Perseverance

IMG_1882

One of the qualities all of us wish we had would be “Perseverance”. I have not come across many people in my life time, who are perseverant in the pursuit of their goals in life. An unflinching belief in yourself and a dogged pursuit of your goal is what you aspire for. But it is just an illusion for most of us. This is one quality, which I learnt from my father in law, who left on his heavenly abode on 20th August 2017.

A self made man from a poor middle class family. After losing his father at a young age, he got into the government service. He rose from the lowest levels to retire from service after more than three decades as a Chief Accounts officer. His passion for mathematics was visible. But, what I really admired about him is his passion to learn new things in life all the time.

I have seen many incidents in his life, which speak volumes of his learning attitude and his passion to persevere. He lived along with his spouse and till the age of eighty five and was fully self dependant. He neither depended on his kids financially nor otherwise. He lived in his self built house, cooked his own food and maintained everything around him with his own hands.

A master of mathematics and a voracious reader. His command over English was admirable. He would discuss and debate on all issues and always had a point of view. He would never be satisfied with any response unless he verified it himself and was convinced. At the age of eighty two, he took to writing a book. He wrote the manuscript in his own hand and then requested my wife to edit it and contribute to complete the same and publish it.

Another interesting attribute I have learnt from him is his meticulous maintenance of records and documents for everything. The accountant in him was embedded in his blood. But the systematic maintenance of household records is indeed worth emulation. Luckily for me my wife has learnt this quality from him. He would maintain the receipt and history of every asset in his house and neatly maintained and easily retrievable.

He was a well read and a pious person. He had deep knowledge of the scriptures and all the Hindu rituals. While he followed all religious practices, he never imposed his views on others. He was always open to be challenged and was willing to accept alternate view points on any issue. He had in depth knowledge of Hindu rituals and could easily challenge the priests on festive occasions if they took a short cut.

If a person can pursue his post graduation at the young age of 75 in order to fulfil one of his unfulfilled goals in life, it is worth adulation. I have not seen many people in my life time, who have persevered with such dreams and pursued it till success much after retiring from service as well. He was a man of letters. Well read in religion, current affairs and even medicine, where he could end up challenging doctors on a wrong prescription.

I recently visited him with my spouse on a courtesy call. While I was leaving his house, he asked me to explain – “What digitalisation means ? “. Honestly, I was stunned and had no answers. I told him that I will research and revert to him with an answer. I did tell him that it could mean applying technology to make human life better. But, I did go back and did a lot of research to understand the concept of digitalisation. But, unfortunately, he is not alive today for me to share with him.

I can only state that he was a perfectionist in the true sense of the word. A man, who would pursue till he got what he wanted. Of course at times it could be termed nagging and you may get irritated by his perseverance. After all , none of us are born only with virtues. But, the positives in him far outweighed his improvement areas. I salute him for his stature and am grateful to have learnt something from my interactions with him.

May his soul rest in peace.

S Ramesh Shankar

20th August 2017

We win some and lose some…


We win some and lose some.  Life is a zero sum game.  Today we had three international games in which India played.  The first was when an Indian won the Indonesian open badminton final.  The second was a hockey match where India defeated its sub continental counterpart with style.  In the third match, India lost to the better team of the day in the champions trophy cricket final.  The whole nation forgot about the spectacular victories in badminton and hockey and was cursing the Indian cricket team for its loss.

The lesson I learnt today is our ability to accept loss in a game with grace.  We cannot win every game in our life and there are days we may win and other days we may lose.  We need to learn to accept victory with humility and loss with grace.  I do accept that we are a cricket loving nation and this sport has almost become a religion in India.  It brings together the whole nation and stirs emotions. But to swing to extremes of emotions on winning or losing a game may not be a good idea.

This phenomenon is true for life too.  We may win on many occasions and lose in some.  We need to learn to be humble in victories and reflective in defeat.  This is easier said than done.  We tend to get proud on being victorious in life.  If we continue to top the class or represent the school in a sport, it may go into our head.  We may get into the best school or college based on absolute merit.  We may then end up in the dream company of our choice.  All this should be accompanied by our feet firmly on the ground.  We need to learn to realise that victory could any day be followed by defeat.

