I was meeting a very close friend after long long time. Almost a lil over a decade. Our priorities and pursuits had kept us busy. While we did keep a track of our lives and spoke occasionally, we hadn’t met for long.
Seated at a nondescript joint aptly named Madhushala at Hyderabad, we updated each other about our lives. In the last decade, my buddy had gone through hell and experienced heaven later 😊 He lost his house that he had built with so much love, landed on streets, become bankrupt, escaped death from a devastating accident, subsequently landed a great job with hopeless boss, and so many other travesties of life. He had overcome all this, kept upgrading himself, doing his job with elan & passion, got new certifications and subsequently cracked a great interview and now become a Global HR Head with a reputed organization that finally decoded his intrinsic talent and capabilities. In the last few years, he has achieved far more than what he lost and is now a very successfully happy person.
I asked him how he cracked the code. How did he overcome so many tragedies, just any one of which could break any individual. What he said just blew me away. It was the solution that we all perhaps always have known but never exercised. He told me he chose positivity & happiness over negativity and self-pitying in sorrow. He added that there is no competition in the first category of positivity & happiness and that is where he chose to be. The second category of negativity, self-pity, complaints, cribbing & sobbing in sorrows is overcrowded and highly competitive.
Wowww…. So damn true… This just blasted a flashing light of enlightenment in my mind. Madhushala just had become my BodhGaya…. In a moment I will come to the first category, let me speak about the second one first…. As rightly analyzed… there is a huge population out here .. each fighting to gain supremacy on how much they are suffering over others, how life has dealt the worst cards to them, how everything that can go wrong has gone wrong with them, how the almighty seemed to have forsaken them… a highly overcrowded group with extreme levels of healthy competition. No, I am not saying that they are wrong… each one in his best knowledge must certainly be suffering and be pained with the calamities & misfortunes that fate had dealt out in their lives. As soon as you become a part of this crowd… I have a life membership here that I am about to renounce… you get complimentary mental shades that blind you towards any hint of happiness, blessing, gratitude in your life and feeds your senses with how nobody is suffering better than you.
The first category of people is usually like the empty movie halls of a flop movie… hardly any crowd. No competition at all… This is the place where no self-pity… no wallowing in sorrows always… no looking in rear view mirrors and speeding ahead in life is allowed… here you tend to get filters that keep away the worst in your life and highlight the best that is there… the possibilities, the potential, choices that can lead to pursuits of passion & purpose, gratitude to existence for each day of breathing… appreciation of the small mercies of life that millions might find as luxury… chasing the brightness of life and choosing to be happy by making choices that lead to happiness. There is no competition here at all.
Circumstances influence choices… choices influence decisions … decisions influence outcomes & outcomes lead to circumstances… It’s a circle. We are products of our choices… so were our ancestors and so will be our progeny. How we react to circumstances again is a choice. And from this choice, decisions are born which lead to pre-determined outcomes. If Krishna said that we have rights to only our karma and not the fruits thereof, he did not discount the outcomes of karma. What he meant was that the moment you make a choice and act upon it, usually the outcome is pre-determined. Squeezing lemon juice on a blue litmus paper can be a choice… and of course the outcome of that karma may not be in your hand as the choice of karma you made has already a defined outcome as its fruit.
Had we given greater efforts and strived harder our scores in all our exams might have been better and led to more brighter prospects. Had we chased our passion with single minded obsession, we might have perhaps achieved what must have given us existential joys. Every choice we made in whatever way we did, gave its appropriate result. Here is Sanjeev Baba’s First Law of Existence: Every Seed of Choice Has a Predetermined Output in its embryo. The moment you germinate the seed with action, by exercising the choice, you have given life to the fruit of your choice …
Making a right choice for yourself is a choice. Choice is a choice. We are Our Choices. Choose carefully.
