Vision – thinking beyond the obvious..


Organisations and individuals can have visions.  In my definition, Vision is our ability to dream about the impossible and make it possible.  I recently attended a conference wherein a company CEO nicely illustrated the concept of “Dreams and details”.  He said it is important for all of us to dream but it is equally important to convert the dreams into details and work out the road map to achieve it.

It is very similar for organisations and individuals.  While all of us dream big and set out almost impossible goals for ourselves but we do not reach them because we do not work on the details.  It is like our new year resolutions as an individual.  We set idealistic personal goals for ourselves and more often than not falter in the first month of the new year itself because we never bother to work on the next steps.

Let us first reflect as individuals.  We are content with what comes our way.  Mediocrity becomes a way of life. If we are born in a family with all comforts in life, we tend to become lazy and content.  Another interesting dimension is that children tend not to look beyond their parents for inspiration.  We are happy to maintain the way we have been brought up in life. 

If we move to the organisational context, the story is not very different.  Most organisations want to grow in an incremental way.  They do not want to tread on troubled waters or take undue risks.  They do not dream big or set themselves daunting goals since individuals working in the organisations cannot think beyond the obvious.

The trend is similar for countries too.  It takes a Mahatma Gandhi to think beyond the obvious.  It takes a great leader to dream big and then work on the details to make that dream a reality.  Similarly, in organisations it takes a great leader to set an impossible vision and then rally the whole organisation to realise it.  Even individuals who can think big can realise it more often than not.

I recently met an olympic bronze medalist.  She said that you need to trust yourself and your team and then work hard to realise your goals.  This is equally applicable for individuals, organisations and societies to achieve their vision.  All of us have to develop the ability to think beyond the obvious and then work on the ways and means to make that vision a reality.

It is like reaching the sun in the photo above may look impossible today but the human being is capable of it in the future if we set ourselves to do it.

Can we think beyond the obvious from today ?

S Ramesh Shankar
Oct 2016

Knowledge, skill or attitude ?


What is important in life ?  Knowledge, skills or attitude.  This is an ongoing debate for generations.  We assimilate knowledge through our academic system.  We acquire skills by practising what we have learnt.  Our attitude is moulded by our beliefs and values.  What comes first and what is the most important ?  It is almost like the chicken and egg story in life. Did the chicken come first or the egg ?  

Knowledge is an assimilation over centuries.  It is gathered through experiences of people and experiments in life.  This knowledge then is passed on to generations through academic pursuits or through exchange between members in the family and society.  When people apply the knowledge gathered this way, they hone their skills in practise.  However attitude is developed by environment and our own beliefs and values.  What do we believe in and what will we never compromise in life ?

Isn’t it true that if Newton had not sat under the apple tree, the laws of gravity would not have been discovered.  So, it is true that practise leads to theory and theory enables you to practise.  This means there is a good correlation between knowledge and skills like theory and practise.  Attitude is the way we perceive things in life.  this perception is based our own life experiences and what we see in others.  We believe what we see and hence this guides our attitude in life.

Thus, knowledge, skills and attitude are all equally important in life.  It is important to assimilate knowledge, then practise your skills and evolve your attitude.  While knowledge and skills are relatively easy to transfer, it may be difficult to pass on your attitude.  Hence, many organisations assume that one has the knowledge and skills for a job and mostly focus on checking on the attitude of the person.

It is true that our academic systems are more tilted towards knowledge and less towards building skills and moulding attitude.  It is here where we need to look at academic reforms and also appreciate the role of family as an institution in attitude building.  While academic institutions may spread knowledge and organisations may succeed in building skills, it is the family and society, which has to contribute effectively in shaping attitudes in the the future generations.

Knowledge, skills and attitude are like three pillars of a tripod.  While the tripod is considered the most stable of all geometric designs and hence used with cameras, it is also true that if one leg is shaky, the tripod is unstable. Hence, it is critical to give due weightage to knowledge, skills and attitude in life.  A good balance of all the three may help us lead life successfully.

The monastery in the photo above can be a fountain of knowledge but we need to hone our skills and mould our attitude.

What is your take ? 

S Ramesh Shankar
Oct 2016

Reality bytes

Today I went with my wife for a tour to Dharavi in Mumbai. This is one of the largest slums in Asia. There are almost a million people living in an area of less than two square kilometres. A home is less than ten square feet and on an average houses five adults. It is indeed an eye opener. You need to visit the place to believe it. We went through an organization, which organises these tours and partly gives back its profit to support the people and children living in Dharavi.

The first part of the tour is the commercial area. In this part, thousands of men and women are working in different types of industries. The first sight of old car bumpers getting shredded and recycled as plastic beads to be moulded into chairs and other plastic durables. Then we pass through suitcase makers, the leather soles for shoes, leather bags, bakery and food items being made for consumption within themselves as well as for sale around town.