On the other hand, when we fail in an exam or do not get admitted to a college of our choice, we almost give up in life.  Neither victory nor defeat is permanent in life.  The earlier we realise this, the more successful we may be in life.  In the cycle of life, victories and defeats are also cyclical.  God bestows us with the best of everything in life based on our hard work and commitment.  We taste success and the moment there is an aota of doubt that we have become proud because of our success, he gives us a taste of failure.

As the successes in life make us feel good and move forward, the failures in life should make us reflect, learn and bounce back.  We neither should climb a tree and announce to the world that we have arrived on achieving our first success, nor we need to regret our first defeat in life.  In my learning in life, failure teaches you more than success. Hence, the need to accept success and failiure in life with equal equanimity.

In my experience, success and failure in life is like the day and night.  We can neither expect the day light to last forever nor expect the night to be omnipresent.  Night begins when day ends only to give way to the next day.  Sun sets today to rise again tomorrow.  Just like the plants and animals learn to live with day and night, we as humans need to accept victories and defeats in life with equal respect.

As in the photo above, we can learn from a kid how to accept defeat gracefully when he is not able to climb a tree.

Every victory will make us proud and should do so.  Every defeat will teach us lessons, which in turn will make us victorious in the future.

Is it time to learn to accept defeat with grace ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Dilemmas in Life

At every stage of life, we are faced with dilemmas, which are difficult to resolve. I faced one such dilemma in my life today. I was not sure what is the right answer. If I had said yes, I may have been fair to the person and if I said no, I may have been fair to the organization. So either way it may not be the right answer.

One is faced with such dilemmas in every stage of our life. It may start with our studies. Which course should I take and why ? Firstly, we are not sure and then if we seek counsel, we are further confused. We may get contradictory advise from different persons. . Everyone may have your best interest in mind but how do we say yes to one and no to another.

The next major dilemma one faces in life is that of choosing a job. While you qualify for something, you may end up with an offer of employment in some other field. While you want to choose one, your well wishers advise you for something else. Choosing one can please one and displease another.

Another common dilemma is the decision on marriage. Everyone has an opinion on when one should marry and with whom. If your parents are keen for you to marry and you are not ready, it may be a dilemma. On the other hand, if you are keen and your parents want you to wait for a while, you are still in the same situation. What do you do next ?

Yet another common dilemma is a decision to change jobs. You may have considered all options and possibilities but you may end up more confused than before. While your spouse has a view, your parents have the opposite view and your kids have a third opinion. It is not easy to come out of such a web.

Honestly, I do not have a magic pill to resolve dilemmas in life. But, as I reflect I realise one good way to resolve them is to have authentic conversations with all concerned and share the reasons for your choice honestly and either convince them or convince yourself to change a decision.

This may be easier said than done. It may be easier to convince oneself than to convince others. You have to try it to believe it. In my view, convincing oneself to change a decision is as difficult as to convince others. But, this is one way to ensure that you are listening to everyone and taking the best decision in the circumstances you are in.

As in the photo above, you may be reflecting what to do without knowing how to do it in any situation .

Another interesting thing is that all decisions are contextual. Hence whatever you decide is the best in the circumstances you took it in. If it works out, it is great, if it does not, one should not regret it. One could not have taken a better decision at that point of time in your life.

Life is full of dilemmas and hence it is better to face it head on rather than duck.

Try it.


S Ramesh Shankar

Everyone has a bad day…


I was watching a reality music show on television for kids.  In my view, the best participant did not do well that day.  I felt it was ok.  After all, everyone has a bad day and so did this young boy.  It was a good lesson to learn.  Even the best have a bad day.  The only difference between the best and the rest is that they learn and bounce back fast.  We as normal mortals take our time to spring back to normal.

If we look back, it is true in every walk of life.  The best in the class may not top the class every single time and may slip once in a while.  The best in a game of soccer may not score every single time they play the game.  The best batsman in cricket may not score a century every time she or he walks into a match.  So, it is in life.  We may not have the best of time, all the time.  This does not mean, we do not give our best and put our best foot forward all the time.

The best sportsman always put in their best effort.  They are not rattled even if they don’t win a game or score a goal in a match.  They are willing to realise their mistakes and learn from them.  On the other hand, many of us tend to give up even before the game is over.  It is like the spectators in a match.  If their favourite team does badly in the first half, many of them leave the ground even before the match is over.  On the other hand, the players do not give up till the last whistle is blown.