I have chosen to relocate to the first group by renouncing my life membership & leadership position that I had in the second one 😊
Leadership is most often a very lonely zone. A breed usually left alone to grapple with assigned goals, strategies and their successes, team expectations and their fulfilment, creating directions and its implementations, masking own vulnerabilities for obvious fears, managing stakeholders & team-mates and those in a hurry to replace you, perceptions & politics, varied stresses with its repercussions, biases, prejudices… eh.. the list is just endless… As you climb higher and higher, the hallowed stratosphere makes normal carefree existence & breathing so much more difficult… unfortunately, that doesn’t discount the fact that this breed is also as human as any other being.
In such an unenviable situation, who do you look out to shoulder your fogged head? Who do you trust your vulnerabilities with? Who do you discuss your fears with? Where can you allow yourself to break down as a human being yourself? Leadership Gurus say that this is where one must consider having a “Leadership Buddy” and it’s time that such a breed is discovered, identified, and onboarded. While this, in ever-competitive corporate environs, itself could be a possible weak link… for it has often been seen that your best friends also have their own best friends, and each have their own definitions of “what happens in Vegas promise” and the territories of Vegas just keeps ever expanding…. Thus your stated vulnerabilities could end up leading to your own undoing… Ahhh… the horns of dilemma are just getting sharper….
The larger concern continues to perplex as to whether this species called as a leader continues to brood alone, bottle up everything within and eventually implode… disastrously?
Wonder if there are any apt solutions worth brainstorming….
Marianna Williamson says that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
It’s not just Marianne who has wondered about the powerful nature of the potential of the very talented or for that matter just anyone of us who just has untapped potential waiting to be given wings to. From childhood we are taught to question ourselves if we ever think outside the box. We are chiseled and crafted to not just box our thinking and curiosity within the confines of centuries old learning boundaries or as simple as wear a uniform across our formative years to be like everyone, but to also think & understand & act in a uniform regimented manner. Anyone who ever dares to feed their unique thoughts and convert them into their own unique actions are tempered to toe the line and be like others. Even a child writing a CBSE public exam doesn’t have the choice of writing answers in his/her own words and understanding and rather must barf the answers verbatim as taught. In a robotic environment, all robots are supposed to serve the program and not any intelligence. The artificial intelligence of the mass is the norm, and any rebellion of uniqueness is intolerable.
In such an ecosystem it thus becomes a crime to be brilliant, stunning, talented, magnificent… as all of these come with their set of public problems in the form of peer pressures, societal jealousies etc and authorities set over you usually do not take lightly to those who have a mind of their own. Whenever a regimented robot displays any uniqueness outside the purview of the program norms, as a knee jerk primary & involuntary reaction, this entire constellation of mediocrity starts to conspire in a very automatically clandestine manner on how to “normalize” & “standardize” you.
And as we grow up, the spark in us is killed in instalments. We start conforming to the set standards of uniformity and status quo. And here is how we nurture and breed the vast armies of mediocre mindsets and keep creating better versions of bonsai intellects … breed after breed… and then release these well programmed and trained bonsai mindsets into the society. They slowly keep mauling, mutilating, and morphing these mindsets, chiseling it further within the networks of their mutually shared experiences and eventually start occupying supervisory positions in various capacities in the society, in various realms… be it as teachers, supervisors, inspectors, managers, dogma peddlers, etc etc etc…
And this is the genesis of the competence paradox. In the competence paradox a group of less competent people, societies or even individuals in positions of authority, with questionable competences, collectively or individually as the case may be, are set upon to decide on the future and fate of the comparatively more competent, which usually and most often leads to counterproductive/devastating impact on the contextual aspirations that both these set of people initially set out to achieve.
And as we see all around us, across many civilisations, how the most competent have paid atrocious prices for their competence, the paradox triggers in and conditions us to conformity. Our light starts frightening us and our capabilities become our lethal enemies. And as we start dimming the intensity of our intelligence and our capacities to conform to the less advanced lifeforms set over us, our belief in our own intrinsic powers start diminishing proportionately… till we become caricatures of our own possible selves and instead end up as verbose fierce critics of the potentiality of talent… thereby now becoming a contributing member of the regimented brigade of the mediocrity.
