Luck versus Hard Work

One may always be in a dilemma if luck or labour is needed for success in life. We hear stories of both categories being successful in life. On the one hand, we hear of many successful people, who work their way up in life through dint of hard work and perspiration. On the other hand, we also meet people, who are at the right place at the right time and catapult to success due to sheer luck.

One is always in a dilemma whether luck or hard work is the mantra for success in life. If I have to look back at my life and also the experience of admiring successful people around me in all walks of life I would say that hard work is the foundation for success in every aspect of life. Hard work is necessary and luck can supplement hard work but not the other way around.

Sometimes people get carried away by some rare examples of lucky people achieving success. It may be true that some people are indeed lucky and they achieve success not because of their efforts but because of their luck. This in my view would be more of an exception than a rule. It is like some people having great health right through their life and living in their nineties inspite of smoking and consumption of alcohol on a daily basis. If one concludes based on these examples that smoking and consuming alcohol every day could help us lead a healthy life, this could be misleading.

One of the reasons why many people do not consider hard work as important for success in life is that we tend to notice people only after they have become successful. We are not privy to the hard work and the challenges many of the successful people go through before they become famous. A good example could be that of a sportsman or woman. After they become famous and earn a lot of money through advertisements and endorsements, we tend to believe that life is so easy for them. We do not realize how many hours of practise they would have put in day in and night out before attaining the glory in their chosen field.

This is equally true in every aspect of life. We see famous sportspersons, actors, singers, dancers, corporate honchos and others being successful in life. They lead a life, which many of us may envy. But, we do not realize the trials and tribulations they go through before they become successful in life. They burn the midnight oil and fail many times in their attempts before success greets them.

In life, we need to work hard and if we are fortunate for it to be supplemented with luck, we could be happy. Hard work is like our daily meal. It has to be healthy, full of vitamins and regular. If we get a desert once in a way, we could be happy and that could be the supplement of luck with our daily meal. I cannot imagine we becoming healthy only by eating desert every day. So luck can help us like a catalyst but cannot substitute hard work in life.

Another important lesson in life is that we need to patient to be successful. Every process has its time limit. We cannot expect to have a child in less than nine months in a natural way. We cannot expect the monsoon to last in India for more than 3 to 4 months. So, everything in life is defined by time. We need to put in our best efforts and wait for the time for it to ripen and deliver results. Sometimes we are in a hurry and hence we end up disappointed.

It is like we tend to visit a temple one day before the exam hoping that God will bestow us with luck even if we have not worked hard enough for the exams.

Lets work hard and hope luck smiles at us on the way.

S Ramesh Shankar

The journey is as important as the destination

Today our scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation almost made a landing on the moon after valiant efforts. The mission may have partly failed to land on the moon although the orbiter is encircling the moon and will give invaluable data to our scientists to explore further.

While the nation was watching the entire episode through the night on national television channels there was a sigh of despair amongst the mission team when the object failed to land on the moon. It was kind of the Prime minister of the country to watch this live and then go and address all the scientists the next morning to keep their spirits high.

One of the statements made by the prime minister of India was “The journey is as important as the destination”. It was a great insight for me personally. Many a time in our lives when we fail, we tend to focus on the failure which is the destination and forget the learnings through the journey.

Our wonderful space scientists would have worked for decades to achieve this impossible mission. They would have learnt a lot of valuable lessons through this journey. Hence, it is important for us to celebrate the journey as much as the destination.

It is true for scientists, sportspersons and even the common women and men like us. We need to enjoy our journeys as much as keeping the focus on our destination. It is like someone undertaking a trip to a beautiful hill station and keeping their eyes closed through the journey in a train waiting for the hill station to arrive. Imagine what all beautiful sceneries one would missed if one were to do that.

If we take any company in the world and even the most successful ones, they would never have achieved success unless they enjoyed their journey and celebrated all along their way to success. It is important to remember for every successful product in the market, there would be hundreds of products which would have failed and never hit the market before.

Life is no different. We need to keep our focus on our life goals. However, it is important to learn throughout the journey of life and celebrate each milestone on the way. If we do not do that, we may stop learning and that can be our biggest failure.

Another important lesson learnt today from the ISRO experience is the role of a leader. The leader should be with the team more during failure than during success. It is the inspiration of the leader during failures that makes a team succeed again and again.

Our best wishes to our Indian Space Research Organisation scientists and every Indian is proud of their accomplishments today. We are one of those pioneers in space research in the world only because of them. Let us salute them. I dedicate this blog to my brother in law was a scientist with ISRO for four decades.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th September 2019

Diversity in spirit

I am proud to be an Indian and love its diversity. I have travelled around the world for my work as well as for fun. Every visit to a new country so far has only reinforced my belief that diversity energises life and living. I have visited more than 25 countries in life so far but yet to see the diversity which India has. We have 29 states. Each state speaks a different language and we have many dialects for each language.

We are a multi religious country and we have the freedom to follow any religion of our choice. Our culture and traditions are the rich heritage of the state we belong to and this interestingly many a time cuts across religions. We follow and celebrate festivals across the country irrespective of which religion we belong to because we think its our festival. The spirit of India is to be experienced to be believed.

I have lived in the south, east, north, central and west of India. I have never felt I have lived in a different culture or a different country in spite of the fact that each state in India is almost like a different country with its uniqueness in culture, language, food habits and so on. The fabric of India is it multi-ethnicity. You experience the benefits of multiple countries just by moving from one state to another. Many of the Indian states are bigger in size and population to many of the European countries.

Today it is common in many organisations to talk of diversity and inclusion. This is not only taken as an organisation wide initiative but also promoted in a big way especially in multinational corporations. Interestingly India as a state that has practised diversity and inclusion in letter and spirit right through its existence. We have no bias or discrimination against any religion, caste or ethnicity for any job. On the contrary the Indian Constitution has protected the rights of certain sections of society based on the principle of positive discrimination to provide them equal opportunity with the rest of the society to catch up in life.

In my view, diversity is much more than gender, ethnicity, nationality, caste or any such factors. It is the ability to think in multiple perspectives without any bias. It is our ability to proactively promote multiple view points on any subject. It is our ability to listen and speak up in society. As a citizen in the world’s largest democracy, I can proudly state that we have the freedom to do all this and guaranteed by the state through our constitution.

It may be unfair to state that this freedom is absolute. Nothing is absolute in life. Every right has an equal responsibility. So sometimes citizen and at other times the state administrators misuse their rights or responsibilities in this sphere. However, we have the balance of the executive, judiciary and the legislature to protect the rights of the citizens. When either or all of them fail, we still have a free media to be the conscience keeper.

It is this spirit we need to bring into organizations of tomorrow. We need to start laying the foundation in smaller social units of family and communities. It then spreads to society and then becomes easier for organizations to imbibe it. We all know that organizations are a mirror image of the societies in which they exist in terms of their culture. We cannot have the diversity spirit in a proletarian state.

Diversity is the confluence of ideas from all sources to evolve the best one like the colourful diversity of Mother Nature in the photo above.

Lets learn from the Indian spirit.

S Ramesh Shankar

CHRO 2.0

How the world is changing and the role of HR along with it ?  We have more questions than answers to this question.  The rate of change is more evident than the change itself.  How does it impact HR ? What are the capabilities of the future CHRO ?

A.  Simplify complexity :  In my view, the first and foremost capability for HR is our ability to simplify a complex world.  Today everything is complex.  It is tending to get more complex and ambiguous as time passes.  In this ever changing world, how do we as HR simplify things and focus on the basics will be a good quality to possess.

B.  Be human :  The advent of technology has made human beings mechanistic.  We tend to react like computers without any emotions.  We fix processes and systems and automate everything.  While automation will help efficiency, it may not always result in effectiveness.  Hence, it is critical for HR folks to be in touch with employees and apply their mind.

C. Be the change :  HR has to lead the change in the organisation.  While in the past, we may have been happy to support change and facilitate change, it is necessary to lead it in the future.  We have to be the change we want to see in the organisation.  This strategic mindset of change is critical for future success.

In all of the of the above, we have to be the conscience keeper of the organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dependance versus Independance

When one organism lives on and depends on another living organism, we may call it a parasite. The other day I was going on a nature trek and noticed a small organism living on a leaf and it struck me about our life as parasites. Do we live as dependants more than necessary ? May be it is true and worth thinking about. We all are born in a family as kids and are fully dependant on our parents. We continue to stay with them till we complete our education through school and college. If given a chance, we like

to continue with them for the rest of our lives. We depend on them more than they depending on us.

As life progresses, we get married and sometimes are compelled to move away from our homes due to the employment of our spouse or otherwise. We start living on our own. Life becomes more independent and we miss the umbrella of protection of our parents. One of the interesting learning in life is that we vie with each other to learn the western society almost in every aspect of our life. We want to be modern in our outlook and physically comfortable in our material life. This is the positive part of our aping the western traditions. However, we conveniently do not copy things which does not suit us.

In the developed world, children move out of their homes when they are teenagers and start living on their own. They do errands and live life on backpacks. They fund their own education and do not depend on their parents for their livelihood. This is worth copying from the west. This phenomenon makes you independent in the true sense of the word. Further, it helps you realise the value of money earned at an early stage of your life. It helps you get grounded and find your way up the hard way in life.

In the Indian context, since we continue to stay with our parents, we are fully dependant on them. As we grow up and get married and move out of home in quest of our career we realise the value of independence and the hard work and toil one has to put into to earn it. Another interesting insight is that once we move out of our parents homes we believe our duties and responsibilities are over. We take care of our spouse and kids. We take care of our parents or in laws only as a courtesy and leave it to them to take care of themselves. Sometimes we also believe that supporting them financially is our way of taking care of them.

In my view, this is where we need to learn from our rich Indian heritage. We have to consider it our privilege to be able to take care of our parents and parents in law during their old age. No amount of financial support to them can repay our non financial debt to them. They have sacrificed their lives and comforts to make us what we are today and the least we can do is to take care of them financially and more importantly emotionally. It is at this juncture, we need to introspect and not ape the traditions from other cultures.

Dependance and independence is a vicious circle in our lives. We start with dependance and then become independent and end our lives as dependants again. What we do to others comes back to us. Let us serve our elders unconditionally without expecting anything in return. This will reflect our true spirit of independence. It is worth emulating from our rich Indian traditions and showcasing to the world as well.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Competencies for tomorrow ?

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I was recently in a business school attending a business conference. The theme was – “Metamorphisis – Reshape, recreate and transform. While I was speaking of the speed and rate of change in the environment around us, I did highlight the impact of Digitalization and its impact on human resources. This then led me to speak of three key competencies, which students need to evolve to be successful in the business of tomorrow.

The first competency is “Mindset”. Today organisations recruit for mindset and not for skills. The belief is that skills can be developed but mindset is very difficult to change in any adult. Hence, it is critical to have the right attitude and mindset for change. We need to believe that the world is full of possibilities and we are there to make things happen. If we are able to evolve this mindset in ourselves, we are likely to be a winner in any environment.

A positive attitude to work and life not only make you a winner, it enables you to inspire your team as well. I have been privileged to work with leaders and teams, who have always believed in possibilities. This is indeed infectious. This has led me to be an optimist in life always. I have never believed anything is impossible. It is only a factor of time and the efforts we put in to achieve our goal.

The second competency in my view is “Adaptability & flexibility”. A simple example could be our concept of job mobility. We should be willing to pack up our bags and work in any part of the world for any type of industry. Many of us are mobile but conditionally. We would say we are willing to be posted in metros in India or in the USA or Europe. When asked if we are open to be posted in the north east of India for example or for that matter in the African continent we may have excuses like ageing parents or kids in school etc. Unconditional mobility will take you places in your career and that would be flexibility and adaptability in our career.

Many of us disappointed when we do not get a posting in a place of our choice. We start complaining from day one. I would recommend that we consider it an opportunity to work in a new place rather than crib about not getting one’s preference. I was recently reading an article, where the author was saying that she renamed her daily “To-do list” to “Possibilities for the day”. This name change itself makes it flexible and possible. As otherwise, many of us would make to do lists every day and it will remain the same for days with us.

The third competency would be a “Learning” attitude. We need to be learning for life. There is no subject or field in the world which has a first and a last chapter. We can never imagine ourselves to be master of any field. Hence, it is critical for us to update ourselves everyday and keep in tune with the real world. For example if we take social media, the youth of today are not in Facebook anymore. They have moved to Twitter or Instagram. Class room training is not the only or the best way to learn anymore. We have hundreds of ways to keep learning every day.

I have met people who are constantly learning languages, new skills and concepts all the time. Age, vocation or location is never a constraint. It is our mindset and adaptability which would evolve us as a life long learner. We can learn from everyone around us. We can even learn from every object around us. Nature has its unique ways of teaching us every day. It is up to us to inculcate the learning attitude in life.

So for me it is clear – Mindset, Adaptability/flexibility & Learning attitude is the key to future leaders.

Why not reset and start today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

31st August 2017

Learning management from kids

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I have always been a great fan of kids. I have felt energised in their company and learn from them in every interaction. Of course, they do test our patience at times but so do we. I was wondering if it is a good idea to translate today’s management concepts to what we could learn from the behaviour of kids. We may not have realised it during the incident but if we look back, it is interesting and provides great insights.

Mission : I remember an incident from my childhood when I ran for miles behind a gas balloon which had flown away from my hand. While looking back and logically it may look foolish. But the kids have high levels of perseverance and never give up to achieve their mission in life.

Strategy : I am reminded of many incidents where my son has strategised and accomplished what he wanted to get in his life. Once my son wanted to go with his classmates in college for an educational tour. He had made up his mind and had evolved a foolproof strategy to achieve his goal. He first tried with me and then with his mother. He then pursued the same with his teacher and made his teacher convince us of how useful it would be to send him. Thus, although initially we had not approved his tour, he did make it finally.

Conflict resolution : While kids may end up fighting at the drop of a hat, I have seen them resolving conflicts much easier than adults. What I have noticed in them is that they are ready to move on in life. They are willing to forgive and forget. As adults, we tend to carry the grudge for our lifetime. Our egos prevent us from forgiving others and we are worried as to who has to first ring the bell for peace.

Listening : Do we remember how our kids listened to stories at night ? Even today when I see my grandson who is 7 years old listen to my wife I am stunned at his level of concentration. When he is listening to a story, he is in rapt attention. He does not fiddle around a mobile phone or watch TV and also listen. This is what most of us do. Hence, kids can take a class for us on attentive listening, which is critical for success as a leader.

Communication : While behavioural scientists have established that more than seventy percent of behaviour is non verbal, we do not use it effectively in our day to day communication. We need to learn from kids. A child may communicate effectively even without uttering a word. The expressions on their face , the laughter, the cry and et all can speak more than a thousand words.

Interpersonal skills : I have seen kids mingle even with strangers without any bias. Why do adults find it difficult to work in a team even with people known to them ? One of the factors I have noticed in kids is that they do not have any conscious or unconscious bias towards others. They are willing to let go. They take the initiative to interact and are willing to accommodate others in the group. As adults, we seem to have erased these qualities as we grow up.

Perseverance : I have seen kids go up and down the slide multiple times till they succeed. I have never seen them give up in life on anything. Why do we as adults tend to give up even before we give things a try ? Kids have the patience and the perseverance, which we need to learn. As we grow up our patience fades and so does our perseverance. We end up making simple things complicated and thus give up even without a try.

It may be worthwhile to observe the kids around us and learn management from them. The lessons are practical and real life. We can refresh our knowledge, skills and attitude to life. What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar