Heart or Mind ?


One is always in a dilemma whether one should listen to your heart or to your mind.  Heart rules your mind or mind rules your heart.  All of us go through this in our every day life.  While logic is analysed by the mind, the feelings and emotions are gauged by the heart.  Let us look at different life situations and  review as to what guides our decisions – mind or heart .

Our academic inputs guide us to gather data, analyse them and look at alternatives before you take a decision.  This means that we are taught to be guided by our intellect.  However, in real life what happens ?  If we are to buy clothes for ourselves for a festival, what do we do ?  Do we look at our resources – say money and the time available and then look at options of where to buy and what to buy and then go ahead and buy clothes.  I am not sure.  Most of us will go to a nearby market of our choice and buy clothes which make us feel better.   

Let us take another example.  If we have to buy a car, what do we do ?  We do first define our needs.  Then, we explore the options and  examine our financial capacity.  We go to a dealer and choose a car based on all this analysis.  However, as we reach the dealership, we may end up choosing a car and a colour, which our heart dictates although it may be a bit beyond our original plan and budget. We may end up changing our decision at the last minute.

Now, let us look at our choosing our life partner.  What do we do ?  There could be two options.  One is that we are choosing our own partner and then inform our parents about it.  Alternatively, our parents choose our partner and we finally agree to it.  In either case, do we gather data, analyse options and then finally choose our partner.  I am not sure.  I think in most cases, the heart rules the mind.

There comes the interesting debate of whether heart rules the mind or vice versa.  I recently read an article that all our decisions are made by gut and then we apply logic to justify it.  This may be true.  But, according to scientists it is also true that we gather data all through our life and it is stored in our brains.  So, when we claim that we take most of our decisions by our gut, these are decisions taken by us using the data stored in the brain of ours.  Our mind analyses the data in seconds and passes it on to our heart to guide our decisions.

Like in the picture above, your heart may want you to drench your feet in the water and mind may say no because of high tides ?  What will you do ?

So, for me, it is always by the gut.  How about you ?

S Ramesh Shankar

The Moon


The sight of the moon is romantic.  It is radiant and cool.  It is selfless to say the least.  It absorbs light from the sun and reflects it to the earth.  While the sun is bright and warm, the moon is artistic and cool.  Nature has its unique way of balancing itself for our benefit.  While we need the sun in the day to warm us up and provide us with all the vitamin D we require, the moon keeps the darkness away and still allows us to sleep peacefully at night. 

I have always wondered as to why the moon is considered romantic.  One, you can admire it with your naked eyes and enjoy its beauty.  Second it radiates the light from the sun but keeps the environment cool for us.  It allows the stars to sparkle around it unlike the sun, which brightens the sky so much that no other stars are visible during the day.

The sun remains the same to the human eye right through the year and from morning to evening in a day.  On the other hand, the moon transforms from new moon to full moon over a fortnight and expresses itself in various forms each day.  You can admire the moon all night without harming your eyes.  On the other hand, the sun can be admired during sun rise at dawn or sunset at twilight.  If you try to admire the sun during other parts of the day, it may impact your eyes badly.

As the moon rises in the sky, the stars sparkle and the reflection of the moon on the ocean or rivers is worth a million words.  Poets and authors have revelled writing on the moon and its myriad forms.  While the sun sparkles our life with its warmth, the moon cools us with its mysteries.  While the sun encourages us to work hard and toil in the day, the moon teaches us to relax and sleep well at night.

The sun, moon and the stars are nature’s gift to mankind.  Each of them have their own gifts to give us.  The sun is hot, the moon cool and the stars sparkle.  Each of them add colour to our lives.  They play a useful role in our daily life and inspire us to admire and learn from them.

The sun can teach us to be bright and bold.   The moon teaches us to be selfless and cool and the stars advise us to sparkle and enjoy life.  We can learn from all of them and add energy to our lives.  The sun can be a symbol of intensity, the moon can be a symbol of patience and the stars can infuse energy into our lives.  We need to learn from the beauty of all of them.

Lets keep our cool like the Moon.

S Ramesh Shankar

You miss something you do not have any more …

As we grow up in our family, we are lucky to have all the comforts of home.  We are fully taken care of by our family members and get all the comforts of life.  But, as we complete our education and then get into a job, we are compelled to move out of our home.  We live on our own and have to fend for  ourselves.  We realise that our mom is not around to give us our morning coffee.  As the day progresses, we miss her and many more people and things around us, which we were quite used to.

We search for our tooth brush and it was not in place as soon as we get up and look for it.  Then there is nobody to offer our morning coffee.  The breakfast is not laid on the table and nobody to wish us a great day ahead.  As this change sinks into us, we realise that we miss our mom or spouse or that special person in our life, who has be nurturing us from dawn to dusk every day.

We are busy at work but may be even forget this vacuum in our life temporarily but as we return to our den in the evening, we realise that the situation is the same.  There is nobody to open the door for us.  There is no evening tea waiting for us and more important we have to freshen up and cook our own food.  This cycle of life makes you realise that you always “miss something you do not have any more”.

We were used to the pampering by your beloved mom  and then when we have moved out we suddenly miss her.  We may have been complaining morning, evening and night how bad our mom’s cooking is.  We may tell her how our friends get excellent delicacies every day and we don’t and so on.  But, as we land all alone in life, we realise how much we miss her.  Her food, her warmth, her care and love can no longer be measured in a value.  

Today I visited my niece.  She is married and settled down in life.  She narrated an incident of how her mom visiting her made her day.  She was feeling more cared for when someone is there to say good bye, when she leaves for work. Her mom’s cooking food for her makes it tastier and more enjoyable.  She said she realises today after being married for more than a decade when her mom visits her once a year.

This is true for everything in life.  We miss something only when you do not have it any more.  Life is a competitive journey and we face all odds to do our daily chores.  We are taken care by our family and friends as we grow up.  But, as we try to stand alone and live life on our terms, we realise how much we miss all that we had in life before.  It may be things or people but they look invaluable and irreplaceable to us now.

Of course, we can always buy things and replace them to comfort ourselves.  But, we cannot replace the love, warmth and care of the people around us.  It is this realisation, which makes us human and helps us to keep our feet on the ground.  It is important to realise that we can never repay this debt in life.  It is an emotional debt and has to repaid by love and care only.

At this moment, when our elders grow up, we may have to realise that it is not good enough for us to provide them with physical comfort.  Even they can buy them from the market place, which they can afford.  We need to repay our debt by unconditional love.  We have to be with them not only when they need us but even when they may not expect us.  

Like in the photo above, the baby elephants may miss their mother after they get separated from her in the wilderness of the forest.

Life is a journey and we need to learn from all that we miss, which we do not have today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Women Leadership : New age imperatives


The International Women’s day celebrated on 8th March every year reminds us of the role of women in society.  It is true that in India and around the world, women have played a stellar role in leadership in family, organisations and society.  History teaches us of brave women who have transformed societies with their selfless leadership.  We in India have the privilege of women playing a pivotal role in all walks of life.  We have had freedom fighters, politicians, a noble laureate, historians, academics and very recently space scientists, who have made our country proud by their outstanding accomplishments.

In my book, leadership is gender agnostic. We need to lead by example and be a role model for our followers.  Leaders inspire change.  How does it matter whether you are a male or a female leader ?  It does not.  I have worked with women and men leaders and have found them equally inspiring to lead.  So, gender does not matter to determine your quality of leadership.  What matters is our ability to understand the needs of a multigenerational workforce and how to keep them engaged and motivated.

What are the new age imperatives, which the women leaders of today are challenged with ?  The first and the foremost challenge for women leaders would be the unconscious bias of others.  Although, I strongly believe that women are equal to men as leaders, there is a unconscious bias especially in the Indian society that women cannot lead in particular circumstances like a battlefield, flying fighter planes or even working in the shop floor of a manufacturing unit.  In my view, the bias is more in our mind than in reality.

