Slow down before it is too late…

The Covid -19 virus attack around the world has helped people to forcibly slow down. I have always wondered why people are always on the fast lane especially in their career. The cut throat competition makes people sacrifice their life and family to stay ahead of the curve.

Let me be honest. I was no exception. I also ran the rat race till the age of 38, when suddenly an illness in the family shook me up. I used to spend extra hours at work and never worried too much about my family , friends or relatives. This incident not only shook me up but it changed my life.

I am not sure if it is worthwhile to run in this rate race called life. We need to get our priorities right. It is difficult to draw the line as to where work ends and family life begins. But it is worthwhile to do the same. After all, we all work to lead a happy and healthy life, enjoying ourselves with family and friends. What will we do with all the money we earn if we have no time left with family or friends to celebrate in life.

It may appear philosophical but it is worth reflecting upon. What is the purpose of life ? If we are able to find an answer to this question, it may help us set our priorities in life right. If not, we will continue to wander in this mesh called career / business and will never be able to get out of this vicious circle.

I remember a few years back one of my close relatives consulted me. He had got a great break in a leading fmcg company in Mumbai while he was working in a public sector organisation. He and his spouse both worked for the same public enterprise. Both husband and wife were keen to take up this job in Mumbai but his parents refused to move with him. Since his aged parents stayed with him, he was caught in a dilemma. If he moved, it was good for his career, if he did not move, his parents continue to happily stay with him. So, it took him some time to take a call. After consulting a few well wishers, he decided to sacrifice his career to keep his parents happy.

So, in life, we have to take a call on what is our goal ? What is our purpose ? How do we define happiness ? This could change as we grow up and as our family expands. But it is worth asking these questions time and again and prioritise your life accordingly. We have to remember that money cannot always buy happiness for you. In the true sense, money can make you materially prosperous but inner happiness may still evade you.

Today with the Covid – 19, virus hitting the world, everyone is shaken. Governments are dealing with this crisis every hour. Families are worried for their kith and kin especially if they are working in the virus infected regions or countries. We have to remember that we need to take a call what is important at every stage of our lives.

Having worked in the corporate arena for almost four decades, I am not professing renunciation of one’s career. I am only advocating that we need to set and reset our priorities in life time and again. It is fine if it changes and we go wrong. It is only when we make mistakes do we learn. It is good to learn and change. After all life is a long journey and we get more than one chance to make mid course corrections. However, if we don’t, we cannot blame the world, we need to blame ourselves.

Now is the time to sit back and reflect. Now is the time reset your goals in life. It is never too late but the earlier the better for us.

Lets start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th March 2020

Intent versus Action

I was wondering what I need to reflect on for the new year. I was reminded of the famous saying that read – ” A slip between the cup and the lip”. In life, many a time, there is slip between what we intend and what are are actions portray.

Today we are in a state of flux. We are at the threshold of massive change. India is poised at the right inflection point and we have a lot to gain if we act fast and in the right direction. If sometimes our actions misfire, we need to reflect on our intent and change course so that we can move in the right direction always.

We need to reflect on this point as a country, as a state, as a community and more importantly as an individual. Many a time in life our intent may be noble but our actions may not be in sync with our intent. It is never too late to reflect on it and change course if our actions do not lead us to our goal.

It is as simple as driving a high end car on a freeway. You may be enjoying the drive and may be at good speed but if you realise that you have taken the wrong freeway, it may not lead you to your destination. So, in life, if we need to change course to realise our goals we should and not get stuck on anything we have zealously pursued.

Let me start as an individual. Most of us are adept at making new year resolutions. We aim at the moon and make sky high commitments to ourselves. However, we realise that most of our resolutions die even before the ink dries up on the paper on which we had written them. It may be a good idea to reflect and take one small thing at a time. For eg. this year, we could resolve that we will appreciate one person around us every day. This may bridge the gap between intent and action as it is simple and it will give us immense joy in doing it every day. Life is a journey and there would be commas and full stops midway. This does not mean the end of the road. It only means we need to start all over again.

As a community, we have a rich heritage and we need to learn from our culture. We have to live and let live. We need to be more tolerant and inclusive in our intent and actions. Today we see violence all over and this is not what our culture taught us. We always were proud of the quote – “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”- the world is one family. As individuals we have to realise our duties before we try to exercise our rights.

As a country, we need to focus on our basics. We still have a long way to go to ensure food, clothing and shelter for all. Our focus has to be on these fundamentals. The government has to collaborate with the public and all political parties to deliver this. Let us ensure that every individual has her or his basic human needs fulfilled. Today we are 129th on the Human development index in the world. We should be among the top ten in the next decade.

Political parties need to learn to work together to achieve this goal. We have attained a lot of milestones since independence. If all parties come together, there is nothing we cannot achieve as a nation. Sometimes, we may make mistakes and it is fine to accept and move on. Our actions should always lead us to our goal. If they don’t, we need to have the humility to accept the same and change tracks and move on.

We cannot afford to move backwards as a nation. No political party has a right to damage public property as a mark of protest. Violence has no place in a civilised society. If we have to protest against anything, let us do it in a legitimate way. Let us learn to debate without offending anyone or hurting someone’s feelings.

May be time to learn from Lord Krishna, the eternal coach as in the picture above.

People in governance have the responsibility to lead the nation. They need to take others along in this journey. People in the opposition have to realise their responsibilities too. Who governs today may be in opposition tomorrow and this cycle will always go on in a democracy. Let us lead this country to be amongst the most developed and the happiest in the world by learning to work together as individuals, communities and as a polity.

Proud to be an Indian now and always. Wish you and your near and dear ones the best of everything in the new year. I would urge you to resolve to appreciate one human being around you every day in the new year.

S Ramesh Shankar

31st December 2019.

The journey is as important as the destination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Ramesh Shankar

7th September 2019

Leadership lessons from Ms Sushma Swaraj

India lost a popular political leader yesterday. Ms Sushma Swaraj was India’s external affairs minister and an outstanding parliamentarian. I have been a silent admirer of this leader for many reasons. Today when the nation lost her due to a heart attack, I can share 3 key leadership lessons, which all of us can imbibe to be better human beings and leaders in our own spheres :

A. Humility – A lawyer by vocation, she was an excellent parliamentarian and a former state Chief Minister and cabinet minster in the union cabinet for more than a decade. In spite of all these credentials, she always had her feet on the ground and was working for the welfare of the common man at all times.

B. Communication skills : She was one of India’s best parliamentarians in its history so far. Her ability to put her points across using the most dignified choice of words are worth emulation. She was the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and I have seen her tearing apart the government on many occasions but even her worst critic could not find fault in her language or her dignity. She bought stature to all positions she held in public life.

C. Accessibility : As leaders grow higher in the hierarchy, they tend to lose their connect with the grassroots.. However, even as external affairs minister of the country, she was accessible to the common man from India and across the world. She used social media effectively and responded to every sos call to her at lightning speed. I have seen many senior leaders not even reply to emails from their own employees or return phone calls since they felt it was below their dignity to respond or call back their juniors. This is one of the best lessons which Sushma Swaraj gave to the common man and leaders of today

While all of the above may appear simple, they are the most difficult to adhere to. I have spent 38 years in corporate life and can share that I have not come across many leaders in my life who have been able to successfully imbibe all these three qualities with equal rigour.

I salute this great daughter of India and pray for her soul to rest in peace. I commit that I will try to imbibe all the above qualities in my life and be humble, dignified in my communication and accessible to the last person in the hierarchy I deal with. Although I have tried all of them but to say the least , I have a long way to go in all these aspects in my life as a leader.

It is time for each of us to reflect and learn ? RIP Sushma Swaraj.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th August 2019

Celebrating father’s day

I sometimes wonder if it is worthwhile to celebrate all these days in a year by sending flowers or gifts to our near and dear ones. I believe these days are created by the marketeers to sell more products for their brands.

In my personal view, it is not worth killing flowers by sending bouquets or sending gifts to our mothers, fathers, siblings or friends. It is more symbolic and does not serve any purpose. We may end up sending gifts which they don’t need or already have them.

What could be a better way to celebrate these days. I reflected on it since I realised that the third Sunday of June is considered Father’s Day. I lost my father when I was 25. It took me more than a year to recover from this shock. However, assuming he was alive today, I may not have sent him flowers or gifts. On the other hand, I would prefer to commit to myself to imbibe one great quality of his in myself.

When I started my career in 1981, I was a very impatient guy. I lost my temper the drop of a hat and was least bothered about the impact it would have had on the people around me. I was given feedback by my family members, friends and colleagues, which I ignored it at my own peril.

But over the years I had seen my father as an epitome of patience. I have seen him lose his cool only twice in my lifetime. I decided one day that I could learn and imbibe this quality from him. I have since then tempered myself and can happily confess that today I have a lot of patience at work and at home. My family and colleagues will vouch for it. I may lose my cool once or twice a year.

So, my recommendation is to pick one great quality from your father and imbibe it. It may not be easy and may take many years to inculcate. But, this would be a better gift to our fathers than gifts of bouquets, which may not mean much to them. Our transformation into a better human being will be valued by them much more than any gift can do on earth.

This step could be for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day or sisters day or brothers day. It does not matter whose day we are celebrating. After all we can learn goodness from all people around us – younger or older, relatives or friends.

It is time to challenge some of the rituals imposed by the marketeers of the world. It is time to be different and lead by example for our future generations. We should leave behind rituals for our future generations, which are inspirational and not those which are mechanical in spirit.

Time to start is today as it is Father’s Day.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th June 2019

Accepting defeat with grace…

We witnessed elections in the world’s largest democracy over the last two months. It was characterised by political debates, accusations, allegations and counter allegations as one can expect from such an event.

I admire the Election Commission of India for meticulously planning and organising a fair and largely peaceful election in a seamless manner. We were possibly the first country in the world to adopt electronic voting machines. We can be proud of this accomplishment, which many developed nations have not been able to adopt so far.

However, what we see as an aftermath of such a massive exercise is blame game. Political parities find faults with the election commission. They also blame the electronic voting machines for their losses. Today a political leader even went to the extent of blaming foreign forces for their defeat.

I am amazed at such reactions. One life lesson is to accept a “win” with humility and a “loss” with grace. After all the public at large comprises of citizens like you and me. We are well educated and make our judgement based on ground realities. We elect parties or leaders for their credence and not for any other reason.

We need to educate our political class to adapt to the technological changes impacting them. Today is it is electronic voting machines. Tomorrow it could be artificial intelligence or the blockchain, which may play a role in elections. What surprises me is that the so called educated politicians, who are professionally qualified like lawyers, management graduates, engineers, doctors etc are the first to criticise this way when they lose or their party faces defeat in the hustings.

My learning in life is to accept defeat with “grace” as much as treat victory with “humility”. This is what we can learn from all the best sportspersons in the world. A sportsperson glowing with arrogance after a victory fades into history. On the other hand, the humble sportsperson, who bows out with grace even in defeat is always the winner in our minds.

Politicians need to learn this lesson in life. We should not end up blaming our constitutional bodies and institutions for narrow political gains. After all, the citizens in modern India want better roads, clean drinking water, good health facilities and world class infrastructure. We want jobs for all who need it and health and happiness for the common man. We envision India as the best and the happiest country in the world.

It is time for political parities and politicians to rise above narrow archaic beliefs and work for the larger good of the nation. Let parliament work for 100% of the days, pass all needed legislations. Let the honest citizens be rewarded and the crooks in society be booked.

It is time for us to make India the best democracy in the world apart from being the largest. The government and the opposition needs to work hand in hand like the twin lilies in the photo above.

Let us learn to accept defeat with grace and victory with humility.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th May 2019

Learning “Motherhood” on Mothers’ day

I am not a great fan of “Mothers day”, “Father’s Day” etc, which are celebrated off late around the world. In my view, it is more a marketing gimmick for selling more products and promoting brands. Having said that, the second Sunday of every year is celebrated as “International Mothers’ day”. I would rather learn motherhood from the wonderful mothers around me rather than promote a marketing gimmick.

What can we learn from our mothers ? I would list five qualities, which I have learnt and admired from the mothers I have interacted in my life. There could be many more and these are my significant five. You could share your valuable five and this way we could learn from each other.

The first quality which a mother exudes is “Patience”. I have hardly seen a mother who does not put in extra efforts to display her patience. Right from feeding an infant or dealing with the antics of a child or bracing with the rebellion of an adolescent, a mother teaches us precious lessons on patience.

Perseverance is the second quality I have learnt from mothers. A mother never gives up. They don’t give up on anything. They are willing to convince anyone for getting their things done. They will follow up with anyone and everyone for the sake of their kids at school or otherwise.

The third quality one can adore in mothers is their “Selflessness”. In today’s world, most of us are so self centred that we forget many a time that there is a world around us. A mother on the other hand is serving others all the time and in this process,most of the time, forgets that she has her own world to live in. She lives for others all the time.

Loyalty is best learnt from mothers. They are loyal to their parents, their in laws, their children , sisters, brothers and their friends. While men may also be loyal, the unconditional loyalty of mothers’ is to experienced to be believed. It is to be believed to be learnt from our mothers.

The fifth quality I admire in mothers is their “unconditional love”. We all express our love and expect the same from others as human beings. However, mothers tend to love unconditionally. I cannot visualise a mother loving someone conditionally. This gives them the power of letting go when the love is not reciprocated in equal measure. This is when most of us find it difficult and feel hurt in our lives.

As I said earlier, a mother is an epitome of humanness. She is endowed with limitless qualities but I thought let me share my best five and request you to comment and share yours so that together we learn from one another.

As in the photo above, a mother appreciates her kid as much as she would do to other kids around her.

Our best tribute to mothers would be to imbibe at least one of these attributes from our mothers and live it every day of our life.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2019