I will do ?

S Ramesh Shankar

18th Nov 2017

Who am I ?

All of us spend our life time discovering ourselves every day. Some of us overestimate our prowess while others underestimate our potential. The truth could lie somewhere in between. Those who think that they have all the answers to the questions of life may be mistaken. Others who wonder why do they only get the tough questions in life, are also under an illusion.

Life has its interesting ways of balancing itself for us. The day we overestimate ourselves and tend to get arrogant, there could be a turn in our life when one would realize that you do not know the answer to the question. It is like you have topped the class right through school and college but are not able to top the batch in your organisation as a trainee. It is then you realize that theory and practise are related to each other but at the same time quite different.

On the other hand, you struggle in life but have always been humble and grounded and when you are almost willing to give up, life has its way of rewarding your hard work. It realizes that your patience has been tested and you need to be recognised. After a stressful wait, you may get a promotion in your career quite out of the blue or be selected to lead a project, which you only dreamt of till that day.

One more learning from my life is that everyone contributes in our life. If at all one reaches the top echelons of an organisation and forgets the contributions made by all the people around them to what they are today in life, they are simply ungrateful. It is not education, position in a organisation or hierarchy in society which determines your value. It is your “Humanness” and your ability to contribute to the life of others, which does.

Many of us who think that we have arrived in life because we have achieved success in our career may be mistaken. We also should realize that every human being around us is contributing to our success. I recently was watching a reality music programme, wherein a young girl was contesting. After she was selected in the trials, when asked where she came from, she narrated her story. She said she belonged to a remote city in India and did not even have the money to travel to Mumbai, where the contest was being held. Her father who runs a cycle shop drove a cycle for five consecutive days in a village fair to earn money as an exibhitionist so that he could finance her trip.

If this girl becomes a super star singer tomorrow and forgets the contributions of her father then she would never arrive in her life. The great people in the world contribute much more to the greatness of others then themselves. While all of us may talk of Gandhi, it may be interesting to reflect that Gandhi’s greatness was not just his personality but his ability to influence the thinking of millions around the world.

There are many people around us, who may be equally qualified or even less but contribute much more than us towards others. We do not value them. The day we realize that everyone’s contribution in our life is unique and valuable , we may arrive to some extent. The day we realize that we have an obligation to give back to society as much as we have got from it, if not more, then we may have arrived.

My wife in the photo above as my partner in life has contributed more to me and my family than we ever realize. We are grateful to her.

S Ramesh Shankar

Second Innings

In cricket, there are two innings in a test match. Similarly in life there are two innings. The first innings is when you pursue your education, then get into your career or vocation and reach the pinnacle of your life and career. Then the second innings begins. This is time you retire from work and settle down in life with your family. In the first innings, we try to take everything we can from society. In the second innings, it is time to give back.

Organisations in most countries determine the retirement age in advance and sign a contract with the employee. On the other hand, if you are practising a vocation or business, you decide on your own retirement age. In my view, it does not matter. All of us need to retire some day so that we can give way to the younger generation. If there are only eleven playing members in a soccer team, then the senior players need to retire so that young potential players will get a chance. Life is not different.

It is better to retire and quit, when people ask “why are you leaving? “, rather than “why are you not leaving?”. There is a time and place for everything in life. It is important for all of us to prepare ourselves for every phase of life. I know of many people who are so busy with their work that they do not have the time for their family, vacations or even for planning for their own future. They live and die at work every day as if there is no tomorrow.

We all need to realize that life has two innings. In the first, you learn and take from society and in the second, we share and give back to society in all ways we can. We need to plan for the second innings in life. There can be no prescription for anyone or anything in life. However, I have seen people who plan everything meticulously and are looking forward to their retirement so that they can give back. On the other hand, there are others who think that there is no life without work and hence dread the thought of the second innings.

One always wonders what would one do when you retire from life. This is a fair question. While you are working you believe you never have the time to pursue your hobbies. You also tend to think that you are so busy that you cannot pursue an exercise regimen every day as your routine. After all work and no exercise, you wonder where is the time for your spouse or your kids. You have not visited your friends or relatives for ages on the pretext of being a work-a-horse.

Now as soon as you are about to retire the same questions haunt you. You start wondering that you will have all the time in the world and have no work to do. You need not exercise now although you have the time since it is no more relevant for your future. Your kids have left home and your relatives and friends do not have the time to host you now. This may be harsh reality of the future. However one needs to plan for it.

The first myth is that work is within the precincts of an organization in a defined role. The second myth is that maintaining good health is an option. The third myth is that your family, friends and relatives will wait for you for the rest of their lives. The day we break these myths in our minds we will make a difference to our lives and to the lives of our near and dear.

My father in law in the photo above was a good example of meticulous planning and preparation for his second innings. He pursued his hobbies of reading, writing and serving the community around him in all possible ways.

Work beyond retirement could be pursuing hobbies, social service, teaching students, reading, writing, travelling or any other way of giving back to society. Maintaining good health is a life long regimen and does not end with retirement. Our indebtedness to family and friends is a life long expression of gratitude.

Let us begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar