I believe in myself


In anything I do, the first step is to believe in myself.  A colleague commented on my previous blog and stated that while others may believe in you, you have first to believe in yourself.  He further shared an interesting quote – After failing to climb Mount Everest, the reply of a great man – “I will come again and conquer you because as a mountain you cannot grow, but as a human I can.”

In my view that is the spirit of a positive human being.  I fully agree with my colleague that belief in oneself is the first step to success in life.  I can share many life memories, where my self belief has indeed been the first step to success.  I passed out of college in 1981 and my father had  retired from service.  Being the eldest son in the family I had to start my career to support my family as by then my two elder sisters had got married and left our home.  In the eighties in India, getting a job was not that easy.  There were hardly any placements in college or campus recruitment. 

I was pursuing my post graduation in personnel management.  I had completed two stints of internships at two different industries.  I had done my best at both the companies but was not sure if I would get a job offer.  I was worried since being without a job at home was not a choice.  I had a responsibility to support my parents.  I had the self confidence that I will get an offer from somewhere.  I always tried my best and believed in myself at all times.  As soon as I finished my second internship, this company offered me a job within a week of my passing out of college.  

At another instance, I was working in a fast moving consumer goods company.  We had gone for a outbound along with the sales team.  There was an exercise wherein we were asked to climb a tree which was 50 feet high and jump to the ground, where a safety net was laid.  We had been given safety belts and there were expert trainers to take care of our safety.  Most of the team members refused to jump down except two of us.  Interestingly the two of us were the oldest members of the team.  We were 50 plus in age.  We believed in ourselves and also in our trainer and hence took the plunge and succeeded.  The other team members possibly did not trust themselves nor the coach and hence did not. 

In life, we may have many tough situations.  We may fail multiple times but the self belief should never get eroded.  The best examples are from the field of sports.  We see sports women and men lose multiple times but they never give up till they win.   I recently met a colleague from my company in a global conference.  She is an Olympic silver medalist in swimming.  She was narrating her own story.  She had lost a medal in the previous world championship and then practised for four years and won the silver in the next Olympics. She shared that she always believed that she could make it to the Olympic medal podium and hence never looked back.

Success in life is based on the foundation of self belief.  If we believe in ourselves, we will believe in others and we will never give up.  We may have crests  and troughs in life but our goal is clear and our self confidence is energising.  As in the photo above this young guy seems to brimming in self confidence.

Let the journey of a thousand miles begin with a small step and in my view the small step is to believe in yourself.

S Ramesh Shankar

“I believe in you”


” I believe in you” seems a very simple statement but a very powerful one.  I was recently in an internal global hr workshop when some of my colleagues gave me this idea.  We were discussing of trust and then someone said that I should write on this subject – ” I believe in you”.  I was touched by the power of the statement and hence readily agreed to reflect on it and write about it.

Let us start to examine as to why this simple statement is so powerful ?  When was the first experience of this statement for most of us ?  I would first start with our family.  In most cases, our mothers more than our fathers would have expressed this to us as a kid in both verbal and non verbal behaviour.  Most mothers believe that their kids can do the impossible.  This belief in itself empowers the kid and creates a sense of self belief.  They encourage their kids not only to study but play every possible sport and also try their luck in co curricular activities.  Like in the photo above, a mother will always give a thumbs up to a child in all his actions and always believe he will succeed.  The eyes of the mother speak and encourages her child.

If we move to the school,  the best teachers repose their trust in their students and make them believe that they can excel in anything.  As a student I recall a very interesting incident in my childhood days.  I was interested in debating but had never done one.  One day my English teacher made me participate in a school debate and made me believe that I could do it.  I was very nervous since I had never debated before.  But the confidence of the teacher in me made me go ahead and not only participate but win a prize in the very first competition I participated.  The invisible pat of the teacher may motivate the student.

If we move to the workplace, many of us will recall that the best managers and leaders infuse confidence in us by their actions more than their words.  They are always willing to take the risk and allow us to experiment and fail.  They may or may not say to us that they believe in us always.  This encourages us to take the plunge in areas, which we never would have even dreamt of.  The words and actions of the manager should inspire the team member.

