It’s never too late to begin…

All of us make new year resolutions only to break within months or even days after we have begun. It is normal to postpone an issue and justifying that the right time has not come for it. In my learning it is never too late to begin. I have known people who have acquired educational qualifications much after their retirement. So, we need to believe that it is up to us to decide when to start.

The first inspiring example I have is that of my father in law( the photo above). He is 85 years old today. He always had a dream of being a post-graduate in life. He was proud that his children and grandchildren had studied well and some of them have completed their post graduation. He always had this dream of being a post graduate himself. So, at the young age of 75, he decided to pursue his post graduation in Gandhian thought as he was passionate about that subject. He gave his exams and was delighted that realised his dream sooner than later.

Me and my wife have learnt yoga at least 5 times at various stages of our life. Every time we practised the same for a few months and then it wriggled out of our routine. We could never make it a way of life. Just two years back we went to a yoga school in Lonavala and teacher was so inspiring that she not only ensured that we learnt it the right way but motivated us to make it a way of our life. Since then, we have been practising it religiously for the last two years.

I have always had a passion for writing. I used to write for my school and college magazine. Even after I started my career, I contributed to our company in house magazines. However, it was last year when I really started writing seriously and began to pen a blog every week. Within a year I managed to publish a book and today it is an integral part of my routine.

Most of us tend to postpone a decision on some pretext or the other. It is sometimes due to lethargy and at other times due to lack of will. I have realised through all my mistakes in life that it is me to blame for any procrastination and not anyone else. Hence, it is time to realise that the will power lies within us and not outside. If we decide to do something in life, it is up to us to start.

In life, we will always have multiple jobs. It is up to us to prioritise what is important and then pursue it with zeal. Whether it is at the workplace or our personal life, we need to decide what is important in our life and then make a beginning. We need to remember that today is always better than tomorrow to make a mark. Today is in our hands and tomorrow may never come.

All these examples have taught me that age, work or life is not a barrier for us to do something. It is more of our own mindset and attitude to life. We need to be positive and determined on what our passions are and then doggedly pursue the same. If we postpone something, it is our drawback and we cannot externalise it by blaming the environment for the same.

Let us begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Power of Listening


We are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But we generally end up talking more than listening.  Why is this so ?  May be it starts with the family, then the academic institutions and finally organisations and society.  We are always encouraged by our family, friends and society at large to communicate well and make an impression, wherever we are.  We have always been guided to outsmart everyone around us.  There is nothing wrong with this teaching.  However, it is important to realize that God may have given two ears and one mouth to all of us with a purpose, as illustrated by this kid in the photo above.

We possibly need to realize that effective communication in life means listening more and talking less.  Let us examine this from own life experiences.  Who in the family we like to spend our time most.  In all probability, it would be our mother.  This is because she would be the best listener in your family.  She listened to our non stop blabbering and the unending questions without losing her patience or cool ever.

If we move to the school or college, who was our favourite teacher ?  Its always the teacher with whom you can share all your stories – good or bad.  The teacher always created space for us.  She was ever willing to listen to us and our views .  She made us comfortable and let us experiment and fail in any situation.  On the other hand, imagine the teacher who advised you on everything in life even before you asked.  What would be your reaction ?

If we move to organisations, employees love peers or managers who lend their ears under all circumstances.  Such managers and peers attract you like a magnet.  You can laugh with them or cry with them and you can be your self.  They are non judgemental and always have the time and space for you.  On the other extreme, you meet managers who are instructing you all the time even on issues where you do not need any advice.  None of us like to work with such managers.

I have sometimes wondered as to why listening is more powerful than talking ?  I recall an incident, where I was conducting an interview of a candidate for the head of manufacturing position.  The interview lasted for an hour.  The candidate spoke for 50 minutes and I may have spoken for ten minutes.  At the end of the interview, I asked the candidate if he had observed anything in his behaviour during the interview.  He was puzzled.  When I explained to him that most of the time he was speaking and I was listening, he realised the power of listening.  I could listen to him and make my decision without speaking much.

Life is no different.  If we look at our kids.  Most of the time if we are willing to listen to their questions and chatter, they are happy.  They are more than happy even if you do not answer all their questions.  They appreciate your patience and listening skills more than your talking.  Listening is more effective in communication than speaking.

I can share another incident in my life.  My father was a government servant.  He was a very patient person.  He hardly spoke and never lost his cool.  But still his staff  adored him.  I was very curious.  I asked his staff one day as to what did they observe in him.  He responded by saying that he admired him for his calmness and patience.  This proves listening is much more impactful than speaking. 

Let us resolve to listen more and talk less from today.  It is worth a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

Guru

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“Guru” is the Sanskrit term for teacher.  All of us have great respect for teachers and have multiple experiences where teachers have displayed their selfless behaviour in abundance.  I met a teacher cum principal about two decades back and she transformed the image of teachers in my mind.  I was working at Indore in a private organisation and was transferred to Delhi.  As all parents do, I went from one school to another seeking admission for my kids after I arrived in Delhi.

The Delhi school conducted an admission test for my kids and after a series of interviews admitted both my children.  In this process, I was interviewed along with my wife as parents before the admission process was finalised.  However, the real virtues of a teacher was experienced by me when my child turned truant. One day I was called by the principal stating that my child was regularly bunking classes and getting into the swimming pool or to the playground during school hours.

I reached the school along with my wife.  I was told about the misconducts of my child.  I immediately apologised to the principal on behalf of my child and told her to take appropriate action as deemed fit.  I told her that I was fine even if my child was suspended for a few day, as he had defaulted multiple times even after being counselled by his teachers.  The principal’s reply was my biggest lesson in life.

She told me that she need not seek my permission to suspend my child.  That was the easiest decision for her and I was not summoned to take that decision.  She told us, that as parents we had a duty to partner with the teacher to reform our child.  She did not want to suspend but counsel the child in our presence and we ( teachers and parents) work together to help the child correct his behaviour.

There was another occasion when I was transferred from Delhi to Chennai.  My daughter was in the final year of school.  I was worried because when my father was transferred in my final year of school, years ago, my academic performance was impacted due to this transfer.  I did not want the same thing to happen to my daughter.  When I went to the school to enquire about this issue and seek the advise of the same principal, she immediately advised me to leave my daughter in her custody to complete her school education.

I had not known the principal and was stunned by this response.  She calmly said that she had two kids and was staying within the school premises.  It was easy for my daughter to stay with her and complete her final year of schooling.  This advise was not only selfless but unbelievable from someone whom you did not even know well .  The rest is history.  My daughter indeed stayed with her and did well in her academics and today is a successful carreerist in a public sector undertaking.

Subsequently, I have met a few other teachers and each time I have been impressed by their nobleness.  They always think in the best interests of the child.  They are unbiased and highly patient.  They want parents as partners to the progress of the child.  They treat every child as if they were their own. They are always willing to give to each and every child equal space and love. They never expect anything in return.

As in the photo above, this principal( in the white saree) is not only a life long family friend today but also a role model for all teachers in society. I salute her.

My salutations to all teachers today on the occasion of Guru Purnima.

S Ramesh Shankar

Language is not a barrier for kids


Language bridges people from across the world. It helps us to communicate with each other.  We can share ideas, solve problems and help each other succeed because of language.  But sometimes we believe language becomes a barrier between people and even communities and states.  Why does this happen ?  There is no logic to explain this nor reasons to justify it.

Let us look at children.  Have you ever seen children not mingling with each other because they cannot speak a common language.  I have never seen that.  On the contrary, I have even recently experienced my grandson and my nephew’s son play with each although they do not speak any language in common.  Children have a way to communicate with each other without any language.  Language is never a barrier for kids to share and enjoy together.  Why should it be for the elders ?

We have an opportunity to learn from children.  As elders, we make language a barrier between us. We feel it breaks down communication and will easily blame communication as a barrier.  How do children overcome this barrier ?  How do they communicate even without knowing the language of each other ?  I am reminded of a story, which happened in India a few decades back.  A french anthropoligist was visiting India to study in some part of rural India.  He neither knew english nor Hindi.  He was also not familiar with the local regional languages of that part of India.  When asked how he would do his research without knowing the local language, he responded that he would visit the villages and behave like children and then the villagers would respond.  This will help him study their behaviour.

Thus we need to realise that language can be an enabler for better communication.  It should not be a barrier to deal with each other.  It is also interesting to note that more than 70% of our communication is done non verbally.  Hence, how can we blame language as a barrier, which in any case only accounts to that balance 30% of communication between human beings.

It is fascinating to see children talk to each other without knowing each others’ language.  They are not only able to communicate with each other but even able to coordinate with each other seamlessly.  If you see them play a game together, you will see this in action.  What prevents the elders to not do the same? As we grow older in life, our ego becomes the barrrier between human beings and not the language.

We tend in live in own world and refuse to adapt ourselves to others as the situation demands.  Children are adaptive by nature.  They are always willing to give more than they take from others.  They listen more attentively.  This makes them communicate with each other bettter without blaming language or other factors as barriers.

It is time to reflect, un learn and re-learn this adaptive nature from kids.  Their ability to adapt is admirable.

It is time for change.  What do you say ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Sights and Insights https://www.amazon.in/dp/B072MGWCYR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_XMMxzbH5PSM3E

The ‘Aha” moment


All of us go through various experiences in life.  Each moment is a unique one in life.  However, there are some moments, which we may call as ‘Aha’ moments,  when you suddenly feel that you have arrived in life or something special has happened to you.  These moments may be small events in life but have a lasting impact on you throughout your life.

Let me try to illustrate through some real life experiences.  I was vacationing near the western ghats of south India during summer of this year and suddenly I took out my IPad and started writing a blog.  It was a moment of revelation.  A moment to cherish – as words started flowing as if water was flowing through the river bed down the valley.  It was natural and unplanned.  But the joy within me was unique.  I shared this experience with my spouse and since then started writing a blog every week without fail.  This was indeed a “Aha” moment in my life.

Another interesting incident, which happened in my life was when I joined my current employer.  I had till then lived in Kolkota and worked in Delhi and Chennai.  After moving to Bangalore in 2005, I never dreamt of moving out of that city to work.  But, suddenly in 2011, I got an offer from my present employer and moved to Mumbai.  This was an “aha” moment since I always felt like living and experiencing this dream city in my life.

My wife had passed out of college and was working as a counsellor before we got married.  After we had our second child, I encouraged her to write the National Eligibility test (NET) to become a teacher in college.  She reluctantly agreed and gave the exam.  When she cleared it at the first attempt, it was a ‘Aha” moment for her.  She had lost touch with academics but even without much preparations, she cleared in the first attempt and hence was overjoyed. 

My daughter always had a desire to study mass communication.  When she completed her graduation in journalism from Delhi University, she started to apply for many colleges to pursue her masters in mass communication. Suddenly, one day she got a call from the most prestigious institute for mass communication in India and this indeed was a “aha” moment for her.  Her joy was boundless.

My son was always a automobile enthusiast from childhood.  He dreamt about cars and bikes even during childhood.  As he grew up, this hobby became a passion.  Then he went for his higher studies in marketing.  On return, he was applying for jobs and out of the blue, he got an opportunity to work for one of the most coveted brands in the world car industry.  This was a “aha” moment in his life since he got to live his passion every day.

All of us have our “aha” moments in life.  It is up to us to enjoy the moment and share the joy with others.

S Ramesh shankar

Groundedness


I would define “Groundedness” as our ability to keep our feet on the ground at all times  even after we may have accomplished something in life. This is not easy but worthwhile to try.  Most of us strive hard to accomplish success in life.  We study hard, play hard and work hard for success.  The moment we accomplish something in academics, sports or work we believe we have arrived.

It is true that we deserve to celebrate our success.  It is not fair to say that one does not enjoy the fruits of hard work.  If you have put in your best and accomplished something in life, you deserve to celebrate it.  You are entitled to share the good news with your family and friends.  However, it is important to realise that what ever one accomplishes is life is not absolute.  You have achieved something in relation to someone else.  It is worthwhile to remember that we have millions of others in the world, who may have done better than us in the same field.

It is natural to compete with others when we are young and strive to be the best.  But it is equally important to compete with oneself.  We have to remember that whatever we have accomplished in work or life is not the ultimate.  Let us assume that one has broken a world record.  But there is always an opportunity to break one’s own record.  The best never ever rest.  It is critical to remember that the best do not fly in the air but are always grounded.

If you look at the work place, the situation is not different.  One does not respect people who brag about their position or power.  We do not admire people who beat their chests to share what they have achieved at work.  We salute people who give their best at work but always credit others for their success.  They ensure that they are always grounded.  They are fully aware that they have to work harder and smarter to excel at work.  

Human beings are not respected for the weath they accumulate or possess in life.  They are respected for their humility and simplicity.  The people who have their feet on the ground are the people who accomplish more than the people who fly in the air.  It is important to be a realist at all times.  It is great to dream and work hard to accomplish your dream.  But it is vital to be grounded to move on after you achieve your first goal.

If you look back at history, the greatest people on earth are the humblest.  They do not carry their titles on their shoulders.  They do not wear medals on their chests.  They do not rest after accomplishing their highs in life.  They share their success with others and most importantly keep their feet always on the ground.  It is easy to stray and let your feet off the ground.  The chances of slippage are higher than the chances of success in the future.

You could dream sky high but have to have your feet on the ground.  As the photo above illustrates that the tree has grown tall but has its root on the ground.

Let us learn to be grounded always.

S Ramesh Shankar

Sights and Insights https://www.amazon.in/dp/B072MGWCYR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_FoyozbTGCBJ05

You are not alone..


We are born alone in this world and we may leave Mother earth all alone when we die.  But, in life, we are never alone in anything we do.  When we go through ups and downs of life, many a time we feel that we are all alone. We do not feel that way when we are happy.  But, when we are going through a crisis, we get a feeling that God has been unkind to us.  Why me ?,  is a question we ask God  often in such situations.  

It is equally true that we do not ask God for explanations when she showers us with joyous moments.  I believe I deserved a promotion or I bought a house through my dint  of hard work.  However, when I am not considered for a plum role in the organisation or my promotion is denied, I always wonder why God is unkind to me.  It is in these very situations, we need to realise that we are not alone.

God always balances the good and the bad news for us.  It is possibly when we become too arrogant and forget to be grateful to someone in life that God gives us misery to get us back to mother earth and be grounded.  It may be worthwhile to reflect that all of us go through good and bad moments.  When we go through bad moments, it may be useful to think of millions of people, whose situation is worse than us.  However, it is human for us to compare only those, who are better than us.

Life has its cyclical ways.  We all have been blessed with pleasant surprises in life.  We are blessed with a healthy child or get married to a person of our choice.  We do not express our gratitude to God but consider it our dedication to life.  When something goes wrong somewhere for us, we suddenly get more spiritual and religious.  We may not have visited temples, churches or mosques for years together.  But, suddenly we become a frequent visitor to pay our respects to God.

I have learnt that life is happier when we are ready to embrace the good and the bad with equal reverence.  The day we realise that we are better off than the thousands around us, whose life is more difficult than us, we will learn to be grateful to God.  This principle is equally applicable at work and in our personal life.  If we lead a life of contentment, God will always take care of us.  If we lead a life of greed, God can never satisfy our needs.

So, it is up to us to learn to accept life as it comes.  We have to remember the good ness in others and be grateful to God and other people in life, who have made us what we are today.  Neither the good nor the bad lasts forever.  It is up to us to balance both and be ready to manage both in life.  After all, like the weather round the years, life has its own winter, summer and rains.  We need to adapt to manage all the seasons.

Just like in the photo above, there will be some people ahead of you and some behind you facing similar situations as you are facing today.

Lets live a life of gratitude and we will be ready to face life as it comes to us every day.

 S Ramesh Shankar