If you carefully analyse the trends from the start of civilisation, the folklore of our mankind is filled with numerous examples of how the potential ones always paid the dastardliest price in their pursuit to deliver their best creativity that usually took humanity a notch better than it always could have been. The coterie of the less competent lifeforms in any age has gone to any extent to safeguard the interests of their ilk. Whether it was Socrates, Stanley Meyer, Sam Manekshaw, Bhagat Singh, Sardar Patel, Gurudutt, RD Burman, Nambi Narayanan… and the millions of similarly ill-fated unknown faces across different geographies, across different industries, across the ages… paid a heavy price for their competence
That’s speaking on a larger scale… I have seen this ‘future destructive’ paradox manifest itself in the most microcosmic manner & most unfortunate of all places… young & fresh talent… hired straight out of management institutes, then being conditioned to conform to set coterie standards … that very same status quo that they were presumably brought to question, challenge, and change. In my professional life, across the last decade, I have witnessed hundreds of these new bright youngsters being hired fresh out of colleges… with an intent to bring in fresher perspectives, agility of action and youthful energy to the organizational aspirations being eventually chiseled to maintain status quo. These young kids, when they start of, come with stars in their eyes and an intense belief that they will challenge the status quo and herald a positive change… in fact not just these sophomore graduates… that’s the case across all bands of new recruits… be in the armed forces, the civil services, private sector management cadres, you name it… the paradox, more often than not, always, and always triggers. They end up usually reporting to “innocent victims” of the famed Dunning Kruger Malady, in which the one with lower competences in a given intellectual or social context overestimates their own abilities comparatively and start believing in the power of their incompetence to deliver. And when these people face those with any better talent or abilities, they not only ignore it, but also take steps to devaluate it and diminish it by reprimanding it & conditioning it to their own levels and pinning their failures on them. And thus the cycle of the incompetent breeds further incompetence keeps rearing its ugly head, leading to mediocre outputs continually. Most of these young bright minds early on realise that you can’t beat them and thus join them and get baptised into the unholy nexus of coteriest philosophies and dogmas. Eventually what could have been a huge bank of fresh possibilities and innovation, metamorphoses itself into average and ordinary.
Challenging status quo, stating the facts as they are seen, recommending improvisations to those ailing with “don’t teach me… I have so so many years of experience” syndrome, trying to wrench open the doors of their closed minds, actually ending up bringing fresh ideas to the tables as per the preachings in the board room lectures… all have become unpardonable transgressions of standard accepted procedures & unseen but irrevocable corporate etiquettes. In such an environment, the talented, the competent, the contributors and the change agents find it extremely difficult to remain objective. They continue to be tormented by the agonizing queries of their intellect on why they should continue to remain objective. Surely enough wasn’t that what they were asked for in their interviews, inductions and key responsibilities assigned.
At the same time, it is becoming increasingly painful to remain neutral as well. In ecosystems always moving in polarized directions, where positions of power are unfortunately bestowed in certain biased ways, new neutrality simply means accepting the way as things are now. Its an ecosystem of clashing interests – incompetence against competence, sycophancy against objectivity, Siloistic interests against professed teamwork, personal greed against collective goals, mediocrity against excellence and “smart work” against hard work…it has just become impossible to remain neutral in these conflicts. And if you ask me, I wouldn’t even recommend it. Neutrality simply cannibalises your time & growth. On the contrary, being the devil’s advocate here, objectivity can possibly kill your interests instantly. So then, within the operating ecosystem of this paradox, is sitting on the fence the only option for the competent?