If we examine the behaviour of our mother, teacher or manager who believed in us, there are  some attributes common in all of them.  They give more than they take from others.  They are unconditional in praise and stingy in criticism.  They are always positive in their attitude and optimistic in their beliefs.  They encourage us to experiment and are willing to support us if we fail.  They will always come forward to take the blame on our behalf if something goes wrong.

If this is so simple, why do many of us fail to practise such a simple thing in life as parents, teachers, managers or leaders.  I believe the simple things in life are the most difficult to practise.  It is like telling the truth.  I am yet to meet anyone in life who does not want to be truthful all the time.  But most of us falter at some stage of life or their and learn from our mistakes.  Some times we may say it verbally but still it does not have any impact.  I believe this may be because there is no congruence between our words and our actions on the ground.  Our actions do not reflect our beliefs and hence our words do not mean anything to anybody.

I think  I learnt a simple lesson in life today.  I promise that I will infuse this spirit of ” I believe in you ” in myself as a leader from today and will always try to display it in my verbal and non verbal behaviour with my family, friends and colleagues.

It is indeed a good insight !.  What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Raising the bar

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I am always in awe of Sergey Bubka, the pole vaulter, who broke his own record at least seven times in his sporting career and has 35 world records to his credit. Many of us will tend to believe that if we have reached a peak in our career or vocation, we can relax and there is nothing more to aspire for.  But the people, who excel always think that there are no limits to excellence.  It is like this plane in the photo.  You do not know if it is landing or taking off.  You may reach your destination but the plane continues its journey.

Excellence is a journey and not a destination.  This is true in all aspects of life.  It does not matter what vocation or career or business we are in.  I recall my college days.  We used to have a bus conductor, who used to excel in his role.  He would sing songs, be courteous to passengers and crack jokes with everyone.  This made him a role model for all bus conductors to follow.  We see auto drivers, who are excellent.  They are courteous, provide newspapers and magazines, provide wifi and are always looking to improve their services to their customers.

In life, it does not matter what we are doing.  There is always scope for raising the bar.  As a sports person would say, it is up to us to define our goal.  There are no limitations in this world except our own mental limits.  We tend to be caught in our own circles and then blame the environment or other people when we cannot raise the bar.  The best in the world are always restless.  They try to seek the impossible and make it easily possible.

Many a time as ordinary mortals we fear the unknown.  We are afraid to take risks and tread a path of comfort.  We tend to believe that we are doing our best and nothing further can be accomplished.  Most of us stretch ourselves only when challenged.  Either a visionary manager or the competitive landscape around us challenges us.  Even then, we try to find an escape route.  We tend to find excuses for our own limitations.  We do not want to dwell in the world of the Unknown.

The greatest of women and men in the world have always done the impossible.  There are millions of examples in our lives, where people have excelled in unbelieable circumstances.  We recently saw the Winter Olympics and saw athletes from around the world, who excelled without any infrastructure or facilities to back their preparations.  They never complained but steadfastly pursued the goal to excel in whatever they do.

It is time to reflect.  What makes people excel ?  It is not the resources but the spirit within us.  Some times, the competitive environment may propel excellence but the power to compete with oneself time and again comes from within.  We should be hungry to beat ourselves in everything we do.  We should aim to be the best in the world always.  But being the best is never permanent.  The sooner we realize this, the better the chances for us to excel in this journey of excellence.

The best in the world compete with others and compete with themselves.  They always have the dream of bettering the best.

We can try.

S Ramesh Shankar

“I” versus  “U”

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I have to take responsibility and give credit to U.  I have to lead by example and be a role model for U. I have always wondered where does I begin and U end.  In life, we tend to be centred around I and forget the U in most of our actions.  It is important to realize where to control the I and encourage the U and the We.

If we start in the family,  as parents, we tend to dominate our children.  The I in us dominates their life.  I tend to believe that I know what is good for my kids all the time.  It only changes when the kid turns an adolescent and then becomes a rebel.  The I in me gives way to the U.

At the work place, the scene is not much different.  As an individual, we work hard and excel and are a great team player.  But as we become a team leader, the I in us emerges and tries to dominate the U and We.  We forget how our leaders gave space and encouragement for us to excel.  This not only kills the enthuisiasm of our team members but also does not enable them to realize their full potential.

The social scenario is not very different.  Even as public figures emerge, they tend to be evolving as good leaders from the grass root level.  But the moment I starts dominating their ego, the U and We is subsumed.  This is the start of the downfall of the leader.

Thus, the earlier we realize the lessons of being humble and bury the I in our personality, the brighter are our chances of success.  This does not mean that I shirk my responsibilities in life by blaming U and we for all my failures.  As we learn in management, the responsibility has always to be with me but the credit is always to be given to the other person and the team.

It may be easier to write about than to practise.  It may be comfortable to advise others than to role model.  When your child is rebellious and you are told that you need to let go, it is not easy to digest that advise.  But as time passes and experience teaches you, one tends to realize and learn that I can be sacrificed for others.

May be it difficult to practise but worth a try.  What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Ego



An individual’s sense of self may be called “Ego”.   All of us have a sense of ourselves and it may be necessary to have it.   We all need a sense of belief and confidence in ourselves to give our best.  So, the word “Ego” per se is not a bad thing.  The problem comes when our ego overpowers us.  It is at this stage, we lose control of ourselves.   We act in a way, which hurts others.  Our ego is like the sun.  While the sun is beneficial to us, over exposure to the sun can cause all sorts of problems.  As long as we can regulate the exposure to the sun, it is always good for us.  Similarly, if we control the ego like keeping the sun within our fingers in the picture above, ego can help us build confidence in our self always. 

Let us look at how the ego impacts our behaviour in the family, at the workplace and in the society.  As a child, we behave normally and are willing to accept our mistakes and forgive others as well.  But, as we grow as adults, our ego bloats.  We have a larger image of our self as compared to others even in the family.  We start believing that other than us, nobody else could be right.  We want it our way or the highway.  This puts pressure on our own kids and siblings and considerable stress in family relations.

Now, let us move to the work place.  When we start our career, we are at our best behaviours.  We work hard and learn at every opportunity we get.  But, as we grow in our career and gain experience, we start gaining confidence in our abilities.  This is a good thing.  But as confidence transforms into over confidence, our ego takes charge.  We start believing that nobody else can be better than us.  Our interpersonal skills are put to test.  We get into more conflicts and ego clashes. Then, when we get promoted as a manager, we tend to believe we have two horns on our head.  Our pride overtakes our performance.  This is where we need to ground ourselves.  We need to reflect and learn to be humble as otherwise that may be the start of our downfall in our career.

If we move to the society and community, we start as grounded citizens.  As we prosper in life and career, we tend to gain power and status in society.  This power translates into arrogance and thereby we start ignoring others and believing that society depends on us rather than the other way around.  It is at this stage, some Good Samaritan has to mentor us and get us back to track.  At no stage in life, an individual can be bigger than an organisation or the society at large.  Hence, the earlier we realise this gospel truth, the better it is for us to develop as mature citizens of society.

Thus, we can see that “Ego” is necessary in life.  As long as we have control over our ego, it is fine.  The day our “Ego” starts controlling us we are doomed.  Ego has to enable confidence in us.  It has to make us believe in ourselves.  It has to propel us to deliver at work and in life.  The day our ego derails us and makes us arrogant, we need to hear the red herring.

Let’s manage our “Ego” and not the other way around. 

S Ramesh Shankar

Grass is greener on the other side always

Many of us would have heard this saying that the grass is always greener on the side of the shore.  It looks true in life too.The poorest man in the world aspires to the be richest. While the richest man wants to the be the happiest person and so on.  None of us seem to be happy with what we have with us.  We always want what others have and we don’t.


Have we ever asked ourselves as to why this happens to most of us in life ?  Is it because of the way we are brought up in life ?  Is it because of our education system, which makes us competitive ?   Is it because we assume that status in life is determined by more wealth than others ?  I really do not know the answer.  But, the truth is that all of us go through this in our lives.

Let us start from our childhood.  We look at other children and always complain that they have better books, better clothes, better sports goods and so on.  We also have aspired for things we did not have.  Then if we move to college life, life has not been different.  The only difference is that our needs transform into greed.  We want a bike, an expensive mobile phone and a car since our college mates have it.  It really does not matter to us whether we need them or  if our parents can afford them.  Some of us have blackmailed our parents to get what we want by linking it to exam results and so on.

Now, let us move to our work life.  Many of us are not happy with our work, our boss and the the company culture and so on.   We end up changing our job or role or location.   It’s interesting that many of us have realised that when we move to the other side , it makes us realize that life was greener at our original end.

It needs a lot of guts to change.  It requires courage to challenge the status quo.  Some of us take the plunge and when we land at the other side, life looks no different – or may be it does look different for some of us.  But, as time passes, there are other shores, which again look greener to us.

So, this journey is elusive.  The destination is not definable.  Does this mean we should not dream of greener pastures ?  Of course, we should.  All of us need to aspire for betterment in life and living.  We should look and get inspired by people around us, who are our role models. But, we need to work hard to realize our dreams  and accomplish greener pastures.

The only lesson I have learnt is that in the process of aspiring for more and admiring greener pastures on the other side, we fail to enjoy the present.  We need to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.  If you can recall the last time, you travelled by train, you will remember that admiring the green rice fields, the tea garden on th hill slopes, the passing mountains and the vastness of the river along side the train tracks were as much admirable as the beauty of our destination.

“Contentment” is the art of being happy with what we have.  Easier to state than to live.  But, may be worth a try.  If we can be happy with what we have, we may get what we want in life.  Let us the enjoy the greenery in our existing life before we look at the other shores.

Admire and enjoy  your journey as much as your destination.

S Ramesh Shankar

Theory versus Practice


All theory evolves from practise and vice versa.  If Isaac Newton had not sat under the apple tree, the theory of gravity may not have been discovered by him.  Hence, it is quite clear that theory is enunciated based on practical experiments or experiences and the other way around.

However, what is amusing in life is that many of us become very strong on theory and find it difficult to practise.  For eg. I have met people who can give an excellent lecture on “Gandhism” and write outstanding articles explaining Gandhi’s thoughts and how they could be practised in life.  However, they find it difficult to live a Gandhian life themselves.  This dichotomy leads to lack of personal credibility.

In the organisation context, if I preach on how critical it is for all of us to be customer oriented but I do not have time even to meet my customers, it is a case of double speak.  This, in my view is the gap between theory and practise.  Today’s generation is not very keen to listen to your wisdom based on your experience.  They are more keen to follow your actions everyday at home and at work.  It may be great for me to give a lecture on how the camel is the best animal to trek on a desert.  Nobody will agree with me till I can demonstrate that I can do it in the desert heat and balance my way as the camel trudges along the desert.

The situation is not very different at home.  Your children may listen to your pep talks till they grow into adolescents.  But, as they grow further, they would prefer to follow what you do.  You may be an expert on how consumption of tobacco is harmful to human beings and may have published research papers on the subject.  But, if they see you smoking, they are more likely to get hooked to smoking rather than to spread the harmful effects of tobacco.

If we see this phenomenon at home and in the organisation, the situation is similar in communities and society at large.  No public icon – whether in politics, sports or cinema is admired for what they say on television.  Youngsters today follow them in their daily lives even through social media and decide to follow them only when they are convinced that their leader practises what he preaches.

So, all in all our personal credibility is built on our ability to bridge the gap between theory and practise.  If I have to summarise, it is better to practise before you preach.  Or preach only what you practise in your daily life.  It is applicable as a parent at home, as a leader at work or an icon in society.

Time to start practising before preaching is today !

S Ramesh Shankar