Living in denial …

Some of us spend our whole life, living in denial. We are not willing to accept life as it is. We want to believe that we can change our life dramatically overnight without much effort. I would call this “living in denial”

I am a born optimist and always believe that everyone of us can chart our own destiny. But to believe that we can change our future without much efforts is fertile imagination. We tend to compare ourselves with the successful people around us and wonder why we cannot be like them. We may envy celebrities in sports or the film industry after they become successful but do not know their struggles and the arduous journey they undertook in the process of their achieving glory.

We almost believe that if celebrities who may be less educated than us can achieve something in life, why we cannot. There is nothing fundamentally wrong in thinking that way. What we need to realise is their journey to stardom may not have been a cake walk . If someone has achieved something in life, it is after years of toil and sweat and many setbacks, which may not be visible to us after they have arrived in life.

We sometimes think that we are always at the receiving end of life. It may or may not be true and could be just a perception. We tend to believe this way as we compare ourselves with others in terms of what they have achieved in life and not in terms of what efforts they have put in to reach wherever they have reached.

Life becomes challenging only due to comparisons. There is nothing wrong to compare with the best and learn from them. But comparing with others to feel bad about what they have achieved is only going to demotivate us further. It is better to compete with oneself and do better than whatever we have done so far. We need to always remember that “Excellence is a journey and not a destination”

The concept of “living in denial” not only leads to disappointment and frustration in our own life but tends to impact all the people around us. It is better to live life in terms of possibilities rather challenges. Every challenge is a possibility and we can turn tables upside down with our efforts. It is upto us to sit back and crib or plunge forward and attain our goals.

The journey of life is not always smooth. What we need to remember is that this is an universal truth and not exclusively applicable to us. Every individual struggles in her/his own way. Some are visible to us and some others struggle in shadows unseen to us. This does not mean they faced no difficulties in achieving what they want to. It only means that we are not privy to what they have faced before they have succeeded.

We need to set our vison. Then set our goals and evolve our strategy. This has to be followed by consistent efforts day in and night out and celebrate each milestone we achieve towards our goal. Every setback could be a learning while every victory could enable us to celebrate our efforts. This way can only lead to successful accomplishment of our goals in life. I have not seen it otherwise in my life or my career.

As in the photo above, the trek to the top of the mountain may be tough. But even that can be achieved if we are willing to take the first step.

The time to reset and start is today. Let us do it now.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th November 2020

Born to Crib…

We meet some people in our lives who crib for everything . They seem to look at life as an opportunity to blame others all the time. They may even cry as to why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and not the other way around.

I find this attitude of people very amusing. In my view, they not only make their own life miserable but makes life horrible for all the people around them. One meets such people in all walks of life. If you are unlucky, you may have one of them in your family itself. They do exist in organisations and even as neighbours in communities.

If you look at their typical day, they look for opportunities to crib. They may blame the toothbrush or paste for tooth decay. They may find fault in their spouse for making a bad cup of coffee. They find no nutrition in their breakfast. As they leave home for work, they find everyone around them violating traffic rules while they themselves may not stop at traffic signals.

At the work place, if the security guard wishes them “ Good Morning”, they may ask what is good about the morning ? Then as they settle in their seat, if their customer calls them complaining about an issue, they may shout back without realising that their action could make the organisation lose a customer.

In their world view, they are perfect in everything they do but find everyone around them as useless or not doing their duties. They are critical of everyone in the family itself. Most family members generally tend to ignore them as they cannot avoid them if they live in the same premises.

In organisations, sometimes they may be excellent individual contributors but nobody wants them in their team. They dissipate the energy of the team with their attitude and behaviour. They always looks at work and life as glass half empty. They always believe that they are filling the glasses while others around are busy emptying them.

I have met them in my family circles, friends and as colleagues at work. I have tried to influence them many a time to change their attitude to life. While it takes a lot of your own positive energy to change their attitude, you should be aware that they are capable of converting you into a negative person in return.

Organisations, communities and individuals have a responsibility to influence these individuals and convert them into positive personalities. It is not not only good for them but all the people around them. Their negativity can kill their own health apart from impacting others the wrong way.

I should clarify that all of us tend to crib at something or the other. The problem is when you crib at everything and not at something in life. When cribbing because a part your day to day habits and integral part of your life, that is when we need to work on it.

We need to learn from the snail as in the photo above and move on in life and never consider it has a full stop. The snail although slow and steady but never stops.

Even if each of us take responsibility of influencing one negative and cribbing individual in our lives, it will make a positive difference to everybody’s life. It will transform them, communities and societies at large.

Let each one influence one.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th October 2020

I

I am responsible

We are in the midst of a worldwide crisis. It is a pandemic impacting every nook and corner of the world. It started about a year and a half ago and does not seem to be ending soon. We in India fought the first wave quite well but our ability to anticipate the more treacherous second wave was not good enough.

Today, we see people suffering in every nook and corner of the country. It looks like almost every other family is impacted by this deadly virus. While statistics may look different to different people, the real impact is on the family which is facing the brunt even if it is the only family in that town, city or community.

We have had a lot of criticism of the way it has been handled by everyone. We are blaming the central government, the state government and even the experts from the healthcare industry for this state of affairs. Whichever end of the political spectrum we belong to we are willing to blame the party in power without knowing how much everyone knew or could anticipate this second wave.

While it may be easy to write about it or criticise it, (having been an administrator for almost four decades I can say with confidence ) it may be more difficult to anticipate or manage it as an administrator. So, the next question is , what do we do about it. I would recommend the following steps to deal with this situation :

A. Let the governments at the centre and state do whatever best they can in the current circumstances. Let us support their efforts without being critical of every action since I am not sure if we could have done better even if we were in their seats of power.

B. Let us take responsibility for our actions – wearing masks, keeping distance and washing hands everywhere we go

C. Let us take charge of our family and friends whom we can directly influence.

D. If we are large hearted, let us take responsibility for the community we live in to ensure compliance to all the guidelines prescribed by the government.

E. Let us be more responsible in not posting anything negative or creating false panic by forwarding messages on social media etc.

I believe if we are willing to do the above, the crisis will be under control sooner than later.

As in the photo above, this child is taking responsibility for his behaviour even standing on a beach. If a child can do it, why not we.

The most important step is that I take responsibility for the conduct and compliance of myself, my family and my community. If each of us are willing to do this, then we make the task for the governments easier.

Let us start now.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th April 2021

Looks may be deceptive…

I may call this the butterfly plant. It looks so innocuous but has the capacity to attract the best of butterflies all around it as you can see in the photo above. Life is no different. We meet people who look very simple and unassuming but they have the best talent in the world.

I have experienced this right through my life and career. I have met people from all walks of life. People who are well read and authorities on any subject hardly make their presence felt. The first name which comes to my mind is one of my professors in college. He used to wear tattered clothes and used to roam around with unkept hair . Anyone who did not know him may not imagine that he was a walking encyclopaedia. We could go and ask him on any subject under the sun. In the days when internet was non existent, he would track information from sources unknown and keep piles of paper and books tattered all around him.

I have a close friend who hails from a remote village in Maharashtra. He studied there and then moved to Mumbai and all over the country and specialised in the field of SAP. Today he has settled down in New Jersey and is a world authority on payroll part of SAP. His books are published by SAP worldwide. If you meet him, you will not be able to make out. He is simple in looks, dress and behaviour. Modest in his demeanour, he is an authority on his subject. You ask him any question on SAP HR and he will either know the answer or find the answer for you.

Another person I have met is the founder promoter of an industrial group in India. They are in the automobile sector and are known for their ethical way of doing business. This leader goes around in a simple kurta and even when he was an active CEO of the group, he would make his presence felt by his absence. His simplicity and ethics inspired you to give your best. I remember an incident when it was his daughter’s marriage and he came to me in my office to request for a photocopier from our office to be installed in his home. He requested me to note the meter number before it is dispatched and on return so that he could pay for the actual use of the photocopier. Such was the simplicity and ethics of this great leader. His looks will never make you believe that he is a billionaire.

If you look at the people in public space who excel in their respective fields too, we realise that it is not their looks which impresses you. Their humility and modesty blows your over. In their presence, we feel insignificant with their ocean of knowledge or expertise. They again prove that looks could be deceptive. A very ordinary looking person may be a super human. A good example for all of us in India from the public figures is our late President Bharat Ratna Dr. Abdul Kalam.

The lessons one can learn from such wonderful human beings is that looks ultimately does not matter. Our work or knowledge or skills can speak for itself as long as our behaviour is impeccable and we have a thirst to learn for life. They excel in whatever they do. They are simple in look, dress and behaviour and very grounded. Their quest for learning is limitless. They are eager to share their knowledge with everyone as they believe that sharing is learning too.

Is it time to look at the mirror.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th July 2020

Gurus in our lives

Who is a Guru ? Someone who teaches you something in life. It could be your teacher in the classical sense of the word. But, in my view, it could be anyone around you. I would like to explore people in my life, who have always taught me something. I am every grateful to them and I would call them “Gurus in my life”.

Let me start with my family. My parents taught me simple living and groundedness. My father taught me patience and my mother resourcefulness. My spouse taught me organising my life. My daughter taught me hard work and my son has taught me to live life king size every day.

If I look at my career, there are innumerable people in my life, who have taught me many things. My first boss taught me magnanimity and selflessness. My colleagues have taught me almost everything I learnt in my career. Whether it is learning about computers when I first used them in the late eighties or about apps which I use them today.

My friends have made me what I am today. I remember my first days in my career, when one of my best friends of my life evolved and he taught me what fairness and humanness is all about. Some friends have made me experience giving without expecting anything in return. Others have taught me as how you could be around for someone without even physically being there.

If you look at the place you live, you realise that the people who work in your community teach you something every day. My house help has taught me to live life smilingly irrespective of all challenges you face. Another person has taught me how to be creative with the available resources you have and only mind is a limiting factor to our imagination.

I have learnt a lot from the public at large and even from people whom I have not met a second time again in my life. I remember travelling with a sportsperson once and he taught me how to learn from failures. I learnt how one could serve the community without expecting anything in return from many people in public life.

I have learnt a lot from politicians too although we generally think they are useless people. I have learnt how one could be a great orator if you can master a subject of your liking. I have learnt how one could serve your constituency to the best of your ability even though you may not have all the resources to support you always.

I have learnt a lot from animals too. A Labrador at home as a pet taught me loyalty, gratitude and selfless behaviour. Birds teach me to live life frugally every day. The cats teach me how you can keep your environs clean all the time. The bees teach me how you can contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Life is a teacher. Everyone around you – human or otherwise teaches you something or the other. It is upto us to learn. A good student can learn from anyone. Age, experience or vocation is not a qualification for a teacher. It is the genuineness of the student and the eagerness to learn, which makes anyone a teacher for you. Our ability to observe and our willingness to submerge our egos may make us learn from everyone around us.

As in the photo above, our parents are our first Gurus in life and will always be for our life time.

Let us learn to be good followers. Teachers will always find us.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th May 2020

Despite all odds …

I have met people in different walks of life, who have succeeded despite of all odds against them in their lives. All of us face ups and downs in life. Some of us are willing to take it into our stride, while others buckle under pressure. What are the key characteristics of people, who are winners despite all odds ?

I will first share stories of some people I have met in my life or read about them to understand them better. Then we will try to look at the key personality traits of these people so that we can learn from them.

The first story which comes to my mind is that of young daughter of a constable in Tamil Nadu. She grew up in a remote town named Dindigul and fought against all possible restrictions to educate her self. Being a constable’s daughter she could not think of prestigious schools or colleges. But she pursued her dream of making it to the Indian Police Service by her sheer determination and hard work. She was ably supported by her parents and today she is serving the country in another state as an Indian Police Service Officer. Her real name is N Ambika and she is DCP at Mumbai today.

My second story is that of a tribal woman from Jharkhand. She also found it very difficult even to go to school. In spite of excellent academic credentials she could pursue her studies only in vernacular medium as she was not admitted in good schools. She scored 100% in mathematics but was discouraged to pursue her graduation in the same although she was passionate about it. Yesterday, I read that she has been appointed the Vice Chancellor of a University in the same state. Her real name is Sonajharia Minz and she is the Vice Chancellor of Sido Kanha Murmu University ( SKMU) in Dumka, Jharkhand.

The third story is that of a colleague of mine in my first organisation SAIL. His name is Koilvaram. He passed out his school in Tirunveli district of Tamil Nadu and then proceeded to Bhilai in search of a job. Those days most of us learnt typing or shorthand since it was easier to get a job as a typist or a stenographer. He started his career as a stenographer. Then pursued his graduation and post graduation through evening classes on his own earnings and then completed cost accountancy course too. He did not stop there. He applied and became a management trainee along with us in 1981 through his own efforts. He then learnt IT and moved to the insurance sector and held senior positions. Today he is working with the state of California in San Fransico. He has migrated and settled with his family in USA for many years now ( as in the photo above).

What do these stories teach us ? Nothing can stop us from achieving anything in life if we are willing to work hard for it. We need to pursue our passion with perseverance and never give up. Some of the learnings from these stories about the key qualities of these people are :

A. They have a dream and they pursue it till they make it a reality

B. They are willing to face any challenges in the journey of their pursuit.

C. They work hard and make up for their limitations and not go about complaining to everyone what they don’t have.

D. Dogged determination may be the key to their success.

E. Our limitations are more in our mind than in reality.

I have learnt a lot from such people in life. It has helped to face all challenges with a smile. We have many such unsung heroines and heroes all around us. It is for us to get inspired from them and imbibe their learnings.

Life is like a highway and we can keep driving if we want to and reach our destination without complaining about bad roads or the weather or traffic if we make up our mind to do it.

Lets start our drive today.

S Ramesh Shankar

31st May 2020

Full of life…

I have a met people in different parts of the world, who are always full of life. Nothing can or will impact their happiness in life. They live life as if today is the last day in their lives. They are positive about everything around them. They never give up on anything and face any challenge in life with a smile.

They are infectious with their positivity. They rub it on people around them. If you are in their company, you will feel a special energy flowing through you. You will experience optimism flow through you. Everything will seem possible and doable for you.

The question before us is how do they develop this attitude in life. Is it inborn or can it be developed ? I do not know the answer. But, I do believe that it can be developed if we are willing to believe in ourselves and in the potential of others.

I believe that for everything in life there are only two possibilities. One is -“ I can” and the second is -“I can’t “. Once I decide “I can”, I will find all ways and means to achieve my goal. If I decide, “I can’t”, I will try to find out all the excuses for not being able to achieve my goal. This happens in life and also in organisations.

This category of people always believe ‘ “They can”. They are always willing to take up any challenge and will give it their best. They never give up and are willing to lead or follow others as the situation demands. They will never crib and never complain about anything in life. They do not aspire for any power in life nor do they want credit for their contributions. They enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

One lesson we could learn from this category of people is that the key to happiness in life is to enjoy the journey of life. Most of us are so focussed on the results that we fail to enjoy the process. We live everyday as if it is a ritual. We are happy only when we achieve major milestones in life. On the other hand, these people celebrate life every day. The sun rising or the moon setting is a cause for celebration in their lives. For normal mortals like us, we tend to believe that the sun has to rise and set every day and so the moon. We fail to realise the joy of celebrating every moment of life.

Gratitude is another quality worth emulating from these folks. They tend to be ever grateful to life and everyone around them. They believe always life has been a gift for them. They are sure that people around them are there to always helps them. Their attitude to life and living is so positive that people around them find that they have no choice but to be good to them.

This seems to be the fundamental difference between them and most of us. We believe that we are the saviours of the world, atleast most of the time. We believe that our family, friends and colleagues cannot survive without us. On the contrary these people live life for others. They believe they succeed because of others. They are always thankful to family, friends and colleagues for their accomplishments in life.

So, the choice is simple. We need to just flip our beliefs and retune our attitude to life. Live for others rather than oneself. If we give more, we get more. If we spread happiness, we cannot but be happy in life. If we see joy every day in our lives, life is a wonderful gift.

As in the photo above, it is kids who can teach us this valuable lesson in life to be happy.

Life is the way we live it. Let us believe from today our life is full of possibilities. It is upto us to make it happen.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th May 2020

Learning by doing…

Choosing the right pan

I have always believed that learning best happens when you “learn by doing”. Today this concept got reinforced in my mind. A simple incident in my life but a great learning for my life time.

I normally have a half day fast once a week mainly to cleanse my body of all toxins. It is generally observed on Sundays but this week we were travelling and hence we observed on a Monday. Our routine is simple. No coffee or breakfast and fast till lunch with only water. Then break fast at lunch with fruits. Evening we take some dosas and end the day with curd rice.

Both my spouse and me undertook this weekly fasting exercise about a year and a half back. It helps us give some much needed break to our digestive system which works 24 x 7, 365 days otherwise. It also helps us refresh and rejuvenate for the week ahead.

We generally have fruits and then have a nap. When we get up,, we have dosas made of pulses as our first normal meal for the day. This not only is healthy but enables necessary intake of proteins and vitamins for the day. Normally my wife makes the dosas. Today she was a bit tired and hence I decided I will venture into the kitchen and try it myself.

I always thought making dosas was child play for me. This was because I had grown up as a child eating dosas and have had it at home and outside for my entire life. I have seen how dosas are made from the batter to the plate. The batter was already made and kept ready in the kitchen.

I had to just make it. So as I entered the kitchen I realised that I was not aware where the dosa pan was kept. Searching for it was the first task. Then I had look for the oil. As I got the oil I was not sure which of the two oils I should use as there was oil in two containers and both looked the same.

Then as I speak the batter on the pan, I thought I have made it till I realised after a few minutes that the dosa got stuck to the pan. I had chosen a wrong pan, which is normally used to make rotis. I did not know the difference between the two.

So as the dosa got stuck, I gave up my experimentation and waited for my wife to get up and help me with the making of the dosa. She got up and immediately pointed out that the dosa got stuck on the pan because I chose the wrong pan.

It stuck me that this was a simple exercise and just theoretical knowledge or observation was not good enough to do my job. In organisations, we think if we know the subject from college or have seen others do it, we can also do it. It may not be that simple. We need to learn by doing it ourselves.

This dosa experiment taught me and reinforced my learning that “ Learning by doing” is one of the best ways to learn and make others learn. We may end up making mistakes but that’s a learning too. I burnt the dosa and it got stuck on the pan but I did learn how to do it the right way , this way and hopefully next time will not repeat the same mistakes.

Our ability to accept our mistakes and learn from them makes us a better learner in life too. We need not feel bad that we have goofed up. Everyone does in some thing or the other. As long as we have the courage to accept and learn from it, it is great.

Life is always “Learning by doing”

S Ramesh Shankar

21st Dec 2020

Fraud God men and women

As a human being, we all are emotional and it is natural to us. We go through highs and lows in life and each moment tests our emotional stability. While most of us are able to deal with highs with relative ease, we find it challenging at times to deal with our lows.

When the chips are down, we look for solace. We look for support, guidance and a listening ear. In most cases our family members or friends come to our rescue and we are able to get over this crisis in our life.

However, there are some times when we are ridden by sadness over a prolonged period of time. We try to put up a brave face and surmount this challenge in our life. However, in many such moments we lose our mental balance. We find our grief never ends and we have no options to deal with this crisis.

We then find that our close circle of family and friends are not able to to support us. We sometimes even lose faith in God. It is in such moments of despair that we are willing to seek help of anyone around us who is willing to lend a patient listening ear. It is in such moments of despair the so called God men and God women exploit our emotional weakness.

They are prevalent almost in all religions and act like predators waiting for the prowl in a forest. They pounce on such emotionally weak human beings and offer them seemingly convincing advice and also at times emotionally exploit them. They abuse the human weakness and in the name of God seek favours of all types including sexual favours. They promise the impossible and unthinkable at times.

But as emotionally distraught beings, we easily fall prey to such predators. In my view, these God men and women are devils in the name of God. It does not matter which religion they profess, they are devils in human form exploiting an already depressed human being.

While many wise men and women may laugh at such unfortunate human beings visiting such God men and women, it is sad because they do so as the last escape from their personal crisis. They almost feel they are hitting their heads against the wall and these God men and women provide them a ray of hope and then exploit their emotional vacuum.

I would condemn such God men and women from all religions. We as normal human being need to condemn such people rather than the poor victims who fall prey to them for no fault of theirs. We need to challenge such God men and women and ensure they are caught by the police and do not exploit poor emotionally discharged human beings.

I am not aware of any religion in the world which supports such God men and women. But the irony is that they exist in all religions and thrive on the human weaknesses of men and women.

It is time to wake up. It is time to condemn them and make them hang their head in shame. Each one of us can make a difference by influencing people around us in our family and friends circles so that they do not fall prey to such devils ever in their lives.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th Nov 2019

What happens when someone takes the credit for your work in an organisation ?

A young aspiring professional called me up early morning today.  He looked very much worked up.  When I asked him for the reasons for his anxiety, he explained how some of his seniors were taking away all the credit for the hard work he puts in at work every day.

This is not an uncommon situation especially for youngsters starting their career in an organisation.  Interestingly, you see and experience this phenomenon in all professions.  Today, it is easy for me to write about it and share my views.  When I went through the same experience, it was one of the biggest challenges at the beginning of my career.

When you experience it as a young professional, you feel betrayed.  You feel frustrated and sometimes feel like bashing up the senior who takes away all the credit for your hard work.  As you grow up in the organisation , you realise that you are not alone to face this type of challenge.  It is faced by many and almost in all professions.  A senior lawyer may win a case based on the arguments and efforts of his junior and take all the credit for the victory.  A senior doctor may do the same while treating a patient.

In organisations, we see senior leaders taking the credit for presentations made to other stakeholders, which were never prepared by them.  Sometimes, they take the credit for articles never written by them.  While it makes you feel bad, it is not uncommon to say the least.

The question is how do you deal with it in your career, when it happens to you.  At the first instance, it may be a good idea to vent out your feelings to someone  near and dear to you.  This may make you feel lighter and better after this bitten experience in your career.

Then you need to settle down and realise that you are not alone.  It is important not to get distracted by such phenomenon.  I remember an incident when a senior of mine tried to present my case in front of the Chief Executive in one of the organisations I worked.  He was trying to take the credit for my work in front of the CEO.  However, when the CEO asked a few clarifications on the case, he had to call me in and he was embarrassed when the CEO asked if I had prepared the case.

We always need to believe that “Excellence” is a journey and never a destination.  The leaders who try to take the credit for the work of their juniors have limitations and they do expose their limitations by such frivolous behaviour.  They get exposed sooner than later when they make this a habit to take credit for others ‘ work.

As  I said earlier, it is not easy to deal with a situation like this especially when you experience this yourself in the beginning of your career.  As you grow up in your career, you realise that people can take credit for your work but can never take away your value to the organisation.  Each individual brings a certain value and this can never be stolen by others.

This nature of some leaders to take credit for others’ work reflects their limitation rather than yours.  They get exposed sooner than later in front of other employees or other stakeholders.  One does not need to put in any extra efforts to expose them since they expose themselves because of the lack of depth in the subject they take credit for others’ work. Of course, the time taken for them to be exposed may vary and this could add to the frustration of employees.  But my experience teaches me that it happens sooner than you believe as long as you are willing to always give your best and let them expose themselves in the process.

As in the photo above, while a captain can take away the credit for his team’s victory, everybody in the team and even the spectators know who deserves the credit for that win.

I would continue to focus on excellence and let these impostors expose themselves rather than waste my energy and time trying to figure out why they do so. I would want to focus on my strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Let us always remember that “Mediocrity will never recognise Excellence”.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th May 2020