Abundance…

We live in a world where nature has bestowed us with abundance. Why do we live with an attitude of scarcity ? We tend to live life miserly. We want to conserve everything around us. We tend to have a hoarding mentality and never want to let go on anything in life.

I am not sure if this is evolved in the family environment or influenced by the society around us. I am not professing lavishness or waste of anything in life. I do agree that we need to preserve everything in life for our future generations. However, an attitude of miserliness in our thinking could lead to actions which reflect that behaviour in our everyday life.

As parents, we may not allow our children to enjoy some privileges in life because we did not have them when we were kids. Is this fair ? I am not sure. As teachers, we may be reluctant to share all our knowledge with the students because we may believe that they may outsmart us. As managers, we may not be willing to let go of our skills or knowledge because we believe that may degrade our corporate value.

This attitude percolates to every aspect in society as well. Everyone wants to guard their key skills or knowledge with the worry that it will get replicated. Imagine a world of open sharing. Imagine a world of sharing and caring. Imagine a world of spreading knowledge skills and attitude. We need to believe that the more we give to others, the more we learn.

I was lucky to grow up in an open environment. My family members shared everything they could and enabled me to pursue my passion in life. We ( my spouse and me) have also tried our best to create the same environment in our family. Our children ( daughter and son) have pursued their passions in life . We have not imposed our interests on them in any way ( at least consciously).

Similarly, I have been privileged to work with managers and leaders, who have shared everything they could. They have enabled me to succeed and learn from failures in all that I wanted to do. There has never been a deliberate attempt to hoard knowledge or skills. I have been coached to give more than what I have got in my career. I have tried my best to share whatever I can with everyone I can in my life.

I firmly believe that the more you share, the more you learn. I have never declined an invitation to interact with students unless my work prevented me to do so. I have been willing to share my knowledge and skills with everyone in my team and with colleagues in other organisations, whenever I could. I have benefited from cross industry forums, which has given me great opportunities to share and learn.

Nature gives us everything in abundance. It is we, as selfish humans, are not willing to conserve it for our future generations (as in the photo above).

Let us learn to give more than we get. I have realised that the more I am able to give back to society, the more I feel blessed. I am grateful to my family, friends, colleagues and the Almighty to inculcate the mentality of abundance in me.

Let us give back more than we get always.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th August 2018

Everyone has a place…

Everyone has a place in life. Life is a series of possibilities if we are willing to look at it that way. I was in a business school today. There are were almost 500 brilliant young students in the auditorium during a conference. The sparkling eyes of everyone confirmed to me that everyone has a place and there is a place for everything in life.

Let us examine this from a student’s perspective. We may have brilliant students who top the class in academics. We may have scientists whose quest for inquiry is par excellence. We may have sports enthusiasts and we may have debaters, singers and artists in the class. We may have creative and innovative wizards. If we think that all students have to end up in a corporate world, we may be mistaken.

Today I met a young student in the business school I visited. He is working on development of an engine which can work on gas and is 75% more efficient than conventional engines used in automobiles. This student wants to invent this engine and change the world of engines. He does need funding and support but he does not need a job in a corporate.

There are similarly many people I have met in my life who have excelled in various fields. Some have come together and worked on a start up idea. If you are willing to live your passion in real life, then sky is the limit. You can set up your own business. You can join a corporate. You can excel in sports and become a professional. You can excel in culture and arts and make a living out of that.

In the past, many of us believed that getting a job in a corporate was the ultimate measure of success in life. Today it may not be true. Rather I would emphasise that it is not true. Success lies in living your passion in life. We may not have had the guts or the opportunity to live our passion. But today, we have the opportunities to realise our passion in life. Hence, I believe everyone has a place in society.

Another important positive change from the past is that every profession or vocation is viewed with equal respect and that is how it should be. In the past, if you became a professional artist, it may be thought that you took it up because you did not get a job of your choice. Today that’s not true. Everyone is at liberty to choose what she or he wants to pursue. Fortunately parents, teachers and society at large are open to all ideas and are willing to support the youngsters to pursue their dreams.

It is also true that one can live a dream if we are not willing to give up. Some could succeed in their first attempt while others may not. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world will tell us that there is no guaranteed road to success. One has to pursue one’s dreams and work hard to make it a reality. It may be easy for some but difficult for others. One has to learn from the sportspersons the art of never giving up on anything in life.

Just as in the photo above, every doll has a place, so in life each one of us has a place for ourselves.

Let us learn to live our passion.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th August 2018

Diversity in friendship

One of the most fascinating things in India is its rich culture, heritage and diversity. I was blessed to be born in a family where my father was in central government service. We got transferred almost every 3 to 4 years and thereby transgressed the length and breadth of our beautiful motherland.

I was born in Trichy. I grew up in Kolkota, Jabalpur and Chennai. Then I have worked in Bhilai, Indore, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and now Mumbai. Every part of the country has taught me something. The place, the culture, the people and the traditions have fascinated me.

What has fascinated me most is the diversity in the friends I have in life today ? I have friends from the north, east, west, centre and south of the country. I have friends from various religions – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist and et all. The beauty of India is its imbedded diversity.

After having worked in a corporate for many years, I find it interesting when many multinational organisations take diversity as a priority. India is blessed with diversity as an integral part of the nation. I have seen this physically and in spirit when I started my career in a public sector undertaking in central India.

We had people from almost all states of India and representing all religions, castes and communities. We all worked as employees living and working together. There was never a sense of discrimination or divisiveness. This may be equally true for all central government offices.

The concept of India is the essence of diversity. It is ingrained in the psyche of all Indians. We live in 29 different states. Each state has its own language and culture. But we all merge into one when it comes to India. Sports is a great reminder of of our diverse culture.

If you take any team sport, you will find people from all states and all religions. Although there is no reservation for team selection but it is evident that the best performers in that sport come from different parts of the country.

The diversity of friends have made me whom I am today. They have honed my skills and made me respect and learn from everyone around me. They have made me realise that meritocracy cuts across states and religions.

We are able to appreciate the food choices and festivals celebrated across the country. This has been possible because of the diversity of friends and colleagues I have lived and worked with throughout my life.

It has made me realise that in a way diversity is an attitude of the mind. The way we treat people around us. The way we respect differences. The willingness to be challenged by anyone or everyone around you. When you have people in your team who come from varied backgrounds including state, language or religion, they bring with them a wealth of diverse experience.

As in the photo above, diversity in unity is embedded in the Indian ethos.

I am grateful to God for blessing me with a set of diverse friends. They have moulded me into who I am today. I would be grateful to them throughout my life. They have shaped my career. They have made me a sensitive human being.

Let diversity shape us always.

S Ramesh Shankar

11th October 2018

Be the change you want to see…

Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see..”. The time has come today.

Everyone in my organisation today was waiting for the big announcement by our global CEO. Every employee was wondering what is likely to be announced and how it will impact her or him.

An organisation is a network of people. It is not buildings, factories or fixed or movable assets. It is the people working in them. So, if there is a change, it will impact the people more than any other asset. While we can rebuild a factory, office or any other asset, it is much more difficult to sustain the motivation of our team members during a change process. This is where we as leaders have a role to play.

The market place is changing more rapidly than we can anticipate. We are also transforming as an organisation. However, the speed of change is accelerating faster than the change itself and hence organisations have to anticipate this speed and be prepared for it.

We all should be happy that the board of our organisation has been proactive to anticipate this change and deal with it well ahead of times. We can be sure that the organisation change will benefit all stakeholders and especially our customers. We, as employees have to strengthen this process by being part of the change rather than worrying about it.

What can we do about this change happening around us ? First of all listen, be calm and welcome this change. Secondly, lets be the change agent. We need to lead our teams to a better tomorrow. We need to communicate effectively, listen to their concerns if any and address them empathetically.

The board of our company seems to be burning the midnight oil to prepare for this change. We need to trust their capabilities and their ability to steer this change. We need to prepare ourselves to adapt to this change and be the winning team.

A very detailed communication plan is being put in place and every employee will be touched through this plan. They are anticipating the likely impact on individuals, businesses and the organisation as a whole and are getting prepared to deal with it. As a fair employer, our enterprise will take care to deal with all issues with equanimity and fairness.

Apart from trusting the leaders in the organisation, we need to trust ourselves. We have to believe in our capabilities. For instance, we may have represented our country in the recently concluded world soccer championship. So, we may be among the best 15 football players in our country. But tomorrow, the selection may be for a continent – representing more than one country. We need to be the best among the best to be in that team.

The organisation of tomorrow will mean adapting to the radical changes of the business environment. We need to be ready to radically change. Our roles may change, our business may get redefined but our values and ethics will remain the same. Our customers will not change and hence we need to prepare ourselves to continuously and seamlessly deliver value to our customers.

Last but not the least, we need to be calm. There is no change in life which will not impact us in some way. Every change has to be dealt with calmness. If we are the best in whatever we do, there is nothing for us to worry about. If we are willing to adapt ourselves to the organisation of tomorrow, we have nothing to fear.

Our calmness will determine our success. We all strive for rapid change but when it impacts us , we may not be fully ready to face it. It is time to challenge ourselves. The best way to anticipate this change is to be a catalyst to the change process. A belief in our leaders and ourselves will help us deal with it.

Let us change for the better.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th July 2018

My ten learnings from a US holiday

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I have always admired the United States of America as a country for many things. Apart from being the wealthiest democracy in the world, it has a lot to teach the world as countries and individuals. I had been on a holiday for a fortnight to this wonderful country and learnt the following ten lessons as an individual :

1. Dream big : You need to kindle a dream in a individual and then strive hard to achieve it. Every American who migrated from different parts of the world to settle in this country dreamt of making America the best in the world. They have worked hard to achieve it and within a span of a century.

2. Unity In diversity : People from all parts of the world have come and settled down here. They are diverse in religion, culture, ethnicity and race. However they have evolved a common nationality. A common dream and a disciplined way of achieving their goals.

3. Discipline : A colleague of mine used to state of “Starting with enthusiasm and ending with discipline”. You can see it in action in this country. Every body is enthusiastic in whatever they do and enjoy doing it mostly. However they do not compromise on discipline. This quality you can see in most developed countries of the world.

4. Pride : While all of us are proud of our respective countries, one can observe a sense of patriotism amongst all categories of citizens. They display it in their behaviour and in discharge of their duties in whatever they do everyday in their lives.

5. Focus on your work: Everyone is focussing in what they are supposed to do. They are neither aware of what is happening around the world nor interested in knowing it. We spend most of our time in worrying about others and the world and lose focus in what we are supposed to do.

6. Every job is respected : We generally look at every job from a social status angle. Some jobs are more prestigious than others. However, what one learns from this place that every job is unique and needs to be respected. Every individual is respected in society irrespective of what she or he does.

7. Create a competitive spirit : Every state in the USA competes with the other to be the best. Every state is unique and wants to be that way. They set standards for other states and are not willing to compromise on their freedom or liberty.

8. Preserving your culture: While everyone is proud to be an American, they steadfastly maintain their state identity. They are proud about their culture and history and want to preserve it. Every state wants to lead the others in preserving and promoting their uniqueness.

9. Respect : The respect for senior citizens and the military is visible in their day to day actions. If you are waiting to board an aircraft, the active military personnel are given first preference after aged and the kids. They are given precedence over first class or business class passengers as well. This signifies the respect for the citizens who sacrifice their lives for their country.

10. Everyone wants to contribute : Everyone in the country wants to contribute in their own ways to make the nation the best in the world. This means that each of us have to strive to excel in whatever we do and not do it as a ritual.

The photo above is my tribute to Martin Luther King, one of the heroes of the American success.

I am not for one saying that there are no negatives in the USA. There are some things which I would not like to learn from here. But the positives far overweigh the negatives.

Let us learn from their positives.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

Appearances may be deceptive

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The other day I met a family in the lounge of an airport. It was a man, his spouse and two kids. The man was wearing a religious mark on his forehead and looked very spiritual. But as soon as we entered the lounge, this person started consuming alcohol and other beverages like the other mortals around him.

I have nothing against his consuming alcohol or any other beverage. Ultimately, it is his personal choice and preference and nobody is entitled to comment on it. But, what caught my eye is that the appearance of a person may be deceptive at times.

This man looked very spiritual and one believes that a person of this type may not consume alcohol. This could either be our mindset or underlying my hypothesis that appearances may be deceptive.

I met another family in a restaurant. They looked from the lower economic strata of society but were doling out money to everyone. Sometimes physical appearance can be misleading and you form opinions about people, which may not reflect reality.

I have met people of different hues in life and generally noticed that appearances are indeed sometimes deceptive. A person may look calm and serene in appearance but may be short tempered and hotty in his disposition.

The interesting aspect to understand as to why this happens as we grow up in life. As a kid, all of us are spontaneous and our appearance will be symptomatic of our moods. One can easily make up the emotions of a kid with the appearance on her face. On the other hand, as we grow up we possibly try to camouflage our emotions and try to hide reality from the world.

This could be because we are conditioned to behave in a particular way in a particular situation. Any dissonance is considered deviant. This then gets reinforced in our psyche and then becomes a way of life. We start believing that we have to smile at the world even if we are in distress.

Of course it may be true that some people are more dramatic than others. They are good in their histrionic skills and hence can act different from what they are feeling inside. This may be more natural for some than others. My belief is that is difficult to have an internal state of emotions and express something else on the face. But that is the life which appears around us.

While it may be true that all of us try to hide our emotions sometimes, it may be desirable to express ourselves as we feel. This may be easier than done. However, the more we are able to practise, the lesser dissonance we may have in life.

As in the photo, Niagara Falls may look cool on a cloudy day. But it may not be safe to try and swim under the falls even when it is calm. Appearance can be deceptive.

Personal credibility in life is all about predictability. If our face cannot predict our emotions, then others may consider us less reliable. Hence, it is fair to state that face is an index of the mind. The more we are predictable the better for us and for all the people around us.

Let our appearance reflect the reality within us.

S Ramesh Shankar

Frustration ?

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The other day someone told me that he is very frustrated at work. I was reminded of a very important learning early in life which someone shared with me. It defined as Frustration = Achievement – Hope . I thought it was a very powerful equation for life.

We get frustrated when either our achievements are low or our hope is too high. So mathematically speaking, one can get over frustration by either enhancing their achievements or lowering their hope. But, one does realise that life is not all mathematical.

Hence life’s issues cannot always be solved by adjusting variables in an equation. One lesson is for sure that we need to take control of what is happening to our lives. If our achievements are low, we need kick our own backs to find ways and means of improving our performance. On the other hand, if our clouds of hope are unrealistic, we need to tone them down to make them realistic.

Let us delve both on achievements and hope. Lets begin with hope. Hope is our mental creation. An imagination of what is possible in the future for us. We create our hopes and aspirations based on self belief, our own capabilities and what we see around us.

While most of the time, we may have a realistic self assessment of our own capacities , we may get swayed away by what we see around us. For eg. we belong to a lower middle class family and hope to have a car of our own. It is not an unreasonable dream. But we need to prioritise what is important for us in life. It could be kids’ education, a home to live in, a child’s marriage and so on. In such conditions, one needs to recast their aspirations to make them more realistic and postpone the dream of a car.

In real life this is what happens to most of us. We keep dreaming without any foundations and then when we land on Mother Earth with a thud, we feel bad about the consequences. On the other hand, if we keep reviewing and recasting our dreams and make them realistic from time time, this situation is less likely to happen.

Now, lets move to achievements. We all want to be the best. We look at film stars, sports persons or other celebrities and wish we could be like them. We do not realise that many of them have come up in life the hard way. Their life is visible to us only when they make it to the top. Very few of us are born with a silver spoon.

Most successful people in life have made it with sweat and tears. We do not see their toil in their formative years nor do we share their tears. What we see and feel jealous about is their prosperity. We may not realise that this has come to them after many years of toil.

As in the photo above, we may admire the geometrical beauty of the spider’s web after it is completed but do not see how many times it is damaged for various reasons before the spider does it all over again. A lesson from nature on how to manage our frustration and never give up till we achieve our goal.

It may be time to introspect and ask oneself – Do I need to enhance my achievements or balance my hope ? The answers are within ourselves. We need not externalise the issues. We have a tendency to blame the world, our education system , workplace, bosses or even our family or friends for our non performance. This may not be the reality. We need to hit the reality buttons in life and then life may dramatically change for the better for us.

Time to reset.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th August 2020

Negotiating life

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We end up negotiating throughout our life. It seems to start in our childhood and never ends. We negotiate with our parents for time to play when we are supposed to study. We bargain with friends for borrowing a cricket bat or football. This extends to every aspect of our life at this stage. We end up negotiating with our teachers to submit our assignments late.

Life seems to lay the ground for negotiations. It begins at home and extends to friends, school and everyone around us. We learn to craft our strategies and win most of the time. We learn to live with failures too. Successes boost our morale and failed attempts makes us learn better.

As kids we learn to master the art of negotiating from our siblings and friends. This then extends to classmates at school and college too. The competitive world around us makes us want more than we need. It appears natural for us to demand more than we deserve in life from our parents and teachers.

As we grow up in life and get into a job or pursue our own dreams as an entrepreneur, our needs to negotiate increases. We tend to believe that negotiating life is more an art than a science. There is no logic to win a negotiation. In life most of our decisions are emotional and than we apply logic to justify them.

It is not very different in life. We tend to live life beyond our means. Our wants exceed our needs and thereby end up negotiating for everything in life. This may look natural and also essential to survive in an over zealous world. But the sooner we realise that we may be hampering valuable relationships, the better it may be for us.

I find negotiating quite normal in life as long as we are within our limits. Now, the question may be – who will define our limits. For me, it is like living your values in life. We do not need a written code of conduct or an external being to guide us. All of us are endowed with an inner voice, which guides us all the time.

As in the photo above, siblings end up negotiating for rewards in response to a favour done to each other in every day life.

We need to listen to our inner voice. This voice will always caution us when we are crossing our limits and which may hamper our relationship with others. It is at this time we need to reflect and learn. If we don’t then we end up negotiating with our parents, teachers and elders, whom we need to give more than we receive at all times.

Life has been a great learning journey on negotiations. I have made innumerable mistakes and burnt my fingers. But every time I learnt a lesson from a mistake, it has helped me take a step higher in my quest for improvement. It is normal to err but it is valuable to learn from our mistakes.

Let us learn to live life to its full.

S Ramesh Shankar

Water & Life

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Can we imagine life without water ? May be difficult. We could even say “Water is life”. Apart from quenching our thirst, water helps us in multiple ways every day in our life. Let us examine the use of water from morning to evening every day.

Most of us begin our day with a glass of water after we get out of bed. Then we brush our teeth with water. We have our morning coffee or tea by boiling water. We then use water for our ablutions and personal hygiene. We have a bath using water.

Then if we are proceeding to work, we may use water ways or power generated by hydro electric means to move to our workspace. The power used in our offices and homes will definitely have a portion of water powered electricity.

Nature around us at work and home depends on water for survival. The plants and animals depend on the rains for their survival. When it does not rain, they depend on ground water or stored water. It is not possible to think of life around us without water.

The lakes and oceans around us provide the balance to maintain the temperature around us. We also use water to cool our air conditioners or air coolers in offices and homes. Water provides us coffee and tea all day at work. It also quenches our thirst all day and maintains the body balance.

We use water to clean our cars and bikes. They also provide a medium for nutrients and food for aquatic animals like fishes. One cannot imagine life without water for living beings around us.

Most of the food we consume has water as an important ingredient in content or in formulation. One cannot imagine consuming any food where water does not contribute in some form or the other.

Water also acts as a medium of transport when we use boats and ships to move from one place to another within or between countries. Inland waterways are an important means of public transport in states and nations where lakes and back waters are common place.

Even when we fall sick, water is the most important ingredient to regain our balance in life. Water is injected in the form of liquid diet or medicines to cure our body of any infection. Even plain water helps in rehydration of the body when we get dehydrated.

I love beaches as you can see from the photo above. Water energies me when I am on a beach.

Today we have forgotten the value of water and how much it contributes to our lives every day. We waste water in many ways at homes, offices and factories. There are many cities in the world which may dry up in the near future. This may be a reality sooner than later in most urban cities unless we take preventive steps.

Let us realise the value of water and preserve it for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

Back to our roots ?

I sometimes wonder whether the time is ripe for us to get back to basics. We need to rediscover our roots and live again like our forefathers did. The current pandemic has made many of us reflective. It has helped us realise that health and happiness, money cannot buy. The richest of nations and the most advanced have suffered the most in this pandemic.

I would like to share my life journey and learning through time. In my childhood, we had limited resources but unlimited happiness. None of us generally fell sick amongst family and friends and we were content with what we had in life. I recall our home with no fridge, TV, washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator or air conditioners but none of us complained. We had the joy of living together as a family, having dinner together and playing together.

Then as we grew up and went to college, we experienced the benefit of travelling by bus and train and saving money for our parents by whatever means we could. There was only one earning member in the family and all of us contributed our bit to conserve and contribute to everything happening around us.

While our first job gave us financial independence, it also taught us how to stand on our own feet. We considered it our duty to send back money to our parents and also take care of them. Expressing our gratitude to everyone who helped us stand up in life was a way of life. Today the pandemic reminded us about the value of family and friends. It has brought us back to ground zero.

In our career, we almost took our job for granted. Most of us did not believe that we will ever lose our job in our career. Life long careers in organisations was almost a given. Today, it is quite different. People neither want to work for an organisation for life nor organisations are willing to guarantee life long jobs. Jobs are changing and so are careers. This again is making us realise that life is beyond a job and a career.

If we look at our life in general, a lot has changed too. We were enamoured by the social media and the number of friends we have. However in a crisis like the current pandemic, we realise that the true caring people are your close family and a few reliable friends only. We need to realise that we have to save for the future and lay the foundation for the future of our family as well.

Conserving for the present and saving for the future was taught to us as we started our careers. Today we live for the present. We had started to believe that life is today. We need not worry about the tomorrow. Today the pandemic has suddenly woken us up again. We may not be sure of our job security and the future looms in front of us. So, we realise that we need to go back to saving today for a better tomorrow.

In every aspect of life, we are realising today that we need to get back to our roots. Our food, our living styles, conserving nature, being grateful or even our career or vocation. We need to learn to be self dependant and respect nature in every way.

As in the photo above, we need to reflect if we have the ability to admire the beauty of this flower and connect with nature as we did in the past.

Our life events are cyclic and it is possibly the time to reinvent ourselves and rediscover the fundamentals of life and living.

S Ramesh Shankar

23rd July 2020