You realise how difficult are the working conditions. In dark room with minimum light people inhale dust and paint flakes as they shred material waste to generate the raw material for plastic remoulding durables. People from the remote parts of the country are working day and night leaving their families behind just to earn a livelihood. We realise how privileged we are even to be born in middle class families. Our parents take care of our education, provide us a place to stay and a decent standard of living.

Then you move to the residential area. We see people from different states of India and following different religions living peacefully together. It is here you realise that wealth may not help you buy happiness. You see children, adolescents and adults enjoying each other’s company and helping each other in their daily chores. You see happiness writ on their smiles and this makes you realise that it is not materiality which can bring you happiness in life.

You also see schools – run by government, NGOs and private organisations. While the government and other organisations are tying their best to improve the quality of their lives, the problem is mammoth. One good thing I noticed is that I did not see children working in the commercial areas although this cannot be totally ruled out.

Some of my reflections and learnings after today’s tour are –

A. We need to be grateful to God and our parents/elders for all the comforts we enjoy in life and never realise their value

B. We realise that happiness is not directly correlated to the wealth we possess. Rather happiness is a state of mind and attitude to life.

C. We also need to realise that we need to give back to society more than we get as are indeed much more privileged than millions of people around us.

As in the photo a( courtesy – Reality tours & travels)above, children sitting in a cart within the slum seem happier than many of us. We realise how privileged we are in life.

What do you think ? Is it time to reflect ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Success


The definition of success can be different for everyone.  It also depends on the stage of our life and our career.  It could be simply stated as achieving what we want in life.  As a kid, we mostly feel that we are successful if we achieve our scholastic goals in school or college.  We also are happy if achieve our goals in sports or cultural activities.

Most parents also define success for their children as acamedic accomplishments. This definition of success changes as we grow in life.  The moment we get through our acadmic part of our life and stand on our own feet, we redefine success .   At this stage, we tend to define success by our material wealth and accumulations in life. We would like to be the richest and the wealthiest amongst our peers.

As the career stabilises, promotions are also a measure of success.  Then we yearn for recognition and status in society.  We also grow in the family and respect is a way to defining success.  Our happiness gradually moves from self to others’ success.  At home, the accomplishments of our kids make us feel successful.  At work, the performance of our team members make us feel proud.

After we pass through this stage of our life, we realise that it is time for us to give back to society.  We redefine success in life now.  We believe that our contributions to the success of other family members and friends makes us happier.  At work, we would like our team to excel.  We also want to give back to others what we have learnt from our elders and seniors.

We now are no longer looking for more material wealth but mental peace and happiness.  Our spiritually gets redefined and we reach a stage of self actualisation.  At this stage of life, we start working on how we can support others and make them successful.  We are no longer in a rat race being competitive with others.  Our concept of success is more within us than without.

The interesting aspect of the evolving definition of success in life is linked to our life stages.  Some of us grow faster than others.  It is important to remember that we are human and hence we need to adapt ourselves to the meaning of success in life as we grow up.  It is equally essential to respect the definition of success of others in our life as they may be at different stages and may have different needs to fulfil.

Running for a marathon like in the photo above could be measure of success for some and not for others.  It is quite fine to be that way.

Let us learn to enjoy our successes in life as we define it.

S Ramesh Shankar

“Never say die…. Attitude”


I am a born optimist in life. I generally do not give up on anything – in personal or work life. I believe there is always a way forward if we try. I admire people who have a “Never say die.. Attitude “. Their attitude is infectious and efforts admirable.  

Life is full of choices. We can choose to be happy or sad. We can choose to try or to give up. We can choose to live healthy or otherwise. It’s all in our hands. I have met people, who will never give up on anything in life. There are such people in all walks of life.  

The first example comes from the field of sports. We do not see a great sportsperson give up till the last moment of the match. It’s their belief in themselves. Winning is journey for them and not a destination. They never rest after winning a match. They rather start practising for the next. Not to give up ever is infused in their blood and this is what makes them great.

Let me share some examples of people I have met in my life and how they have inspired me to never give up. The first person I met was a batch mate of mine who started his career with me in a public sector undertaking. He had an ambition of joining the civil services and tried three times and could not make it. But never gave up. However, what inspired me was his efforts to go to the USA to work and settle. He applied for a visa at least ten times and was rejected each time for some reason or the other. But he never gave up. He kept on trying and finally has gone and settled down there. Even in the USA, he lost his job after some years due to a recession but did not give up. He studied further by taking a break and again bounced back into a better job.  

Another inspiring story is that of a colleague at work. She worked with me and was posted in a remote location. Her husband had a congenital disease and works in a public sector organisation. She has one child who is studying well. This lady is an epitome of this attitude of “Never say die..”. She has been trying all types of treatment for her hubby and is confident that he will fully recover. She takes care of her daughter like mom and dad together. At work, I am yet to meet anyone in the organisation, who does not praise her for her attitude. Thus both at work and in her personal life, she never gives up.

I salute such people. Their self belief and their tenacity are admirable. All of us can be that way but we tend to give up when things do not go our way. It is at such times, we need to look around and get inspiration of people like these, who are like super humans, who we can be inspired from. It is like in the photo above, these people never give up and even try to keep the sun between their fingers.

Let us never give up. We need to learn from them.

S Ramesh Shankar

Taking for granted ?


Do we take people for granted ?  I assume we do.  It starts from the family and then extends to society and organisations too.  Let us start from the family. Do we take our parents for granted ?  Yes we do.  We almost assume that they are duty bound to take care of us and our needs for the rest of our lives.  We are not much bothered about them but if they do not support us when we need them we feel betrayed.  

The story is not very different with our spouses.  Whether we both are working spouses or not, it is a fact that we take each other for granted.  Let us assume that our spouse is not working in an organisation but a home maker.  We almost imagine that they do not have much work and no tensions at home.  If we  get what we want at home on time, we assume that it is their responsibility and hence take it for granted.

On the contrary, let us assume that both spouses are working.  Even in this situation, we do not balance home and office work.  We tend to take for granted that our wives will take care of our home as we are busy at work.  We do not even realise that our wives also have work pressures and balancing home and work is not easy.  Hence, taking your wife for granted is more true than not.

Now, let us move to the organisational sphere.  Do we take our team members, colleagues and bosses for granted ?  Yes, it is true that many of us are so self centred that we look at the world only from own prisms.  We are not much concerned as to how it impacts our team or even our peers.  We take them for granted.  Sometimes, we also take our bosses for granted and assume that they will cover up for us in any crisis.

Why is it that we take everyone in life for granted ?  I assume it is a psychological phenomenon.  Human beings tend to believe that the whole world exists to support them.  We assume our family members, colleagues at work and members of the community are duty bound to help us to be successful in life. When this belief becomes one sided, that is where we start taking people for granted.  

The moment we start believing that we have to give before we take help from others, this problem will perish.  We have to learn to respect everyone and not take anyone for granted in life.  There is nobody in life, who is obligated to you.  We are born alone and will die alone.  But, we need the support of everyone in life to be successful.  Help is always mutual and respect is earned rather than given.  Hence, taking people for granted could lead to more distress than happiness.

We should neither take people or things for granted.  It is like taking a turn while driving your car by looking only at one of your side view mirrors as shown in the photo above.  This is like the driver taking his skills for granted.

Let us learn to respect people from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Complex – inferiority or superiority


We all have complexes in life.  Sometimes we call them inferiority complex and at other times superiority.  In my view, complex is only of one type and that is inferiority.  When we are not able to accept our inferiority, we project it as superiority complex.  This happens to us in all aspects of life.  It starts at home.  As a senior family member, we find it difficult to accept our mistakes. We find it more difficult to say sorry.  Most of the time, we use our status to exert our power.  We think we are superior to the other younger members of the family and hence can get away with it.  In my view, we are inferior and everyone including a child understands it although may not express it to us out of respect.

The best example of the expression of complexes is seen between spouses in a marriage.  Each of us think, we are superior and can argue till the end to justify our behaviour.  We many a time may realise that it is our mistake but our status and ego prevents us to accept defeat in an argument.  We may prefer to keep quiet and not talk to each other rather than accept inferiority or defeat in any situation.  All of us who are married may have gone through this situation many times in life.  I have gone through and have always found it difficult to reflect and accept reality.  It is definitely easier to write about it than display it in day to day behaviour.  

The work situation is no different.  As managers and leaders, we think our seat of power gives us a right of superiority.  We want to win every argument with our team and want to dominate in every discussion.  We think that if we listen more and give in to ideas, we may be perceived as less effective.  This sense of superiority in us is actually a weakness rather than a strength.  Hence my hypothesis that there is only one complex in life and that is inferiority.

The behaviour of individuals in society is similar.  We tend to behave as if we know everything in life if we are the oldest in a group.  We tend to believe that experience can make us a master of all situations.  While it is true that experience is a good teacher, it may not necessarrily answer all the questions in life.  It may be a good idea to listen to all shades of opinions in society. Everyone in life, old or young, senior or junior may have something to contribute.  It is up to us to learn from everyone in life.

The earlier we realise that all complexes in life are those of inferiority, the better it is for us.  Irrespective of family, work or civil society, there is nobody inferior or superior in life.  Everyone may have ideas and it is up to us to learn from all of them.  It may be useful for us to convert every weakness into an opporutinity to learn from others.  If we live in a dream of superiority, we live in a world of delusion.  

Just like in the photo above, being taller or shorter than the other person does not make you superior or inferior in life.

The earlier we accept the reality, the faster we grow up in life.

S Ramesh Shankar