Do I know myself ?

I am not sure. Every time I think I know myself I am wrong. I find I have discovered something new which I did not know. Life is full of possibilities and and I am no different than life. I do believe that human beings have unlimited potential and I am not an exception.

Let me recall the events of my life from my childhood. At school, I had never participated in any debate or elocution competition. My english teacher called me one day and encouraged me to participate in a hindi poetry recitation competition. I was nervous since I had never done so. But he said I will do well and that I should try. I did and not only did well but got a prize.

I was always keen to contribute my little bit to society. At college, I was in the first year of my graduate course. My chemistry professor nominated me as the president of the Rotaract club. I was nervous again since we had members who were senior to me from the second and third year of the graduate courses. But, I did serve the full term and contributed my best to the social causes, together with all the other members of the club and with support from all.

Then at the work place, it has happened many a time. My managers have made me volunteer for many projects and even made me lead projects where I thought I was not capable of. I remember I was asked to lead a SAP HR project, where I did not know much except a bit of HR. But It was executed in time and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

I had successfully completed my corporate career and returned to Bangalore to settle down and enjoy life. This time my community elected me as the President of the residents’ association. Again through the difficult years of the pandemic, there were many challenges but we did succeed as a team and executed more than 26 projects successfully during our term of two years.

All the above instances prove that I still do not know what I am capable of ? Every time I get into some project or activity or lead a team, I realise I still have some potential to discover in myself. We possibly grow up in a society where realising one’s potential may be left to ourselves. I was lucky to have teachers in school and college, managers and leaders at the workplace to enable me to realise my talent. Everyone may not be as lucky as I have been. But I do realise that I also may have put in some efforts to discover my latent potential.

Today when I look back at my life so far, I realise that may be I am still discovering myself. The journey of life may be filled with crests and troughs. But, it is upto us to sail through these challenges and realise our potential. If I give up when I am down and out or if I do not grab opportunities coming my way at different stages of life, I have nobody else to blame except myself.

The most auspicious day to start is today and the time is now. Lets just do it.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th August 2021.

How to make life and work fun everyday ?

I have enjoyed my work life right through my career. I worked in public sector, private sector, joint ventures and multinationals but always found ways and means to enjoy my work. I have been asked by many of colleagues the secret of my enjoying work under all circumstances.

I would say the answer has been simple for me. Every day I used to think that I will try out something new. We have so many issues to deal with in life and at work. We always struggle to find solutions to all the problems we face in life. But the day we decide that we can always try something new to solve a problem, life and work is fun. We may succeed in our efforts or we may fail. Either way, it makes work and life more interesting for us.

Many of us feel that we do not have the freedom to experiment. We forget that we are the CEOs of our life, so nothing can stop us from experimenting in our own lives. Similarly at the workplace, if we want to try out a new way of solving a problem, nobody is going to stop us. Most of the time, it is our own lack of will which comes in the way. Like Albert Einstein said “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

The “will” is within us and it is upto us to set the fire to try out new things every day in our lives. It is like if we cannot get up early for a morning walk or job, nobody stops us from cycling or playing badminton in the evening. Similarly, there is no problem at work, which does not have multiple solutions. Generally, we try one or two and then tend to give up. If we try out something new, it not only makes life interesting but fun too.

I remember I used to have a white board in my office to note down all the crazy ideas I got every day. I would then try them one by one as I could experiment or would request my team members to help me try out these ideas. Jokingly, many of my team members refrained from entering my room for fear of getting new ideas to try out every day. On a serious note, I found most of my team members enjoyed experimenting as much as I did and together we had a lot of fun.

It can be as mundane as ideas for a fencing in our home garden. My wife was fed up with shrubs outgrowing and the need to trim them regularly to keep them under check. She suggested that we try laying brick separators. I went ahead and explored wooden and pvc partitions. When we went around our community garden, we realised that the options were many. We could use stones or even old bottles as separators. So the choice before us is limitless if we are willing to experiment and try out.

Life is fun when we are willing to look at every problem as an opportunity to find innovative solutions. On the other hand, if we look at work or life as a series of obstacles to make our life challenging, then we may be losers. It is upto us to try and fail or succeed. If we succeed, we could celebrate and if we fail, we can learn and move on to try out another idea.

Let us view life and work as full of possibilities every single day from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

6th August 2021

Respect the person or position

Many of us fall in love with the position we hold in life be it in the family, community or at work. We think our position gives us status, pride and respect. While it is true that many people respect the position more than the person, but when you leave a position, you are respected only for the person you are.

It may be invaluable to realise early in life that people respect the person in you more than the position you hold. Position may come and go but the person remains forever. You may be the President of your country or the CEO of your business but tomorrow, you remain only the person behind the position.

Some of us get away with unpardonable behaviour when we are holding positions of authority. We may wield our power and get away with whatever we say or do. But as soon as we vacate the same position of power, people either ignore us or forget us.

On the other hand, if you are grounded and live a life loving everyone around you and respecting them irrespective of the position you hold, then people remember you forever. They remember the way you treated them even if they forget the position you held while you treated them that way.

Our behaviour is permanent while our positions are ephemeral. We tend to get stuck to positions and forget the person in us. We tend to believe that the position we hold will take care of us and insulate us from the repercussions of bad conduct.

While this may be partially true till we hold that position of power, it fades always as soon as we move on. People do not remember the positions we held forever. Positions are static and temporary while persons are dynamic and live their life time.

It is important for us to realise that people respect our behaviour because of the person we are. They may continue to respect us for our behaviour even if we move on from the positions of power as long as our behaviour continues to be endearing. The day we think position and power can get us everything in life and we can get away with all our actions , we may be misled.

This basic tenet of life is true for family, community, society or even organisations. We love our parents since they are caring in nature and treat us with love and dignity. We love our teachers because they have nurtured us, irrespective of our tantrums and never wielded power to guide us.

We respect colleagues at work who have always guided us and led us to behave well through their actions more than their words or positions. We tend to follow what we see in them rather than what they say or what position they hold.

Let us mould our behaviour and shape our personality to be loving, caring and endearing always, to everyone around us.

Positions will come and go but person remains the same

S Ramesh Shankar

1st August 2021

Time to reset and restart

I started working with computers way back in 1985, when the public sector I used to work for introduced computers for the first time . The computers used to be like a piece of art and kept under velvet covers inside cabins of very senior managers.

As time passed by, we got opportunities to touch and feel computers and today it is almost in the hand of every individual in the form of smart mobiles, laptops or smart notebooks. Today, we possibly cannot think of our lives without the ubiquitous mobile or notebook around us all the time.

One of the fascinating things of a computer is that it is fun and a great aid when it works but it literally puts you out of your senses when it stops. Many of us have become practising hardware or software engineers by chance rather than by choice. We try all our tricks under the trade without knowing much about it. The most often trick applied to reset and restart a computer which is not working is to press the “Control+Alt+del” buttons.

A few days back I realised I need to do the same with myself. I was in the midst of many things happening around me – both personal and work wise and felt that I was getting mentally and physically exhausted. It is at such times, you feel you need to reset and restart your life all over again.

Resetting your life and restarting could be different for different people in their lives. For me, one of the best ways to relax, reset and restart my life is to go on a long drive to a hill or a beach and be with myself amidst nature. I did exactly the same.

I booked a club on a hill resort and drove away from my city for a short break. A beautiful drive along green forests and virgin hills makes you one with nature. The last lap was in the midst of a beautiful green forest and the twining roads of the hills.

I reached my destination safely and in view of the pandemic decided to spend a few days all with myself and my spouse with no agenda and no schedules. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the allocated times, looked at the plantations through the balcony, listened to some relaxing music and rested day and night.

I realised just like machines, man also needed to reset and restart his life once in a way. The periodicity may differ from person to person. It is upto you to decide when you need to press the “control+alt+del” in your life. There is no right or wrong time. Each of us have our life keyboard with us and we are the pilots of our own destinies. It is upto us to decide when to start and when to end.

As in the photo above, when three of my classmates met recently we agreed that we need to reset and restart our lives periodically.

Today I feel refreshed and will go back to my regular routine from tomorrow after a nice drive back home again. It is upto you to decide what can help you to relax. As I said, while it is a nice drive and a place close to nature for me, it could be siting at home for you or watching a cricket or football match in a stadium.

Is it time to reset and restart your own life today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

5th April 2021

Life, wife and strife…

If you are married, you are lucky and if you aren’t you are not unlucky. Sabka time aayega( everybody’s time will come). I have been married for 37 years and have enjoyed every moment of married life so far.

If you have a wife, you will have strife and that is life. Life without strife with wife is like food without spices. The best of Indian food will be tasteless if you don’t add spices. Similarly, if you have don’t have conflicts with your spouse, then life is not fun.

Marriage is a social institution where two partners meet each other to lead life together. Sometimes we know each other even before marriage and at other times we discover each other only after marriage. Whether it is love marriage or arranged marriage, life is fun when we are open to each other and are willing to fight with each other only to sit down and resolve our differences through dialogue.

Conflict is an integral part of married life. However, one of the two partners has to accept that if we are magnanimous, then any dispute between us can be resolved through dialogue. This may be easier said than done. Listening and willing to let go of our egos can resolve any misunderstanding between us.

We need not agree to each other at all times to be happy. We need to learn to respect each other’s differences as much as we celebrate our similarities. Learning to respect differences is the art of successful partnership.

In life, you meet people who may not agree with you. But you love the way they disagree with you. Even in parliament when an opposition leader bitterly criticises the government of the day and if the treasury benches stand up to appreciate the way the criticism is delivered we realise that differences can be encouraged and respected.

Similarly, in life we may like something which our spouse may not and vice versa. So what. We can learn to live together appreciating each other’s differences. I love driving my car for long trips and my wife does not. Both of us have learnt to enjoy the journey together. Neither I crib about driving nor my wife cribs about being driven around.

There may be days we may not even talk to each other. Sometimes silence can be the best language to use to resolve differences. Most of us may not realise that listening is more difficult than speaking. Many of us prefer to speak rather than listen. The day we learn to listen, we may be able to resolve any dispute with anyone.

If anyone thinks marriage is a bed of roses, they may be mistaken. Is it a road full of thorns – no it isn’t. It is mix of both. There will be some days where you will be flying high together in the sky. There will be others when you will regret coming together. But the success lies in managing both in such way that you make other a winner. Marriage is a conjunction of mutual partnership with mutual respect.

Lets learn to live together always.

S Ramesh Shankar

21st February 2021

Be imperfectly perfect…

One of the leading brands of cotton dresses in india caution customers when they buy it that there would be imperfections in their product and that is the way it happens in hand woven items. Similarly I live in a green gated community. When I had once raised some imperfections in my house design, my architect reminded me that imperfection is the beauty of nature.

Nature teaches us to adapt and enjoy life as it is and not as the way we want it to be. If you drive down a forest and watch the trees on both sides, they look green and pretty. But no two trees look alike although they have may have been sown at the same time and may be by the same person.

Life is no different. It evolves for each of us the way we may least expect. There are two things in life, which makes living difficult. The first is our innate tendency to compare and the other is to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of others.

Today I thought it may be worth while to explore as to how to live life the imperfect way. If nature can evolve this way, be imperfect and still all of us enjoy it, why not we live similarly. How do we learn to live life imperfectly, perfect ?

Many of us tend to spend our entire life looking for perfection. Searching for imperfections and attempting to make them perfect becomes our mission in life. In this process, we forget to live and enjoy life every day.

One of my friends is a perfect man. He graduated from a prestigious engineering college and completed his post graduation from one of the best business schools in our country. He has had a good career and has an enviable family with a smart spouse and a daughter who is also studying a leading medical school.

Everyone around would think this person would be living a perfect live. However, what I have seen and heard is otherwise. He is still searching for perfection in his life. He wants everything to be perfect in life and thereby a slight imperfection makes him yell at everyone around him. Now, I realise that how difficult it is for us to live with imperfections. The day we accept life as a mixed bag, we may enjoy it more than we are doing today.

In this process, what they do not realise is that neither do they enjoy life, nor allow others around them to enjoy. Most people do not like to interact with them since they are obsessed and are not willing to accept anyone with even minor faults.. Ultimately, they lead lonely lives.

While there may be nothing wrong in aiming for perfection in everything we do every day, if we spend our whole life in search of that elusive perfection, we may realise some day that it never existed and that may be too late to enjoy life.

So, one learning and insight today for me is to live life imperfectly perfect. While we may aim to do our best in everything we do, we need to accept that neither we nor others around us are perfect in every way. The day we realise this basic theorem of life, life may be fun and different for us.

As in the photo above this flower may not be symmetrical but its beauty lies in its asymmetry.

Let us learn to live life the way it evolves every day and learn to enjoy it that way.

S Ramesh Shankar

21st February 2021

Life is all about give & take…

Life is wonderful when it is built on the foundation of gratitude. Someone said the left hand should not know what the right hand is giving. This may be an old adage but true and valid even today. The more we give, the more we get in life.

Some may say that I am saying this because I have got all that I wanted in life. It may be true today but I was born in a low middle class family and lived life as a child in a very frugal way. We were inculcated this value in our early life years and it has got ingrained in our blood. I have experienced the joy of giving all through my life.

I would further extend to say that life is first about giving and then about taking from others. Most of us are keen to to take everything we want from others but are reluctant to give. In my view, giving comes first and then only we have a moral right to take from others.

It is interesting to realise that most people are not interested in your money alone. The earlier we realise it, the better it would be for our overall growth. People are looking for your time, they are looking for sharing their joy and sorrow with you. People want moral support. Even simply said, they want a patient ear – someone who will listen to them.

As a child we realise very early in life that there are not many around us who are good listeners. Even in listening, let us give our patient ear to someone before we expect others to listen to us patiently. We are generous in talking but impatient in listening. The more we listen, the better we understand people and the more we learn.

As an adolescent, we are impatient and stubborn and want the world to move our way or the highway. This is time to realise that we need go give back more to the people around us who have made us what we are today.

Even as an adult, our expression of gratitude is limited till the period we think we have arrived in life. Once we reach a stage in our career and life where we feel that we have arrived, we tend to forget the people who enabled us to reach there. It is at this time we need to give more than we take. We need to to express our gratitude in both monetary and non monetary terms.

The most successful people in life are humble. They are always grounded and give back more than what they have got in life. It is this humility and gratitude which set them apart in society and we admire them forever.

Arrogance and selfishness will never help us succeed in life. Nobody likes to interact with someone who thinks he or she is beyond human imagination. All of us are human and we may err at times and that is fine. It is fine as long as we realise our mistakes and are willing to learn from them.

As in the photo above, we have to grateful for all that we have rather than worry about all that we don’t have.

Life is all about giving first before asking for anything. As I said repeatedly giving does not mean it may cost us money. Giving time, respect or listening to people does not cost anything but is valued immensely.

Let us learn to give before we take.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th December 2020

Substance over style…

I was watching a cricket match recently when one of the commentators made a very pertinent comment. He said he liked one of the young and aspiring cricketers of India for his style. But, it is time that he shows “ Substance over style”. This set me thinking.

Many of us spend our life time trying to sharpen our styles. We forget the fact that Substance is more important than Style in everything in life. While style make get you temporary accolades in a particular match when you score well but if you do have substance and are not consistent then you may fade faster than you could imagine.

This point is equally true in every aspect of life. We tend to focus on the outer behaviour and forget the inner one. We tend to be outwardly well behaved without a human heart. What is the use of being the best dressed man in the office if we end up being the worst behaved manager at the workplace.

While dressing for the occasion may be important but dealing with people humanly is more important than our dress. We may never remember the best dressed persons we have met in our lives. But, we will always remember the people, who made us feel special on all occasions.

It is like being a great orator in a debate. While our diction and style of delivery can get us admirers, we will be remembered more for the content and quality of our debate than the style of delivery. This does not mean style is not significant. What is being emphasised is that substance should always prevail over style. If we have substance and deliver in style that could be the best option before us.

Even when we listen to speeches of great parliamentarians in India or abroad, we look for substance over style. While a great orator with an eloquent command over the language impresses us in the moment, it is the content of her delivery, which lingers in our thoughts forever.

I remember one of my college professors who had great substance and no style. He was grounded, simple and down to earth. He did not have a sense of dressing too. But all of us as students used to admire his content and even nicknamed him as a walking encyclopaedia in college. He was knowledgable , modest and had quest for learning and sharing with others. This proved that substance always prevailed over style.

Another important learning for me is that people with substance may not necessarily need to focus on style. Whatever style they adopt, their substance overflows and takes care of any deficiencies in style. However, it cannot be the other way around. If we do not have substance, style cannot compensate for it.

As in the photo above, while style is good, substance over style is also critical.

It is time to lay the foundations of substance before we mould our style in life. We need to focus on substance first and style next and not the other way around.

If substance is there, style will always follow.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

9th November 2020

2 +2 = ?

Many of us think life is as simple as 2 +2 =4. In most cases, we realise through our experience in life that 2 + 2 is not equal to 4. Life is not a mathematical equation. If it was one, the scientists in the world may have conquered it and solved the puzzles of life for us.

Life is not black and white as many of us want it to be. In most situations it is grey like the monsoon clouds. In the monsoon, you can be sure that most of the days when there is a cloud cover over our heads, it is likely to rain. However, in life we never know when it will be sunshine, when it will be rain and when it is likely to be just cloudy all day.

Some of us spend our entire life trying to figure out how to make life more black and white for ourselves. In my view, it is just a waste of time. It may be better of for us to figure out our own ways of dealing with greyness of life and enjoy it that way.

We need to view life as a new discovery every day. It is like a mystery movie whose script is written and re-written in our lives every day. We have a choice to make. Either we enjoy the mystery as it unfolds in front of us or we wonder what happened after its over. Some of us are neither willing to anticipate life as it opens up every day for us nor willing to accept it as it flows.

The day we realise that life is not logical or mathematical, we may have reconciled to ourselves and be willing to deal with its uncertainties as it happens every day. It is the like the pandemic today. None of us including the experts know for sure what is happening and why is it happening ? Everyone is trying their best to figure it out as it unfolds and then guide us to the best way to deal with it.

If one keeps wondering why this pandemic could not have been anticipated or why it cannot be treated , then we are being cynical as nobody knows its origins. Similarly in life, some things happen for no reasons. If we spend our whole life trying to go to the root cause of why it happened, we possibly may be wasting our time. It may be better to adapt, adjust and move on.

Our ability to adapt to change as it evolves may be one of the best ways to face life. We do not know better ways unless it occurs to us. We should neither get hassled by what happens to us nor worry about why it happens. We should prepare ourselves to face it with a smile and deal with it as it comes.

It may be easier to write about life than to experience it as it comes to us. I am writing after experiencing more than half of my life. May be a bit easier than my younger generations. But I have learnt that the better if not the best way to deal with life is to experience it as it comes and deal with it as you think best at that point of time.

This newly married couple ( as in the photo above) may realise today that 2+2 may not be always equal to 4 in life.

There is neither a right way to deal with life nor a wrong way. Whatever we decide is the best option before us at that juncture of life. It is upto us to take a plunge and experience success or learn from our failures in life.

Life is not a mathematical equation but a mystery movie. Lets learn to enjoy it as it unfolds in front of us every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

6th August 2021

Got it, shot it

I sometimes wonder how certain incidents happen in your life. You see something and you are inspired to shoot a photo. This happens more often than not. That moment may never repeat itself in your life time again. One may call it as a life time opportunity.

I remember some days ago I saw a cat feeding and playing with 4 or 5 kittens in my backyard. It was a scene to be seen. It was an experience of a lifetime. The patience of the mother cat vis a vis the enthusiasm of the children. As in the photo above, I got it and I shot it.

Many a time life is like that. We can get many opportunities to learn and grow every day. We may procrastinate or let go and then we may regret or we may not. Either way, we miss a chance in life and this chance may never recur.

It is upto us to keep our eyes and ears open all the time. As we see the wonders of nature from morning to night and many a time are stunned by what we see. So, it is in life. We have to be alert all the time. We never know when something beckons you. When such an incident happens, we need to wrap the opportunity with both our hands and give it our best shot. One may never realise that a missed opportunity is something which may never come back.

The alternatives before us is to consider life full of opportunities every day or it being full of challenges. What we choose is upto us. Like a thing of beauty in front of us is for us to capture or let go. We do so either believing that it will come back again or considering oneself very busy to capture such precious moments in life.

Moments come and go in life like the water droplets on a rainy day in front of our eyes. We could either capture the beauty of the water bubbles or let them burst away in front of us. Every opportunity we miss is like the water bubble bursting in front of us. We need to wait for the next bubble in life.

While on a long drive, I have sometimes stopped my car just to have a glimpse of nature’s beauty since I was not sure if it will appear on my return journey. I am not even sure if I will return and if I do will I take the same route and the same scene will appear again.

We need to pause every time we see an opportunity in life and give it our best shot. If it clicks, it is great, if it does not, we can move on and look for the next chance to appear for us. If we let go of chances, the probability of missing a good moment of life increases. So let us go with the slogan – “ Got it, shot it”

Life is full of chances and we need to grab each one of them with both of our hands, head and heart.

S Ramesh Shankar

24th August 2020