Today India can be proud to have women fighter pilots, space scientists, manufacturing managers and even captains in the defence forces.  Thus all the so called male bastions have been shattered by sheer merit and performance.  It is time for the biased Indian male to wake up and realise that women today are not only equal to men but could be even better in many fields purely based on their talent.

The second challenge which women leaders may face in the new age would be the willingness of men and women under them to accept them as leaders.  As I said earlier that having worked under women leaders, I do not find any change between men and women as leaders.  But the feudal mindset of men and women may make them uncomfortable to accept a woman as a leader. This may be experienced by many women leaders and they get over it by their sheer performance and inspiration.

The third imperative could be the balance of work and life.  It is very difficult for women leaders to balance family needs and work needs unless they have an excellent family support.  In the absense of this support mechanism, it could result in strained family relationship or sometimes giving up a challenging career at your peak.  Most women leaders work double of their male counterparts since they have to balance home and work and this is a big ask of them.

As in the photo above, women leaders have equalled men in all aspects of leadership.

Having said that, I would like to restate that in my books, women leaders are as smart as male leaders if not smarter.

It is time to reflect and support them to succeed.

S Ramesh Shankar

Life is like a “Marathon”


Our life is like a marathon.  We start to lay our foundation in our childhood, work hard during youth and then pick up steam as an adult to achieve our life goals.  All that we achieve in our life depends on the hard work we put in.  It is like to run a marathon, we start practising almost a year before the event.  It is not only our physical fitness but our emotional quotient, which makes us a winner.

One need not be the fastest sprinter to win but needs to be high on patience and perseverance.  After we have set your eyes in participating in a marathon, it is meticulous planning, sweating it out every day for more than a year and good dietary discipline, which makes us ready for the marathon.  Life is no different.  As a kid, we have many dreams in our lives.  We want to realize all of them and at the shortest possible time.  If one is able to set a clear goal and work towards achieving it, nothing is impossible in life.

I am aware of many people who plan to participate in a marathon.  While they set their goal clearly, they do not plan for it well.  Their daily practise does not happen regularly. Their eating habits are not in place.  So, when they participate in their first marathon and end up with cramps after just 5 kms of running, they get disappointed and many even give up their goal.  

Life is no different.  We need to set our life goals- personal, career or otherwise.  We need to plan in detail and be self disciplined.  The moment we lose focus and fail to raise our own standards, we get into pitfalls in life.  This disappoints us and we tend to give up on some of our goals even before we have put in adequate efforts to achieve them.

In a marathon, one could possibly start with a dream run of 6 or 10 kms, then move to run the half marathon, full marathon and may be even attempt the ultra marathon.  This will help them take one step at a time.  It prepares the body and mind.  They increase the intensity of their participation every year and success at each step reinforces their belief in themselves.

The same is true in life.  We could set small milestones, work hard and achieve them.  This gives us the confidence to take on tougher goals and work towards achieving them.  Each time we succeed in attaining our goals, it builds on our ability to aim higher.  This is the secret of success in life.  Many of us give up even before we try our best.

Life is a journey and we have to take one step at a time.  The icons of success in all walks of life have proved that if you set your vision, plan your action and execute with discipline, everything is possible in life.  This may help us believe in ourselves and set impossible goals. Our efforts get rewarded even before we realize it.  This enthuses us to achieve more in life.

Let us start our dream run today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Silence is golden


Silence is golden or so goes the saying.  Is it really as valuable as gold ?  Why is silence considered golden ?.  Most of us find it easy to talk rather than not.  We speak more than we listen.  We answer before we are asked a question.  We are comfortable with noise but become lonely in silence.

Talking comes naturally to us.  We grow up being encouraged to talk at home, school and even at work.  We are told be to an extrovert and be gregarious.  We are trained to talk more than to listen.  If we are an introvert, we are told we may not be successful in life.  If a kid is shy and quiet, parents get worried.  Teachers want children to express themselves in more ways than one.

