Smile please…

Our facial expressions speak more than our words.  There is research to state that we express ourselves 70% of the time through non verbal behaviour rather than verbal.  This means smiles can not only be contagious but can make a huge positive impact in our lives.  Then, it may be worth while to examine as to why we are so stingy in smiling.  Many of us find it difficult to smile unless a situation forces us to do so or we do it as an obligation to others.   Interestingly there is also medical research to confirm that smiles can exercise our facial muscles better than frowns.

It is time to examine the reasons for our smiling or otherwise. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth and feel quite comfortable smiling at ourselves at the mirror.  We have our cup of coffee with our family and friends and the smile may continue to blink.  As the day progresses, we meet people on the way to work or school and the smile disappears.  The frown may gradually replace the smile as we believe our day is worse than anyone else around us.

It is time to wake up in the morning and be grateful to God and ourselves.  We should believe that we are the luckiest in the world and blessed with family and friends, who are so caring and loving around us.  We should look forward to getting to work or school and meet our wonderful colleagues.  This may not only make us more confident and cheerful but will spread happiness all around us.  It may make us feel good and spread goodness with every smile on our face as we interact with others.

Why blame the world for a negative attitude if we can change the world with our smile.  Another interesting dimension of a smile on our face is that it is very contagious.  It is almost like yawning.  Have your ever tried it ?  If you look at people yawning around you, you end up yawning yourself even if you are not sleepy or feel like it.  Smile is similar.  Try it.  If you meet someone who smiles around all the time, the spread of cheer is infectious.

It may be interesting to examine as to why we smile less and frown more at ourselves or at others.  It may be because of the imbalance between need and greed in life.  We are accumulating wealth with the belief that wealth may lead us to prosperity and which in turn may make us happy.  This quest for wealth is endless and leads us from need to greed.  The moment greed overtakes need, we tend become angry with ourselves and more greedy.

On the other hand, we meet people on the street, who are never sad.  They may not be the wealthiest in the world but they are the happiest.  If we examine them better, we may realise that they fulfill their needs in life and never are greedy.  They give more than they get in life.  Their smile is generous and unconditional.  They do not smile at you because they need you but they smile at you because they want to make you happier every day.

On the other hand, many of us carry the burden of the world on us.  We believe that the world is cruel to us.  We believe that we do not have enough for a happy future.  We are in the never ending quest for wealth.  We yearn for a future, which is always eluding us and in the process forget the existence of the present.   We forget the past as soon as we reach a stage of self denial.  This makes us smile less and frown more.

It is time to wake up.  Let us smile at ourselves and at others.  Let us cheer ourselves .  Let us spread happiness around us like a flower spreading honey to the bees.  The world will be a happier place to live in.

Lets start today

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Think before you ink

Our ability to think before we ink may help us determine our future.  This may be the true barometer of a democracy as much a measure of our true success in life.  Let us first examine this hypothesis on what is a true democracy in society at large.  A nation, where every citizen can at free will express herself or himself without any repercussions or consequences is the foundation of a true democracy.    A country where the vote of every citizen is equal and valuable in determining its future is the crux of a democratic state.

I am lucky to be born in India, the world’s largest democracy and thriving for the last 60 years and counting.  We are multi cultural, truly secular and thrive on democratic values.  We may not be the most prosperous country in the world in money terms but we are the wealthiest in the world in emotional and spiritual power.  This has been possible only because every citizen of India determines our future.  Our constitution makers have ensured that every citizen contributes to the making of India.

The vote of the citizen in India is equal irrespective of whether you are rich or poor and whether you are educated or illiterate.  We are the first country in the world to have 100% electronic voting machines almost a decade back and we proud of our democratic credentials.  While the election commission of India, which is a constitutional body plays the role of an independent watchdog to protect and promote the rights of its citizens, it is each of one of us as independent citizens, who have contributed to this success by thinking before we ink in every election.

Now, if we move to the individual, the significance of thinking before we write something is equally important in our lives.  While everyone does appreciate the value of communications in life, it may be forgiven if we use inappropriate language verbally and seek forgiveness as soon as we realise it or someone points it out to us.  It may be erased from memory and easily forgotten too.  However, what is written down stays engraved in stone and lives in memory for eternity.

We need to think before we ink.  This may be easier said than done. In an era of emails and mobile communications, there is more communication through written forms of emails and chats rather than speech.  This makes it all the more necessary for us to think before we write.  We need to choose every word with caution and imagine the impact of the words we choose on the recipient of our communication.

We need to realise that it is easier to speak than to write.  The more we think before we ink, the better may be our expression and the more its impact.  It is we, who determine how others perceive us.  It is we as citizens determine the future of our country. The kid in the photo above seems to be thinking intensely before he puts his thoughts on the iPad.

Let us think.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Strategy versus Execution

Strategy & execution are like the two words – thought and action.  The issue is which comes first.  Thought or action.  We have people around the world, who believe that action leads to thought.  On the other hand, purists believe that thought has to precede action.  We need to plan first before we go for execution. It is like in the photo above, any amount of study of wind direction and planning to play the frisbee on the sea shore is of no use unless you try it and learn by your failures and successes.

It is similar to the debate on Theory versus practise.     After having worked in industry for more than three decades, my learning is that both are equally important and they complement each other.  You need to have a plan to execute it.  However, on the other hand, if we spend our entire life planning of a dream future, it may remain a dream in our life.  Hence, execution is as important as planning itself.

Let us look back at every stage of our life.  As a child, we are trained to dream big.  Aim for the moon we are told.  However, if we aim for the moon and do not work hard to achieve our mission, we may reach nowhere.  Whether it academic or sports, we have to have a dream and then we need to evolve milestones to realise our dream. No plan leads to action until executed with discipline.

The work life is no different.  We all are ambitious and want to become the CEO within years of our starting our career in an organization.  There is nothing wrong in having such aspirations.  However, we need to have a plan, work towards executing that plan through hard work and discipline.  As we progress, we may face obstacles.  This should not deter us from proceeding with our plan execution with necessary changes and perseverance.  However, if we give up mid way, we can neither blame the plan, nor our exection for our failure.

Life is no different.  We all have a dream.  We may be born in lower middle class families.  But, we want to conquer the world in our own sphere.  Its great to have such dream.  It would be wise to plan meticulously to realise this vision of ours.  After visioning, we need to put our neck out and experiment.  We need to take the risk associated with our actions and be willing to learn from our failures.  No wonder they say failures are the stepping stones to success.

Most of the time, we neither plan nor we are willing to try.  We give up even before we begin.  Let us take a simple example from our lives, which happens to most of us every year.  We make grandiose new year resolutions.  We want to be fit and healthy.  We resolve that we will walk or jog for ten kilometres every day before the dawn of the new year on the 31st of December, while we are still rejoicing welcoming the new year.

The very next day we do not get up and postpone our plan for the next day and then the next week and may be the next month.  This way it never happens and the next year arrives before we realise it.  Now, in this scenario, can we blame the plan or the execution.  We need to blame ourselves as we neither were serious in planning or in implementing what we planned.  

I recently met an Olympics bronze medalist in swimming.  She told us that she practises for ten kilometres of swimming every day.  She does this for four years before the next Olympics and thus plans for winning a medal.  We need to plan to walk for at least one kilometre every day before we dream of being fit.   This teaches that meticulous planning and relentless execution is the key to success.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

End of a century

In cricket, if you hit 100 runs, it is considered a century and a milestone for a batsman.  In life, if you live for hundred years it is indeed a landmark of your life.  Not many people live up to that age and not many survive to live that way.  What significance is it for me if I say that this is my hundredth blog.  It could signify that I do not have enough to do at work and in life that I have started writing blogs.  It could also mean that I have enough to share based on my learnings in life.

I was always wondering what to write on the hundredth blog.  Its a question for which I have no answer.  I can only state that the journey of writing blogs began a year back.  It has been an eventful journey.  Every time I get to reflect and think, the words flow as water from a tap.  It could be a summer evening watching the sunset or a long haul flight.  The words flow as if there is no gravity.  It is joyful and reflective.

I also post my blogs on my company social media platform.  I get a lot of feedback wherever I travel around the world.  People have encouraged me to write more and given me ideas on what to write.  They have commented on my blogs and made me think differently.  Words are a great expression of feelings.  What we cannot express in person can sometimes be better expressed in words.

As I look back I realise that my life has been a great learning workshop.  It has had its ups and downs.  But every experience has taught me something.  Even writing blogs has been one such experience.  So, I have dedicated this blog to sharing my learning.  As I pen down my thoughts, I learn from it.  It also helps me pour out my feelings on issues, beliefs and values.

In the history of a nation, a century of existence could mean a lot.  It could mean heritage.  It could mean its richness of civilisation.  It could mean the culture and values of the organisation getting institutionalised.  Similarly in the life of an individual an event could mean something.  For me writing my hundredth blog is one such event.  It has brought out something in me.  It has enabled me to express myself in more ways than one.

I am grateful to all the people around me who have made this happen.  My family members, my team members, my readers and my mentors.  All of them have encouraged me to write and share.  I may not be perfect in my writing but I promise that I try to be authentic.  I try to narrate my experiences of life in my own way.  I try to put myself in every readers’ shoes and narrate events as they would experience it.

Just as the historical building above is more than a century old, this blog signifies my completing the hundredth piece.

I hope this energy within me blossoms.  I hope to live up to the expectations of my readers.  I hope to reflect realities of life.  I hope to share what cannot be shared easily.  I hope to bring in positive change in society.  I believe that even if one person changes there could be an impact of my writing and it is worth it.  I do believe that change begins with me and hence this first step.

Do you believe it ?

S Ramesh Shankar
November 2016


Do we live life to its full ? Most of us are not willing to enjoy the moment. We are not investing in our own happiness. We are spending more time worrying about things beyond our control rather than rejoicing all that God has bestowed us with to enjoy life.

We live life comparing ourselves with others and dying out of jealousy. God has given equal capacity to all of us. Each of us craft our destiny by our own hard work. Why are we worried about others ? It is like a sprinter looking at all his co-participants behind him while running a race. The chances of his failing are higher than his success. The best sprinters in the world trust their capabilities and focus on their efforts. They are always confident of their success as they are determined in the efforts they put in every day. They are confident that the results have to follow their efforts.

Life is a journey. Every day is like the page of a book. We need to read every page of the book and move on to the next page. Most of us tend to turn back and not move forward. While, it may be useful to learn from the mistakes of the past, it is more important to focus on shaping our future. If we keep turning to the back pages, we may never move forward and read the whole book in our lifetime.

Life is full of possibilities. We have to make the best of everything in life. We have to dream big, work hard and aim for the impossible in life. If we put in our best, we can make the impossible, possible. After all, it is mankind who dreamt of walking on the moon and made it possible almost five decades back.

It may be inspirational to look at achievers in life. The successful people in life we are not born with silver spoons. Most of them were born in families with limited resources. But, they had a clear vision of what they want to achieve in life and they worked zealously to achieve it.

I have met people in life who have represented my country in Olympics and could not even afford the sports kit when they started learning their sport. Nothing is impossible for the human mind. It is our own limitations in the mind, which makes the possible look impossible. We draw our own curtains and encircle ourselves with self created limitations.

If we look at life as half full glass rather than half empty, the impossible looks possible to us. It is all about our attitude to life. We have to be clear in our mind. We need to set our goals, work hard and always believe in ourselves and our team. Our family, friends and colleagues will always support us if we believe in them and in ourselves.

We need to make life exciting for us. Imagine taking a train without a destination in mind. While we may travel a distance but may be moving in the wrong direction. So, lets set our vision, work conscientiously towards achieving it by believing in ourselves and all people around us.  Life is colourful (as in the photo above) if we live it that way.

We can make the impossible, possible.

S Ramesh Shankar
November 2016

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