I have seen in real life that champions never give up.  Whether it is in academics, sports or even at work, the best never rest.  They may fail once in a while.  After all, they are also human like all of us.  But their resilience is worth emulating.  They spring back many a time even before the match is over.  That is why many a time it is said in sports that form may be temporary but class is permanent.

Let us try to understand this from the prism of work.  The best performers may fail in a project.  But they are keen to learn from their mistakes and then excel in their very next project.  Many of us tend to get depressed and down and out after we fail in an assignment.  It takes courage to accept defeat and learn from it.  It is better to learn gracefully from defeat than to jump in arrogance after a victory.

It is interesting to note that failures teach you better lessons than success.  It is up to us to look back and reflect on our failures with an intent to learn from it.  We want to bury the past and race towards the future.  The lessons of the past may help us lay the foundation for the future.  It is up to us to learn from it and assimilate them in our life. If we do not learn from our past mistakes, the future errors may be graver and harder to correct.

Life gives us enough chances to err and learn.  It is up to us to realise that it is fine to fail once a while and learn from it.  In today’s competitive world, many of us including our parents, family and friends find it difficult to encourage us to experiment and fail.  The best leaders give you the space to try out new things.  They are not worrried about failure as they realise that these are the stepping stones to success.

As in the photo above, the best sculptors possibly fail a few times before they produce a thing of beauty for all of us to admire.

Let us look back to move forward.

S Ramesh Shankar

Comparisons


All our joy and sorrow in life is due to comparisons. We tend to look at others to feel happy or sad. Why does this happen ? I do not know but it is most often a reality in our lives. We tend to compare ourselves with our siblings as a kid and then our classmates in school and college. Then may be our colleagues at work.

I used to live in a city, where people bought a car or a house bigger than what their neighbour had rather than what they needed. This was because the societal norms in that city was to live by comparison. Imagine you buying something in life not because you need it but because your neighbour has it.

How do comparisons affect us ? It makes us less tolerant and also tends to create a complex within us. We either think we are superior or inferior to others. This leads to negative behaviour, which in turn impacts our relationships with others.

What do we do ? How can we live without comparing ourselves with others ? Yes it is possible. We could compare ourselves with people having more troubles than we have. We can compare ourselves with people who are less fortunate than us and this will make us grateful to God. We can compare ourselves with people who are better than us in behaviour and relationships and learn from them.

However, in reality we do not do that. We tend to compare with those who have more than us. This leads to jealousy and in turn leads to undesirable behaviour and actions. Thus leading to both physical and psychological illnesses, which definitely can be avoided.

Another positive way to compare is to do it with oneself. How was I when started my career ? How am I today ? How was I when I was a child and how am I today ? All these comparisons will make us feel better and more grateful to life and God.

We can learn from the sportspersons from individual sports. They prefer to compete with themselves than with others. This is healthy and absolute. It energises them to do better and excel every single time without losing any energy. They remain positive in life and are always focussed on what they want to achieve.

As in the photo above, two artisans do not compare their pieces (boats) of  art, as they create it.  Each is a masterpiece in itself.   They always try  to do better than what they have created previously.  This is the lesson we need to learn in life.

Even the most successful people in all walks of life tend to excel by bettering what they have done before. They are not feeling bad of others around them, who have done better than them. They learn from the best but always set high standards for themselves in absolute rather than relative terms.

Let us learn to live life on our own turf from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Humility versus Arrogance

IMG_1101
Life is full of choices. One of the choice we need to make is between “Humility” & “Arrogance”. It is not that the choice is between black and white. It is most of the time grey. While most of us like to be humble and modest in our day to day behaviour, its the effectiveness of arrogant people around us, which tempts us to review our choice. We sometimes feel that humble people are ignored and walked over. On the other hand, the arrogant ones are noticed and people do listen to them.

Many of my colleagues at work at all stages of my career have always expressed this dilemma in their life. Is it a good idea to be humble and ignored sometimes or be arrogant and get noticed always. I do not have a ready made recipe. But can share my learnings from life and its consequences. One can get away with arrogance as long as you are seated in a position of power in family, work or society. The day you give up your position, you are neither respected nor remembered.

If someone was to ask you to recall your favourite teacher in school, you would always remember the one who was kind to you and grounded. We never remember people who were pompous and arrogant in their behaviour. Life is no different. While it is true that sometimes arrogant behaviour may appear more effective in getting things done in the short term, nobody will every cherish your company in the long term.

