It’s never too late to begin…

All of us make new year resolutions only to break within months or even days after we have begun. It is normal to postpone an issue and justifying that the right time has not come for it. In my learning it is never too late to begin. I have known people who have acquired educational qualifications much after their retirement. So, we need to believe that it is up to us to decide when to start.

The first inspiring example I have is that of my father in law( the photo above). He is 85 years old today. He always had a dream of being a post-graduate in life. He was proud that his children and grandchildren had studied well and some of them have completed their post graduation. He always had this dream of being a post graduate himself. So, at the young age of 75, he decided to pursue his post graduation in Gandhian thought as he was passionate about that subject. He gave his exams and was delighted that realised his dream sooner than later.

Me and my wife have learnt yoga at least 5 times at various stages of our life. Every time we practised the same for a few months and then it wriggled out of our routine. We could never make it a way of life. Just two years back we went to a yoga school in Lonavala and teacher was so inspiring that she not only ensured that we learnt it the right way but motivated us to make it a way of our life. Since then, we have been practising it religiously for the last two years.

I have always had a passion for writing. I used to write for my school and college magazine. Even after I started my career, I contributed to our company in house magazines. However, it was last year when I really started writing seriously and began to pen a blog every week. Within a year I managed to publish a book and today it is an integral part of my routine.

Most of us tend to postpone a decision on some pretext or the other. It is sometimes due to lethargy and at other times due to lack of will. I have realised through all my mistakes in life that it is me to blame for any procrastination and not anyone else. Hence, it is time to realise that the will power lies within us and not outside. If we decide to do something in life, it is up to us to start.

In life, we will always have multiple jobs. It is up to us to prioritise what is important and then pursue it with zeal. Whether it is at the workplace or our personal life, we need to decide what is important in our life and then make a beginning. We need to remember that today is always better than tomorrow to make a mark. Today is in our hands and tomorrow may never come.

All these examples have taught me that age, work or life is not a barrier for us to do something. It is more of our own mindset and attitude to life. We need to be positive and determined on what our passions are and then doggedly pursue the same. If we postpone something, it is our drawback and we cannot externalise it by blaming the environment for the same.

Let us begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Power of Listening


We are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But we generally end up talking more than listening.  Why is this so ?  May be it starts with the family, then the academic institutions and finally organisations and society.  We are always encouraged by our family, friends and society at large to communicate well and make an impression, wherever we are.  We have always been guided to outsmart everyone around us.  There is nothing wrong with this teaching.  However, it is important to realize that God may have given two ears and one mouth to all of us with a purpose, as illustrated by this kid in the photo above.

We possibly need to realize that effective communication in life means listening more and talking less.  Let us examine this from own life experiences.  Who in the family we like to spend our time most.  In all probability, it would be our mother.  This is because she would be the best listener in your family.  She listened to our non stop blabbering and the unending questions without losing her patience or cool ever.

If we move to the school or college, who was our favourite teacher ?  Its always the teacher with whom you can share all your stories – good or bad.  The teacher always created space for us.  She was ever willing to listen to us and our views .  She made us comfortable and let us experiment and fail in any situation.  On the other hand, imagine the teacher who advised you on everything in life even before you asked.  What would be your reaction ?

If we move to organisations, employees love peers or managers who lend their ears under all circumstances.  Such managers and peers attract you like a magnet.  You can laugh with them or cry with them and you can be your self.  They are non judgemental and always have the time and space for you.  On the other extreme, you meet managers who are instructing you all the time even on issues where you do not need any advice.  None of us like to work with such managers.

I have sometimes wondered as to why listening is more powerful than talking ?  I recall an incident, where I was conducting an interview of a candidate for the head of manufacturing position.  The interview lasted for an hour.  The candidate spoke for 50 minutes and I may have spoken for ten minutes.  At the end of the interview, I asked the candidate if he had observed anything in his behaviour during the interview.  He was puzzled.  When I explained to him that most of the time he was speaking and I was listening, he realised the power of listening.  I could listen to him and make my decision without speaking much.

Life is no different.  If we look at our kids.  Most of the time if we are willing to listen to their questions and chatter, they are happy.  They are more than happy even if you do not answer all their questions.  They appreciate your patience and listening skills more than your talking.  Listening is more effective in communication than speaking.

I can share another incident in my life.  My father was a government servant.  He was a very patient person.  He hardly spoke and never lost his cool.  But still his staff  adored him.  I was very curious.  I asked his staff one day as to what did they observe in him.  He responded by saying that he admired him for his calmness and patience.  This proves listening is much more impactful than speaking. 

Let us resolve to listen more and talk less from today.  It is worth a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

Position & Possession

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Is our life ruled by position or possession only ?  Lets explore. We can examine this hypothesis from three different lenses and the answer seems to be similar.  Let us first examine it from the lens of the family.  We may be born in a middle class family in a small village.  Our status in the society where we are born is determined by the position held by our family members in the society around us.  In the olden days, your caste determined your status in society.  After all caste is also a social position class.

Now if we look within the family social structure, the story is not very different.  The power structure is determined by the position you hold in the family tree.  An elder in the family whether parents or grandparents can never be wrong as compared to their children in any situation.  At least this is the way we are brought up.  I respect elders in the family but there is a possibility that in some situations our children may be right and we may be wrong.  But, we generally will be in a denial mode unless we are magnanimous in our attitude.

We can then move to the lens of organisation.  The hierarchy determines the power structure in organisations.  The higher you are in the hierarchy the less you can be wrong in any situation.  Thus position determines power and thereby influences all decisions in the organisation.  The situation is no different if you examine this from the lens of society.  The public figures who hold positions of power determine the direction the society has to move and those who are powerless are less influential in society.

Now, lets examine as to why we are possessive by nature.  We all are born into this world with no possessions and when we leave this world we can carry no possessions.  But in between these two events in our life, we spend most of our time accullumating possessions.  As a kid, we want all the games and gadgets in the family or in the circle of friends we have.  Then as an individual as we grow up, we want to maximise our material wealth at any cost most of the times.  We do not have time to sit and listen to our family or friends in distress.

If we move to the organisational context, the situation is similar.  Most organisations work at maximising shareholders’ wealth at any cost.  They want to increase profits at the cost of society if needed.  Very few organisations look at what they can give back to society unless the governments statutorily compel them to do so.  This again proves that as individuals and organisations we are possessive by nature and we want to maximise at the cost of society in most situations.

I sometimes wonder ” why we are crazy after positions or possessions in life ?”. Is it a physical or psychological need ?  I am not sure.  But, I do realize that the root cause of conflicts in family , organisations and society is the craving for positions or possessions in their life time.  This is amply clear if we introspect or objectively look at organisations and societies around us.  As in the photo above, the position we hold and the assets we possess may give us a sense of power.  It is up to us to ensure that we remain grounded always with our feet firmly on the ground.

It is time to reflect. There is nothing wrong to yearn for a position or assimilate possessions in life.  But, as long as we are able to restrict them to fulfil our needs rather than greed, it is fine.  We also need to learn to give back to society.  The day we have this realisation, we wake up and feel actualised in life.  It is never too late to make this distinction.

Let us try to start today

S Ramesh Shankar

Pain versus Joy


The pain of one should not become the joy for another.  This is what exactly happened when a CEO of a respectable industrial group lost his job.  While most of us may not be aware of  why the CEO was sacked and whether it was a fair step or not, we took the liberty of commenting on it and also shared jokes on the social media.  I was a bit hurt and thought I should reflect on it.

All of us go through ups and downs in life.  Should the sorrow of one individual give joy to another.  I do not believe so.  Lets examine it from a sports perspective.  If we play a game and lose the match, we do not end up attacking our opponents.  On the other hand, we shake hands and congratulate our opponents for winning the game.  That is true sportman's spirit and that is the way all the games are played in the world.

Why should life be different ?  Today someone may lose his job.  Tomorrow, it could be us.  Why should we laugh at someone losing his job and share jokes on the social media.  What joy can it give us ?  If someone is in pain, we may need to empathise.  We cannot be happy and making fun of it.  We have to remember that it could happen to us and we may not be amused if someone laughs when we lose our job.

We may need to reflect on our day to day behaviour.  Do we rejoice at the pain of others ?  We could share jokes and have fun if someone shares a good news with us.  A  promotion at work or a medal in a game is worth sharing joy.  But, if someone is in a crisis, we need to put ourselves in their position.  We need to reflect and pray for them to get out of their crisis.  It does not matter whether it is because of them or inspite of them.  The fact that they are going through a pain must make us empathise with them rather than rejoicing.

We can look back at life.  We may have topped our class in school or college but do we ever rejoice at our classmates, who failed.  We don't and we should not.  It is quite possible that while we have topped in school, we may end up failing in a subject in college and our ill behaviour may haunt us when others laugh at us at our failure.  It is in moments of crisis, we need to be humane.

In the photo above on the border of south and north Korea, the people of both countries hope to unite some day again. The separation of the two countries could have meant sorrow for some and joy for others.

The situation is no different at the workplace.  While we may succeed in a project and a colleague may fail, we cannot afford to rejoice at the failure of our colleagues.  Our success today is because of the contribution of many of our team members.  Tomorrow if we laugh at the failure of others, the same team members may lose their trust in us and may not be happy to support us to succeed.

The joy of others can be a source of happiness for us.  We can celebrate joy and share pain.  This is the way life will teach us to balance the good and the bad and share our joy and pain in life.

Let us celebrate joy and share pain with others.

S Ramesh Shankar

Joy of writing


Almost four decades ago I used to write a bit of poetry and a few articles for our college magazine. Then as I grew up and got into work, this habit of writing almost disappeared.  It was just left to a few articles in some company newsletters or professional magazines.  My commitment to work took precedence and this art of writing faded into memory.

About a year back, I took my annual vacation with my wife and went for an Ayurvedic rejuvenation camp for three weeks. This hospital was in the backdrop of the western ghats amidst a rural landscape.  As I spent the day in my treatment, the evenings were spent in long walks along the country roads by the mountains, lakes and green fields. This sojourn with nature rekindled the writing spirit in me and I started writing blogs.  

Since then I have been writing blogs whenever my thoughts flow through my mind and my soul is tickled to express myself in words.  Today I publish a blog every week and God willing intend to publish a booklet of every hundred blogs I write.  This will enable me to share my reflections, feelings, thoughts and emotions with others and learn from their reactions too.

Today I experience the joy of writing.  As I sit down on my Ipad to express myself in words, the thoughts and feelings flow like the tributaries of a river.  It starts with a thought and then flows like a river.  Normally, I jot down every feeling I get and also the thoughts, which pass through my mind at different times of the day and night.  Then I start pondering over that thought or feeling and words flow through my fingers like the water wading though the rocks on the river bed finding its way downstream.

Words expressed in writing gives me joy.  Some people are good in sharing their feelings and thoughts by speaking about them.  I do share it the same way but the ease at which I can express in writing is more than what I can speak.  Normally, I prepare for my speeches and try to be spontaneous rather than reading from a script.  But, when I sit down to write, the emotions in my heart pour as words on the tablet as I try to express myself.

It is easy to share joy with others.  Sometimes it may be necessary to share sorrow too with your near and dear ones so that you feel lighter.  But I find it easiest to write down what I feel and then share it with everyone who is interested in reading my expressions.  This way I feel lighter, fearless and free flowing in my life.  Each of us have our own way of expressing ourselves and sharing our feelings and emotions.

As in the photo above, if you have the vastness of the sea in front of you and the mystic of the setting sun, then words flow through your pen like the waves on the sea shore.

Some of us like to be left alone and like to meditate.  While others like to read a book or listen to music.  My way of relaxing is to write and express myself in words.  It is this habit, which has helped me  de-stress myself and sharing my emotions with others.  Each of us have to find our own way of enjoying life.  There is nothing right or wrong about any hobby or habit. 

Let us discover our joy in life and enjoy it to the fullest.

S Ramesh Shankar

 Living within means


All of us dream to grow and prosper in life.  This is a natural human phenomenon.  It is fair to be ambitious and aim for the moon or even beyond.  We need to set our vision high, evolve our strategy, determine our actions and take the first steps.  Hard work, perseverance with a little bit of luck will definitely take us towards our goal.  We may not achieve what we want in the time frame we set ourselves.  But sooner than later we will accomplish our mission if we never give up.

Let us look back at our own lives.  We start as students in school and then college.  Apart from studying and giving our best in academics, we also strive to excel in sports and cultural activities.   No wonder our parents, friends and relatives are impressed.  Our parents try to give us pocket money for our sundry expenses.  It is here where our ability to balance income and expenditure begins. Living within our means is the first lesson in our lives as a student.

We then finish our studies and get into an employment or business vocation.  We dream to climb the corporate ladder at the shortest possible time.  If our parents reached the peak of their career in three decades, we want to  achieve the same in three years.  I admire this spirit in the youth today.  It is indeed filled with optimism and an appetite to take risks, which my generation did not even dream of.

However, there is one small point to be kept in mind.  There is no short cut to success in life.  Even if we look at the world’s best sportspersons, their successes and accomplishments are visible to us.  We do not see the millions of hours of hard work they put in or the number of failures they face before they succeed in their sport. It is this ability to be focussed and the “never say die” spirit, which accelerates our road to success.

As we reach our first milestone, we tend to believe that we have achieved our goal post.  We want to celebrate even before the ink has dried on our first offer letter.  While there may be nothing wrong in partying on the first night after our first offer, we need to remember that our long and strenuous journey to accomplish our mission has just begun.  It is at this stage we need to learn to become thrifty.  We may be tempted to live beyond our means.  We may be lucky to be brought up in a upper middle class family with all comforts.  It is our ability to realize the world is different now and all the comforts in life have to be earned by us through our own earnings is critical.

We end up competing with friends who come from rich family heritage and want to live a dream life  even before we have earned it.  It is at this stage, we need to get grounded and remind ourselves that life has just begun for us.  We have just run the first few kilometres of our life marathon.  We need to learn to save money every month to build the future of our choice.  It is like the marathon runners conserve their energy in the first few kilometres so as to put in their best foot forward in the last lap of the race.

Life is a journey and it has many facets. My learning in life is that if we can master the art of living within our means, we will always be happy.  Our expenditure should always be  less than our income.  We should never get into the credit trap.  We need to learn to enjoy life within our means.  After all happiness cannot be bought only by money.  Rather, I would say that money buys the least of happiness in life.

As in the photo above, Sikhism teaches you to be grounded, treat everyone as equal and live within your means.

Let us learn to live within our means from today.  After all, it is never too late to begin.

S Ramesh Shankar

Learning from the Elephant


The elephant is one of the most fascinating animals in our life. It epitomises power and vitality.  It is tall and strong and one of the best friends of man.  It has multiple facets of its personality.  It disproves the myth that being a vegetarian, you cannot be strong and healthy.  It is useful in transportation in the forests and also helps human movement in difficult terrains.

Each part of the elephant teaches us something.  Its tall and strong personality emphasises the need to be like that in real life to face all of life challenges.  Its healthy body proves that vegetarianism is not a deterrent to good health.  Its tusks tells us to be ready in self defence in case of any enemy attack.  Its height teaches us how useful it is to deal with everyone around you.  Its calmness teaches you not to panic unless attacked.  Its wagging tail teaches you to be grateful in life to everyone.

In the temples, the elephant is used as the guardian of the Lord and also blesses everyone with its long trunk.  It is also used to take the God in processions around the town during festivals and fairs.  In the forest, the elephant by it sheer size can even scare a tiger.  So, in tiger resorts, elephants are used to spot the tiger and go near them to admire them.

In the villages, the elephant is also used in the agricultural fields to transport produce and goods.  It can also be useful to guard the villagers from wild animals and attack by dacoits and intruders.  It can help in pulling carts and also defending in any type of attacks.  History tells us that elephants were used in wars against enemies.  Their loyalty is unquestioned.  

What are the qualities one can learn from the elephant ?  You can learn to be loyal.  Loyalty of an elephant to her master is for their lifetime.  Their calmness in normal circumstances can teach us to be patient and unrfuffled in life.  They turn violent only when attacked and that too in self defence.  It may be worthwhile to know they can run at 40 km per hour despite being bulky and even swim non stop. The elephant is caring and one can learn to bestow motherly love from them. 

We have an opportunity to learn from all the animals and birds around us.  But we neither have the time to admire them nor the patience to learn from them.  I was in an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka recently and this gave me an opportunity to learn from the elephant.  One of man’s best friend, an elephant can teach a lot to us, which other human beings may not be able to.   It is time to sit back and learn from them.

Long live the Elephant.

S Ramesh Shankar