Then, why is silence important and valuable.  The behavioural scientists tell us that more than 70% of our behaviour is non verbal.  This means that expressions and actions speak more than our words.  We need to learn the power of silence and use it effectively in all walks of life.  It is true that many a time silence speaks more than words.

I recall many experiences in my life where silence speaks louder than words.  I remember an incident of my childhood.  My father was a man of few words.  He hardly used to speak at home or at work and always very patient.  Once his office driver told me that he was scared of my father.  I was surprised.  I asked him as how he could be afraid of my dad as he hardly spoke.  He replied that he was not sure what my father had in his mind since most of the time he hardly spoke.  His silence was not easily understood as we could not interpret what he did not tell us.

I remember another incident where my mom used to punish me for my mistakes in life by not talking to me for a few days. The silence at home between me and my mom was deafening.  It was difficult and harsher as a punishment than even a cane on the back.

If you visit a temple, mosque, church or monastery, the silence of the place makes you feel the power of God.  I love to visit religious places which are secluded and lonely.  The sound of the bell in a temple reverberates and echoes in your heart a million times in the silence of the environs.  The solitude of the temple as seen in the picture above makes you connect with God.  

As we grow in life, we realize the value of silence.  Yes, silence does speak more than a thousand words.  We need to learn to listen to the meaning of silence in life.  We have to use the power of silence to manage life situations and enjoy the beauty of silence in life everyday.

S Ramesh Shankar

The sound of “Silence”


I love the sound of “Silence”.  When you are in the midst of a rain forest, the only sound you hear is that of the dew drops on the tree leaves or the song of the birds.  It makes you reflect in solitude.  The greenery around you makes you fresh like the morning dew.  It energises you and enables you to sync with nature.  The tweaking of the old branches in the cool breeze of the forest or the thumping paws of a wild animal on the morning wet pathway are the only sounds around you.

The farther you are away from the city, the more the forest haunts you.  It makes you realize how much mankind has killed nature in the name of development. The orange forest flame ignites your mind.   The butterflies kindle your imagination. The whistling sound of the wind calms you down and makes you sit up.  All this makes you realize that the pollution of the traffic and noise of the roads do not drain you any more.  It is the fragrance of the forest, which soothes your soul here.

I got up early in the morning, went for a short walk and then a therupatic ayurvedic massage rejuvenated my body.  The breakfast filled my stomach and then it was time to sit and reflect in this lap of nature. When you are drowned in the noise of the city, your thoughts get choked, your emotions drained and mind wanders in the quest for materiality of life.  You forget to live life to its full potential.

What does nature offer us ?  We have huge trees giving us oxygen, the leaves brightening our sight, the birds singing the melody and the smell of the forest calming our mind.  You realize that nature has so much to give us and we give nothing back in return.  On the contrary, we give back trash, pollution, noise and tonnes of plastic to ruin the earth.

I can be myself when I am in the lap of nature.  It brings out the best in me.  It can connect the mind, body and soul.  It brings you closer to God. It makes you realize the power of the super power.  The sunlight appears brighter, the air is cooler and the music of nature is melodious. The environment makes your reflective.  You are willing to be one with nature.

Why do we ruin nature inspite of all that she gives us every day ?  I have no answer except to believe that human beings are greedy. We always want more from nature than we give back.  We want life to be better every day and are willing to squeeze all the natural resources around us without worrying on how we could nurture nature for the future.

It is time to wake up.  It is time to commit that we will give back at least half of what we get from nature.  We can make simple commitments.  We will not pollute the environment around us.  We will live more organically.  We will reduce the use of plastic.  We minimise the use of cars, bikes and aeroplanes.  We will plant more trees and nurture nature in all possible ways.

We need to remember that our kids will get what we leave behind.  Our fore fathers gave us such a beautiful world.  We need to commit to leave behind a better world for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar