Humility versus Arrogance

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Life is full of choices. One of the choice we need to make is between “Humility” & “Arrogance”. It is not that the choice is between black and white. It is most of the time grey. While most of us like to be humble and modest in our day to day behaviour, its the effectiveness of arrogant people around us, which tempts us to review our choice. We sometimes feel that humble people are ignored and walked over. On the other hand, the arrogant ones are noticed and people do listen to them.

Many of my colleagues at work at all stages of my career have always expressed this dilemma in their life. Is it a good idea to be humble and ignored sometimes or be arrogant and get noticed always. I do not have a ready made recipe. But can share my learnings from life and its consequences. One can get away with arrogance as long as you are seated in a position of power in family, work or society. The day you give up your position, you are neither respected nor remembered.

If someone was to ask you to recall your favourite teacher in school, you would always remember the one who was kind to you and grounded. We never remember people who were pompous and arrogant in their behaviour. Life is no different. While it is true that sometimes arrogant behaviour may appear more effective in getting things done in the short term, nobody will every cherish your company in the long term.

Let us examine this phenomenon from various angles. The first angle is that of history. We adore people who were humble and generous in their thought and actions. We do not like to study about the arrogant and pompous types. This is not because we know either of them from the past. It is more because we would like to have role models who are modest and not abrasive in their behaviour.

If we look back at our work life, we will always cherish to work with people who are simple, modest and willing to learn and share with others. We may sometimes feel that they are not assertive enough but their humility bowls us over. If you are humble does not mean that you cannot be assertive. It means that you know where your feet are and are always willing to learn from your own mistakes. Pride is like anger. It can only destroy you today and tomorrow. On the other other humility is like honey, it will always make you a sweet person to adore.

If we look at our family and friends, we always like to be in the company of those whom we respect. We respect those who are our role models. Our role models are people who are grounded and kind. People who are humble will always be good listeners and effective coaches. Their actions teach others. Even if they do not actively coach anyone, others learn even in their company every day.

On the other hand the arrogant people spread venom. They may appear very aggressive and effective in the short term. But they spoil all their relationships in the long term. Their day to day behaviour repels people around them. Everyone tries to avoid such leaders. If given a choice, team members would prefer to join other teams rather than suffer in the hands of an arrogant leader.

The best thing to learn from kids is that they do not have to make a choice. They are natural in their disposition as in the photo above.

It is true that sometimes it may appear that humble leaders may look less effective. However such leaders are always better in the long term. Their leadership is sustainable and focussed on the future. They would never cut corners or look at short term benefits. On the hand, they may sometimes be willing to sacrifice short term gains to create long term sustainability of their people and organisations.

What would you prefer ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Safety vis a vis Speed


I have always been fascinated by driving.  I love driving on the highways along with family and friends for a long road trip any day.  A long drive along the country side teaches you many things in life, which no class could do.  It helps you in advance planning.  It enables you to deal with any type of unforeseen circumstances.  It also makes you adapt to eating what you get on the way rather than what you desire.

Even in my youthful days when I first owned a second had fiat car, I used to love to drive fast.   All the kids in our family or friends circle used to jump on to my car only because they loved my speed. It was indeed thrilling.  The cars were not technologically advanced nor the roads were great.  There were hardly any safety features and hence the maximum speed on a highway could be 60 to 80 kms per hour.

I continued this driving style for many years in my life and was quite proud of the same.  I did take whatever safety precautions were necessary and possible.  I used to plan and ensure driving especially on the highways only from sun rise to sun set.  I normally did not drive more than 400 to 500 kms in a day as it gets tiring beyond that.  Today the cars are more advanced and the roads are excellent.  You are tempted to drive faster and keen to enjoy the thrill of speeding.

This attribute of mine continued for decades.   I can be honest to state that it was only about 5 years back that I realised that speed thrills but kills too.  As long as the road is empty and good, you can drive fast.  But it is important to wear your seat belts and keep the car under control.  On the highway, you never know how the others are going to drive.  Further, there could be traffic from the wrong side of the road like a tractor or a two wheeler.  This could further get unsafe with pedestrians or animals crossing the road at odd places.

Now after spending decades enjoying the thrill of driving in the city and on the highways, I realise that speed thrills but kills.  It takes the same time to reach your destination if you drive at high speed or at reasonable and safe speed.  If you drive at high speed, you enjoy that moment but then have to slow down the moment you see a pedestrian or a vehicle on the opposite side and this not only slows down your car but also damages the brake pads and other parts of the car.

It is better to care for safety than speed.  As long as you are safe and can drive at reasonable speeds, it is not only enjoyable for you but you reach your destination safely and in the same time period. Thus this may be a life lesson for me.   I continue to enjoy my driving as a hobby and have a car, which has all the basic features of safety.  We ensure that we are wearing the seat belts always in the front and the rear seat and are at reasonable speeds, wherein the car is in full control and safe.

In conclusion, I would say it is safety with speed which is thrilling and not speed alone.  We not only have to care for our own safety but all the people on the road.  It is true that all over the world the maximum accidents happen on the road.  Unfortunately, it is the highest number in our country.  So, let us resolve today to be safe always and still enjoy speed.

Safety first, speed next.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Smile please…

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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

Life

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

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

“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

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