Practise before you Preach

Most of us are born preachers. We love to give advice even before we are asked. This habit has been inherited from generations. I do not know whether it is in our genes or not but it is prevalent around the world in human beings.

One of the interesting insights I got from “Vidhurshastra”, a Hindu relic is “Never give advice to an adult, unless asked for”. I read it only a few years back and since then have tried my best to follow. Although, I must admit that I fail once in a while and go ahead giving free unsolicited advice.

I feel less annoyed at Preachers per se. The category of people who preach before they practise is the one I find amusing. I can narrate quite a few interesting anecdotes from my life where I have experienced this.

The first instance was I went for routine annual medical check up. I was found overweight by a few kgs for my age. The physician who examined me looked at my reports and enquired if I exercise everyday. I told her that I walk and do yoga every day. She said without blinking her eye that I need to exercise more to lose weight to maintain good health. She was technically right. But coming from a person who was atleast ten kgs overweight for her age was very amusing to me.

I have seen many parents advising their kids to refrain from smoking and drinking although they feel quite normal to smoke or drink daily in their lives. These preachers not only put off their followers but end up as hollow and nobody will be willing to listen to them. Their kids may have to listen to them till they grow into adolescents and then they would rebel as they see a wide gap between what they say and what they do.

I have seen social activists fighting for great social causes like anti dowry, domestic violence against women and treating servants humanly etc. However, if you peek into their own personal lives, we find they take dowry , consider domestic violence normal in their own homes and treat their servants inhumanly.

Children will always follow what you do rather than what you say. Its good to practise before you preach. If you wear a mask always, kids need not be told to do so. They will do it on their own as in the photo above.

This reminds of the next category of such phoney human beings. They are the so called religious leaders. They are present in almost all the religions. They preach abstinence and dignity of women and practise the other way. They exploit the emotional vulnerability of women and men and misuse their position of significance in society.

I do not want anyone to get me wrong. I am not against anyone giving advice to anyone. However, I feel it is unfair to give advise on anything unless we follow it before we give suggestions to others. If I do not follow something, I have no moral authority to give advise on the same to anyone – irrespective of whether someone seeks it or not.

My mantra in life is simple. Practise before you Preach.

 

S Ramesh Shankar

24th Jan 2020

Should we be active or remain calm ?`

I am sure most of us would have made multiple new year resolutions to lose weight and become fit. A friend interestingly told me that “mobility leads to physical fitness, and calmness leads to mental fitness”. I was awe struck by this sentence. I reflected on it and realised that there is so much insight in this sentence.

Life is a fine balance between being physically fit and mentally fit. If you need to be physically fit, you need to keep moving your body. You need to exercise and control your diet so that you are able to maintain your weight and maintain your physique.

On the other hand, if you want peace of mind and be mentally fit, you need to ensure that your mind does not wander and is calm at times. Our mind wanders faster than the speed of light and most of the time we are thinking and not listening to others. We respond before someone completes a sentence. All this leads to stress and thereby to many mental disorders like depression etc.

One may think if you are physically fit, you are healthy. It may not be true. Similarly, if you are mentally calm (since you have your mind under your control) does not necessarily make you healthy as you may be obese and may have poor physical fitness.

All of us go through ups and downs in life. We have high and low days. We have our successes and failures. On the other hand all of us want to be fit – both physically and mentally. While most of us resolve to improve our physical fitness, many of us are not able maintain to our mental fitness.

We tend to blame the environment, the work stresses, the climate change and all external factors for our state of being. We forget that both physical and mental fitness is well within our control. Nobody has prevented me to have a daily physical exercise routine. Nobody has asked me to take all the stress to my head and further pass it on to my colleagues and family members.

So, we need to ask the questions to ourselves. If we honestly do, we may find the answers too. What do I need to be physically fit every day ? How do I manage my mental wellness ? Am I the only guy or girl facing stress in life ?

Thus, if we are honest to ourselves and make up our mind to challenge ourselves every single day of our life, we will change. We need to move our bodies to be physically fit and keep our mind calm to be mentally fit.

If you silently admire the gushing water in a falls, you can experience calmness although water is in motion as in the photo above.

Let us choose an exercise or a game of our choice and be self disciplined to follow a regimen every single day of our lives. We need to commit to ourselves that we will not allow any stress in our lives to hamper our well being. We will neither allow stress to impact us nor will we pass it on to others in our network in the family or the organisation.

Life is after all a fine balance between action and calmness. Let’s try.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th July 2019

Does beauty lie in perfection ?

I have always wondered if beauty lies in perfection or otherwise ? I have seen that the truth may lie somewhere in between. I live in a home today which is built by a builder whose architects play around with the beauty in the imperfections of nature.

On the other hand, I used to live in a flat where the architects believed that beauty lies in perfection. In that flat everything will be perfect to the core and almost like a mirror image of each other.

While I admired both the houses and the builders, I always wondered whether beauty lies in perfection or imperfection ? This may be true in life too. I have always been a reasonably organised person in my personal and professional life.

All my things at home will be in its place and all things will have a place in my home. Similarly my office space will be reasonably organised so that you can retrieve anything in reasonable time.

I have met people in my life who aim for perfection as the means and the others who consider it an end. There are some who get highly disturbed even if a small pin is not kept in its rightful place. On the other hand, there are others who thrive in chaos.

Another good example could be our planning process. I love to travel to places. So, while I travel I plan reasonably well in advance, book my tickets, hotels etc. Even if I am travelling by car, I am clear on my route and the place where I plan to stay. However, it may be fun sometimes to tread on a journey where the destination or the route is unknown.

There are people who fear the unknown and there are others who fear the known. So the truth in life may lie in between the two extremes. A teacher who teaches you up to the last alphabet may do a good job but a teacher who enables you to explore the last alphabet may also kindle the curiosity in you.

I am not sure whether perfection adds to beauty or it destroys ? If we plan perfectly life is beautiful but imperfection makes life adventurous. So life is not black and white. It is grey most of the times. We need to learn to aim for perfection but should be willing to deal with imperfection and enjoy the journey instead of cribbing about it.

The beauty of the craft in the photo above may be in the imperfection more than the perfection.

If you buy a hand woven garment most manufacturers will tell you that no two garments will be similar. The hand craft of a weaver is reflected in the garment and hence each garment could be different but may be beautiful. On the other hand, machine made garments may all be perfect to design and no dissimilarities between two of them and this may make it boring.

So, we have to learn to live with imperfections to have a perfectly happy life.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th October 2019

Live in “Absolute” not in “Relativity”

I have always wondered – “What makes people happy ?”. After a lot of thought and reflection, I have evolved a simple hypothesis to be happy in life. Many of us spend our life time living everyday by comparing ourselves with people around us. It even starts in our childhood. Our parents tend to compare us with other children in academics and other activities and thereby rate our performance. Our teachers do the same and hence our society judges us by comparison only.

We grow up that way and tend to live life by comparison. We start with our student days and look at how have we done vis a vis our siblings or friends or relatives. We then worry why our career is slower than our friends and relatives. We lose our sleep if our neighbour gets a new car and we cannot afford one.

Life goes on this way. At work, life is no different. Our performance is assessed in relation to our peers. Even performance management systems are designed to assess performance in relative terms. So we end up as a point of reference in a bell curve. Some doing better than us and some worse.

In my view, the foundation of unhappiness is our living by comparisons. The day we realise that if we live in an “Absolute” way without comparing ourselves with anyone around us, life would be fun and we would discover the formula for joy. This may not be easy as it is ingrained in all of us to live in “relativity”. It starts with family, friends, relatives and society at large. Even countries do not prosper because they live and die with comparisons.

Let us look at why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world although they may not be the wealthiest. This is because the rulers as well the countrymen live in “absolute” terms. The people of Bhutan consider happiness as the means to the end as well the end in itself. They do not compare their GDP or wealth or development with other countries in any other way.

So, it is time for us to sit back and think about it. If we start living for ourselves and our happiness we will not worry about what others do or have. We will be happy with what we have and not die for what others have and we don’t. We need to be content with what we have. This does not mean we should not aspire for higher things in life. Of course we should but not because others have it but because we can work towards achieving it for ourselves.

Every parent should look at the innate talent of each child and let her or him prosper, grow and realise their potential. Every manager should look at each employee as a talent and provide the necessary environment for him or her to grow based on their potential and not their performance in relation to other colleagues.

I am convinced that if I live life on my own terms, there will be less and less reasons to be unhappy. I have tried to be content with what I have right from the day I started my career. With the active support of my partner and my kids, I have been happy most of the time in life. So, this hypothesis is not based on any management theory but personal belief and practise.

We can best learn from children of how to enjoy life in absolute rather than suffer in relativity by comparisons, as in the photo above.

You have a right to have a alternate opinion and I have a right to differ with you.

Let us exchange our views on this issue so that together we make everyone happier every day.

Together we can.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th August 2019

Life is more than an individual…

We sometimes fantasise that life is all about ourselves as an individual. This is truly a fantasy. The earlier we realise , the better it may be for our lives. Let us start from our personal lives including our family, friends and society.

Imagine how life would be without being part of a family. We may be born alone when we arrive at earth but there can be no life without being a member of a family and a community. It is rightly said that man is a social animal. We cannot imagine leading life all alone. We need siblings and friends all the time to enrich our lives.

This is the reality of life from childhood to senescence. Imagine a child growing up all alone with nobody around to play with. Imagine a youth without friends around her. Can we imagine a senior citizen living all alone at home and staring at the four walls ? Life would not only be boring but may be difficult to live through.

We need support from everyone around us in our family and social circle to grow up and succeed. We need guidance and direction from more experienced people than us. We need recognition and support when we slip along the way. We need someone to lift us up when our morale is at an all time low.

The situation is no different when we are at work. Some employees dream that the organisation exists only because of them. This is again a dream till they realise that they exist, learn and grow only because of the organisation. Organisation again is a social enterprise. It is not the building or the machines, which makes an organisation. It is the people working in them. No individual can succeed without enabling peers at work, a motivating manager and supportive customers and suppliers.

Even the best performing employees realise that they can never be successful without their team. How can one imagine of doing everything alone in life ? It is neither practical nor possible. The earlier we realise this reality in our career, the more successful we are likely to be.

Let us examine a football team. Even the best player in the world cannot score a goal unless he is supported by other forwards in the team. We see this in action. Many outstanding players lose out in the long run because in spite of great talent they fail to realise the value of team work.

Sometimes by looking at the mirror as in the photo above, we tend to believe that that life is all about ourselves till we come out and see the world.

Life is no different. As we have seen whether in the family, work, community or society, our success lies in our ability to grow beyond our individualism. We need to realise this early and learn the art of working in teams. It is the give and take in life, which will make us successful.

We need to realise that no individual is larger than the team she represents. If individuals excel in team work, they may be more successful than others. So, life is all about working in groups and enabling each other to succeed.

Let’s transcend from individual to team thinking today.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th November 2018

What you give, you get back…

What goes around, come around is a common saying. In my view, this is equally true in life. We have to remember that what we give to others, we get back in some form. If we share love and happiness, we get the same. If we spread hatred, it may come back to us in some form.

It is equally true in money and material things. If we are willing to share our material wealth with others in whatever little ways we can, we are blessed with more wealth. If we are able to help a friend, colleague or relative in distress, God helps you in more ways than one when you are in trouble.

I have seen this and experienced this in multiple ways in my life. Let me illustrate with a few examples. Whenever I have tried to help someone in distress in cash or kind, God has always returned me with caring support when I have been in despair.

I have also noticed that whenever I have faced a cash crunch, I have got some unexpected surprise inflows, which I did not think of at all. I feel this is because I may have done some good to someone without expecting anything in return when they were in trouble.

It is equally true for sharing our knowledge and skills. The more we share with others, the more we get from others in terms of their knowledge and skills and thus helping us grow everyday.

We could easily learn some good lessons on giving from a pet dog. You nurture and care for a dog and she will give her life for you. I had a Labrador at home. She was so caring that she will not eat anything unless my wife had finished her lunch or dinner. As humans, we can ape these noble qualities even from animals around us.

So, it is worthwhile to believe that in life, we get what we give to others. It could be in cash, kind or feelings. It may neither be directly correlated nor scientifically established by any logic. We have to believe in this destiny of life and it will hold true for us. There are some things in life which we have to do without any logic or reasoning and this is one of those actions.

If you do not believe in this theory, that may also be fine. It is your truth and cannot be equated to anyone else’s truth. You may have experienced life otherwise and that is your reality. However, it is worthwhile to challenge ourselves and our belief with the backing of others sometimes and it may work miracles.

I have been challenged by some younger people in my family and work teams who believe that this theory may not be valid today. Even in a sports field they believe that this is not true. I have an alternate view and still hold on to it. In my view even a sportsperson who is well behaved on the ground is respected more than others. You get back the same respect you give to others in life or on the sports field.

As in the picture above, you give milk to a stray cat which is hungry and someone may feed you some day when you are hungry.

Each of us have a right to hold our own view. I just want to share my experience in life and urge you to experiment and make your own judgement. I still believe we get back what we give to others in life.

Let us give and try.

S Ramesh Shankar

20th December 2018

You share more, you learn more…

I have been privileged in life in every way. I have learnt from everyone around me at home and at work. Every family member and friend has been generous in sharing their knowledge, skills and life lessons with me. Similarly at work, every colleague I have worked with or interacted with has been more than eager to share their learnings with me.

I have sometimes wondered as to why people conserve their knowledge. Some people believe that if they share their knowledge or skill, they may lose their competitive advantage or their worth in life. I think the other way around. The more you share, the more you learn.

Let us reflect on own lives from childhood. Every time we recite a nursery rhyme to a kid, we memorise the same and never forget it. Similarly, every time I have taught maths to my kids, I have improved my own numerical abilities. In my view, it is difficult to imagine that I will lose my identity if I share my knowledge or skills with others.

I have seen this attitude at the work place too. Many senior professionals try to conserve their knowledge and skills thinking that it increases their value in the organisation. It is the other way around. A leader who is ever willing to share knowledge or skills or builds positive attitude in others is the one sought after by the team members.

One interesting dimension to be kept in mind in organisations is that even if you share a policy or a process, it cannot be aped in terms of culture or execution the way you do it in your organisation. Culture evolves. It cannot be copied. So, there is no rhyme or reason not to share your best practises with the world.

We can see in sports that the best players are ever willing to share their skills with their juniors. They never feel threatened that their juniors will learn their skills and make them redundant. Life is no different. Nobody can copy your style or attitude in life. Knowledge and skills are to shared to be sharpened. Attitude is to be ingrained from within.

Organisations and societies spend years to evolve their cultures. It is not possible for another society or culture to easily cut, copy and paste them. Similarly, it is not possible for an organisation to copy a system or a process easily unless there is a culture as a base and a value system to support it. So, we need to realise that the more we share, the more we create learning opportunities for ourselves as individuals and organisations.

Every individual learns from others more than from oneself. So, it is imperative that even as individuals, the more we share, the more we learn. Learning by sharing has to be a way of life. It has to be an attitude to life. This ensures that we can never become obsolescent.

Even sharing kulfi as in the picture above with your friends can be a learning opportunity.

Let us learn to share always.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th December 2018

Journey is as important as your destination

Most of us love to go on vacations. We plan for days together about where to go. We choose our destination based on our interests, the company we are likely to have and the time we have for our holiday.

However, we forget one simple rule of life. We focus so much on the destination that we forget the journey. We do all the research to find out everything about the place we plan to visit. The places to visit, the weather, which may help us to plan the clothes we need to take. We also plan the people we have to meet at our destination.

In this whole process for planning our holiday, we forget that there will so much to do on the way to our destination. Imagine you going on a holiday in a car with family and friends. In my view, the journey is more joyful than the destination. We focus so much on the goal that we forget to enjoy the journey.

Life is no different. Each of us have a lot of goals in life. We have a lot of ambitions. We meticulously plan to reach all our life goals. But most of the times we do not end up enjoying the journey to our destination. For eg. One of our goals may be to graduate from a prestigious university in a beautiful state. We focus so much on our academics that we do not have time to see places in that beautiful city. We do not have time to admire nature or meet wonderful people around the university.

This is so true almost in every aspect of our lives. We resolve to go for a morning walk every day to the park. Our goal is to keep fit and maintain good health. This is laudable. But while we are walking 5 kms a day in a beautiful park, we don’t enjoy the green trees, wild flowers, the singing birds or the blue sky above us.

Then as we get ready to go to work or college, we are running against time. Even if we are taking a public transport, we have so much to enjoy along with way before we reach our destination. We close our eyes and miss to see the world around us. We may get opportunities to meet nice people along the way. We may observe good Samaritans around us serving society and so on.

At work, our focus is on target to achieve for the day. There is nothing wrong with that goal. But we fail to wish people around us. We do not remember to wish a dear colleague on her birthday. We may even find it difficult to find time to have a healthy lunch break.

In our social life, we are not different. We neither remember festivals and occasion to celebrate with family and friends nor remember to wish them even if we are at home on a festival holiday. We think sending and receiving messages on social media the best past time in life. We do realise that social media does not convey emotions. We do.

Imagine missing a sight like in the photo above and not pausing your journey to admire this beauty as in the photo above.

It is time to wake up and enjoy the journey as much as the destination. We all are born on a pre determined date and possible our return date to heaven is also fixed. The time in between these two dates is at our discretion. This is the journey we need to enjoy as life. We should not spend our life worrying about the ultimate date. After all, all of us have to go some day. Some go earlier while others may go later.

Time to enjoy the journey is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

22nd November 2018

Insecurity of the boss

One of my colleagues at work is a prolific writer. He writes articles regularly and also publishes in magazines and newspapers. He is proficient in professional areas as well as fiction. One day he called me to inform that I will not see his articles in newspapers or in the public domain anymore. I was surprised and enquired as to why he suddenly lost interest.

He called me back to tell that his boss has asked him to stop publishing articles in the public domain like newspapers, magazines etc. I asked him the reasons for the same and he had no answers. He said his boss feels that a lot of his time is spent in writing articles and thereby he is not able to contribute much within the organisation.

I had advised one of my colleagues who worked with me to utilise every opportunity to represent the organisation and present papers and participate in discussions in academic and professional circles. I was surprised that one day she called me to state that her current boss has started questioning her participation in these events on the basis of time spent (even if most of them were on weekends) and also on their impact to the business.. I wondered why and when asked for the reasons her explanations were not very convincing.

This led me to the insight that many managers are insecure of their own team members. As parents, all of us want our children to excel in whatever they pursue. We want them to do better than us both in their career and in life. Then how is it different for a manager or a leader. Many leaders are wary of their own team members. If my boss calls one of my subordinates directly and interacts with her, I am worried.

Similarly many managers themselves want to make all presentations in leadership team meetings and do not want to give opportunities to their team members. They may justify this by stating that they cannot take the risk of failure or afford any goof up in front of senior leaders. I beg to differ. If we cannot take risks with our own team members, with whom will we take ?

Imagine a senior cricketer thinking that if he coaches a budding youngster and the junior excels, he may lose his place in the team. A true leader will always want his team members to do better than himself. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to develop their own team members. If leaders feel that projecting their team to the outside world will expose their weakness, they are only fooling themselves.

On the contrary, the best of leaders I have seen and worked with in my career have always promoted and facilitated their juniors with potential to try and even fail. After all, none of us can excel unless we get an opportunity to fail, learn and improve. As a leader, I should use every opportunity to promote my team members. The more I promote my team, the more I am respected as a leader. We can give all the credit if they succeed and own responsibility if at all they fail.

I recall one of the quotes of the legendary JRD Tata. Once when many leaders from the TATA group left and became CEOs of other companies, somebody asked him if TATA is producing leaders for other companies. JRD replied that he is happy that TATAs are producing CEOs for the country. This is leadership in action.

The more I am worried about displaying the talent of my team members in public domain, the more insecure I am as a leader. Further, really talented people will be wary of working in my team. The earlier a leaders learns about this insight, the better it is for his or her own career.

We need to remember that our security builds security of our team members. The more insecure we are, the more insecure our team members feel and behave. The more we expose our team members to the world outside, the more we get recognised as a leader. A true leader should be almost invisible and work only in the background.

The insecure boss is like the king of the past, who never left his seat for the fear that someone else may occupy it if he leaves it even for a few hours.

Every leader needs to realise that their own insecurity is their weakness rather than the weakness of their team members. The earlier they realise it, the better they will grow as a leader.

Let us learn to develop ourselves by developing our team by giving them all possible opportunities to learn and grow both within and outside the organisation.

Lets try from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th May 2021

Surviving a crisis in life

There are some moments in life which drown you in a sea of grief. Losing a near and dear is irrevocable. It feels as if the sun has set in your life and will never rise again. You also feel as if the moon will not light the night sky. You feel lonely but want to be left alone. No words of comfort can console you. You have no tears to cry in your eyes

I have gone through such moments in my life. I lost my mother at 23 and my father at 25. It was in quick succession and I had just started my career at 22. Fortunately my sisters were married and settled and I had to only take care of my younger brother. But still the question, which haunts you at such moments is – “Why me “?

You have led an honest life. You have been good to everyone around you – family, friends and relatives. You loved your near and dear one the most and God has snatched him/her away from you. You not only wonder why but also wonder why only you. These are normal feelings and anyone facing this situation will go through. No words of consolation soothes you. You get no answers from God or anyone around you. It’s only time, which heals you and not the words, conversations or people around you at this time of grief.

Your world is lonely. The gush of the wind is not heard by you. The song of the birds do not lighten your somber mood. The sound of the waves in the sea reverberate your hurt feelings. You lose faith in yourself and in God. You may stop visiting temples, churches or mosques irrespective of whichever religion you follow.

It is only time, which may heal you. It is at this juncture, you need to believe in yourself. You need to be a supportive partner to your family. Together, you need to weather this storm. You need to take courage from poor people, who live in small hutments near the sea. They face the wrath of the rains every year. The thunderstorms blow away their houses, their belongings and sometimes even their near and dear ones. They may be fisherfolk and fishing is their only source of income. So , they come back to the sea to start their life afresh.

Our life may not be very different. We may face one crisis after another. We may lose faith in ourselves and in others. We may also lose belief in God. But as time heals our wounds, we need to limp back to stand up and live life all over again. We need to look for people around us, who may have lost much more than what we have. We need to seek blessings and express our gratitude to God – to bless us for all that we have and give us the courage to bounce back. During such crisis, we need to be thankful to the people around us, who stood like the boulders on the ocean front, which faces the wrath of the sea waves every year to protect us from damage and destruction.

We need to believe that the sun does rise next morning after every sunset. Even the moon resurfaces after a no moon day. We do get rewarded for our efforts. We have to be thankful that we did our best and sometimes a crisis in life is inevitable – may be not in our hands and it could be nature’s way of helping us keep our feet on the ground.

Our life ahead is an opportunity. We need to learn to bounce back. Let time heal your scars and I am sure you will find ways to bring joy to others. You may get an opportunity to take care of other people like your own. You could think of all the good memories with your near and dear one and all the joy he/she brought into your life. It is sweet memories of our lives, which keeps us going in good and bad times.

The clouds do settle down and the blue beautiful sky returns after some time. We need to wait patiently for the blue sky to return in our lives as in the photo above. There is nothing permanent in life.

Selfless service and gratitude to those who stood by your side during your crisis are useful ways to bounce back in life. Wish you all the best.

 

S Ramesh Shankar

4th Sep 2021

PS : Dedicated to everyone who has lost someone close to their heart in their lives.