Let us examine this phenomenon from various angles. The first angle is that of history. We adore people who were humble and generous in their thought and actions. We do not like to study about the arrogant and pompous types. This is not because we know either of them from the past. It is more because we would like to have role models who are modest and not abrasive in their behaviour.

If we look back at our work life, we will always cherish to work with people who are simple, modest and willing to learn and share with others. We may sometimes feel that they are not assertive enough but their humility bowls us over. If you are humble does not mean that you cannot be assertive. It means that you know where your feet are and are always willing to learn from your own mistakes. Pride is like anger. It can only destroy you today and tomorrow. On the other other humility is like honey, it will always make you a sweet person to adore.

If we look at our family and friends, we always like to be in the company of those whom we respect. We respect those who are our role models. Our role models are people who are grounded and kind. People who are humble will always be good listeners and effective coaches. Their actions teach others. Even if they do not actively coach anyone, others learn even in their company every day.

On the other hand the arrogant people spread venom. They may appear very aggressive and effective in the short term. But they spoil all their relationships in the long term. Their day to day behaviour repels people around them. Everyone tries to avoid such leaders. If given a choice, team members would prefer to join other teams rather than suffer in the hands of an arrogant leader.

The best thing to learn from kids is that they do not have to make a choice. They are natural in their disposition as in the photo above.

It is true that sometimes it may appear that humble leaders may look less effective. However such leaders are always better in the long term. Their leadership is sustainable and focussed on the future. They would never cut corners or look at short term benefits. On the hand, they may sometimes be willing to sacrifice short term gains to create long term sustainability of their people and organisations.

What would you prefer ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Smile please…

IMG_3493
Our facial expressions speak more than our words.  There is research to state that we express ourselves 70% of the time through non verbal behaviour rather than verbal.  This means smiles can not only be contagious but can make a huge positive impact in our lives.  Then, it may be worth while to examine as to why we are so stingy in smiling.  Many of us find it difficult to smile unless a situation forces us to do so or we do it as an obligation to others.   Interestingly there is also medical research to confirm that smiles can exercise our facial muscles better than frowns.

It is time to examine the reasons for our smiling or otherwise. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth and feel quite comfortable smiling at ourselves at the mirror.  We have our cup of coffee with our family and friends and the smile may continue to blink.  As the day progresses, we meet people on the way to work or school and the smile disappears.  The frown may gradually replace the smile as we believe our day is worse than anyone else around us.

It is time to wake up in the morning and be grateful to God and ourselves.  We should believe that we are the luckiest in the world and blessed with family and friends, who are so caring and loving around us.  We should look forward to getting to work or school and meet our wonderful colleagues.  This may not only make us more confident and cheerful but will spread happiness all around us.  It may make us feel good and spread goodness with every smile on our face as we interact with others.

Why blame the world for a negative attitude if we can change the world with our smile.  Another interesting dimension of a smile on our face is that it is very contagious.  It is almost like yawning.  Have your ever tried it ?  If you look at people yawning around you, you end up yawning yourself even if you are not sleepy or feel like it.  Smile is similar.  Try it.  If you meet someone who smiles around all the time, the spread of cheer is infectious.

It may be interesting to examine as to why we smile less and frown more at ourselves or at others.  It may be because of the imbalance between need and greed in life.  We are accumulating wealth with the belief that wealth may lead us to prosperity and which in turn may make us happy.  This quest for wealth is endless and leads us from need to greed.  The moment greed overtakes need, we tend become angry with ourselves and more greedy.

On the other hand, we meet people on the street, who are never sad.  They may not be the wealthiest in the world but they are the happiest.  If we examine them better, we may realise that they fulfill their needs in life and never are greedy.  They give more than they get in life.  Their smile is generous and unconditional.  They do not smile at you because they need you but they smile at you because they want to make you happier every day.

On the other hand, many of us carry the burden of the world on us.  We believe that the world is cruel to us.  We believe that we do not have enough for a happy future.  We are in the never ending quest for wealth.  We yearn for a future, which is always eluding us and in the process forget the existence of the present.   We forget the past as soon as we reach a stage of self denial.  This makes us smile less and frown more.

It is time to wake up.  Let us smile at ourselves and at others.  Let us cheer ourselves .  Let us spread happiness around us like a flower spreading honey to the bees.  The world will be a happier place to live in.

Lets start today

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017