Honestly, I don’t have any answers or solutions. To each his own. In some brief spark of intellectual intoxication, I felt that the competent must explore entrepreneurial pursuits, if they really want to nurture that element, which they are getting paid to actually decimate in instalments… namely their sanity, their integrity of intellect and their intrinsic competence. I am yet to find a flawless solution. Perhaps there aint any. Maybe they should get together enmasse, as did the best minds in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged & collectively stop their thinking… which actually is fueling the motor of any success & achievements, growth & profits…. Without commensurate rewards in return. Maybe…
Yet in the current context, acceptance has become our major problem. We have learnt to concede to the cabal of the incompetent. We have learnt to accept the things the way they are. In this criminal process, millions & millions of brightest of possibilities are getting doused in the furnace of collective mediocrity. We continue to remain accepting in the face of biased injustice, nepotistic favouritisms & collective idiocies. This is an unforgivable crime against humanity. For with this condescending attitude, we are miserably slowing down the rate of progress & the pace of potential development of mankind. It is this competence paradox that led to the greatest of catastrophes that mankind has ever had to bear. Be it the world wars, the destruction of civilizations, the erosion of humanity in human beings, the climate change or the cannibalising of smaller countries by the powerful ones. It is the same paradox that destroyed the challenger space mission killing all the astronauts on board, or the sinking of titanic, or the sinking of so many corporations & millions of their dependent personnel that I have already mentioned in my previous blogs… this competence paradox is the most disastrous curse on humanity.
While I don’t really have any solutions, perhaps the solution lies in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Once three professors of psychology were at a railway station awaiting their train & in the meantime were deeply engrossed in a generic conversation. They were so deep into proving each other’s points that they failed to notice the train arriving. When the train hooted and began moving, they realised the presence of the train. By the time they understood what was going on, there was commotion and they started running towards the train which had almost left the station. Two of them just about managed to hop on to the last bogey. The third one was left behind.
Now the third one left behind started crying in anguish… A porter passing by tried to comfort the professor. He asked the wailing Professor on the cause of his agony. The learned professor said that two of his fellow professors got on the moving train and he was left behind.
“It isn’t really that bad, sir,” said the porter. “At least two out of you three, caught the train. You must be happy for them. That’s quite good, you know.”
“I know,” the professor said. “But that’s the problem.. it was my train. They had only come to say goodbye and see me off” 😅
We live in very strange times and are totally addicted to meaningless distractions. With the chronic addiction to the screen, the curse of digital dementia seems to be getting too dangerously real. It’s just so easy to test this.. even on a holiday, try to isolate yourself from your phone, emails, WhatsApp, the pleasurable urge to look for the counts of likes in your innumerable social existences… chances are that we will fail miserably. These diversions and distractions have become our primary identity and have just about destroyed our creative potential. The flood of useless information & meaningless distractions seem to have arrested our ability to explore/remain the best forms of ourselves and instead clogged our potential to explore our real avenues of happiness. This epidemic problem is now becoming the biggest roadblock in our pursuit of achieving the excellence that each one of us is born with… the boon of easy availability of just about anything at a click or tap and the variety of meaningless choices have victimised our basic individuality and specific preferences suitable to our palate.
We are either becoming like those getting into the passing trains that weren’t meant for us… or worse.. we are missing out on trains that were meant to take us to our chosen destinations.🤓
In 1997, an irrational optimist, in his own words, Reed Hastings along with a carpooling partner Marc Randolph, had metaphorically speaking, jumped out of an airplane in the confidence that he could catch a bird flying by and had almost fallen splat. In short, he was an entrepreneur who had started a video rental company called Netflix. Hastings had owed a video store $40 for a misplaced video and in a spurt of irrational degree of optimism and confidence, traits which he in hindsight believes today as a prerequisite for being remarkably successful… converted into reality his idea of having a mail-based video rental business that would have no such unreasonable charges that he himself had suffered. Netflix launched as the first DVD rental and sales site with only 30 employees and 925 titles available. While the inspiration came from the Amazon model, strangely, a year later they were in front of Jeff Bezos who offered to acquire Netflix for between $14 and $16 million. Fearing competition from Amazon, Randolph at first thought the offer was fair but Hastings, who held a major 70% of the company, turned it down on the plane ride home.
Two years later as the dotcom bubble burst, Netflix suffered immense losses and were on their path to almost bankruptcy. In more glorious times two years earlier they had refused to sell to Amazon & now the time had to reconsider that option again. During the same time, the leader of the trade was Blockbuster Entertainment Inc. It was an American-based provider of home movie and video game rental services & consisted of 9,000+ stores and employed approximately 84,300 people: 58,500 in the United States and 25,800 in other countries. It had a flamboyant $50+ Million salary drawing CEO John Antioco. They operated out of a swanky posh 900,000 sf office-warehouse-distribution facility on a 46-acre site near Dallas.. in McKinney, Texas.
Netflix had been sending feelers for a long-time to Blockbuster that they wanted to sell… given that it was on a downward spiral. However, Blockbuster management kept avoiding the new kid on the block like a plague. One fine day, in the September of 2000, they suddenly consented to meet the Netflix founders at their swanky office the next day at 11:30 AM. The only problem was that it was physically impossible to travel all that way from their place to Dallas in such a short time. Hastings decided to charter a plane to which their CFO objected, since it was going to cost $20,000. The operating logic he gave was that they were on the verge of losing $50 Million as it is and another $20,000 wouldn’t matter much. And if the deal clicked, they would be in green. So, they took the charter flight and landed up at the swanky posh office of the market giant, Blockbuster.
The Netflix Leadership was blinded by the display of wealth and success at Blockbuster HO. Marc Randolph, noted that at Blockbuster’s Dallas headquarters, everything seemed designed to impress visitors with the company’s wealth and power, from the building, which he describes as “an unbroken cube of steel and glass” to the shoes worn by CEO John Antioco. “John’s shoes probably cost more than my car”… Randolph writes in his book. And John was entitled to this success. Two years ago, when he had taken over Blockbuster, the company wasn’t doing well, and was on a downward spiral due to poor business decisions like diversifying onto retailing apparel as well. John had turned the company’s fortunes around and had even raised $465 Million through a successful IPO.
Marc & Reed went on to pitch the possibility of the partnering of Netflix & Blockbuster to a very confidant, and sceptically wary Antioco… Reed quickly enumerated on Blockbusters strengths and areas of where the Netflix was expert at and beginning to gain significant foothold in the budding online space and the possibility of this synergy leading to the creation of a giant in the arena. Reed Hastings said, “We should join forces, we will run the online part of the combined business. You will focus on the stores. We will find the synergies that come from the combination, and it will truly be a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”
John Antioco, the magnanimously successful CEO of Blockbuster, in all his arrogant brilliance said, “The dot-com hysteria is completely overblown.” The leadership at Blockbuster, part of this meeting strongly felt that the business model of Netflix and just about any of these online offshoots was not only not sustainable but would never make money. As the Netflix leaders went on to counter this aspect, they were cut short and asked to quote their price, in the event of them being considered for acquisition.
“$50 million”. Reed said.
All along, the Netflix founders had found the Blockbuster CEO very polished, interested in the conversation and politely professional. At the mention of the $5o million, Hastings later notes in his memoirs that he was sure that he observed the peculiar expression on John Antioco’s face, as if he was trying his best not to burst out laughing.
Blockbuster Leadership very arrogantly snubbed the offer and didn’t bother to even consider the rapidly changing landscape of the industry they were in. So cocky and adamant were they in their own cocooned fundas and arrogant beliefs. Over a period of the next decade, Blockbuster went on declining, accumulating losses, failing to cash in on the changing business landscapes, being adamantly arrogant and clumsily inagile. Poor leadership and the impact of the Great Recession were major factors leading to Blockbuster’s decline, as was the growing competition from Netflix’s mail-order service, videos on demand, and Redbox automated kiosks. Significant loss of revenue occurred during the late 2000s (immediately after having snubbed Netflix) and the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010. Of the 9,094 stores, 9093 stores were shut down or sold away. 84,300 proud employees lost their means of livelihood here and their futures that they had built over decades of loyalty and confidence on the intelligence of their leadership. That day in September 2000, if Antioco had even offered a reduced deal, Netflix would have gone for it given their stressful situation. If only the Blockbuster leadership would not have been ostriched in their own dogmas and opinionated myopic view of business present & future, maybe, things would have turned out different with this merger for the unsuspecting loyal 84,300 believers of the organisation and its shareholders.
Leadership when afflicted with myopic farsightedness, biased dogmas and irrelevant & outdated competencies can cause long-term disaster to their ecosystem, shareholders and human capital that would have stayed invested in them. This is nothing short of white collared corporate genocide and mass annihilation of dreams, possibilities and futures of their trusted ones. Almost always, this goes totally unnoticed, unpunished and remains in academic case studies and corporate training folklores to simply cluck our tch tch disapproval at such a monumental dereliction of responsibilities, have a tea in the break and return to the monotonous mayhem.
In 2010 when Blockbuster shut shop, Netflix was worth around $10 Billion of market cap with $2.1 Billion annual revenue.
This year, Netflix peaked at a market cap of almost $1 Trillion with annual revenues of $29.7 billion last fiscal and a net income of $5.1 Billion and assets worth almost $50 Billion.
Today, the lone surviving Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon, the only one left out of the 9094 stores, is a testimony to how corporate honchos can destroy gigantic possibilities & monumental futures with their short-sightedness and disbelief in unlearning & relearning. Parroting away philosophies doesn’t suffice in heralding change and nurturing agility of possibilities. Stubbornness of mindset is a progress termite that will slowly eat away the edifice of possibilities and potential. Slowly, painfully and surely.
For those who still have doubts, a corporate trip to the sole surviving Blockbuster at Bend, Oregon can help. Here you get to sip on a custom new beer, a limited-edition brew in honor of the store appropriately named “The Last Blockbuster”, created by Bend’s very own 10 Barrel Brewing. And yes, they also screen your favourite movies from Netflix at the Last Blockbuster Store…. 😊
An old Turkish proverb says, when a clown moves into a palace, he doesn’t become the king; instead the palace becomes a circus! That’s exactly what happened in the case of a futuristic behemoth that we are going to discuss ahead. Many clowns together pulled down a palace of possibilities & what could have perhaps been a wonderful saga of success.
The hard truth of life remains irrefutable that we are nothing but products of our choices. However when an individual makes wrong choices, they pay for it themselves. But when a leader makes wrong choices, there is too much at stake apart from the possibility of the failure of the organisation itself. Error of judgement, shortsightedness, lack of agility, decisive paralysis, inflated egos, petty politics, misguided competitiveness, failure to walk the talk, are various knives that stab the soul of an organisation from within .. causing internal bleeding leading to eventual demise.
I would like to share series of such cases that are glaring examples of leadership failures. In today’s part, let me take the example of Yahoo. According to me it’s the cherry on the cake of leadership stupidity.
In 2002, Yahoo was ruling the roost. They had the opportunity to buy Google for $ 1 Billion. But their leadership kept dillydallying and by the time they made up their mind, the price had shot up to $ 3 Billion.. And Yahoo felt that the business model if search engines wasn’t worth the investment.
In 2006, Yahoo could have bought Facebook for $ 1.1 Billion, but their leadership refused to budge over $1Billion. Eventually they lost Facebook for the sake of saving $10 Million.
In 2008, Yahoo refused Microsoft’s takeover bid for $44.6 Billion. Yahoo’s leadership kept refusing to develop a market realistic foresight and analyse business trends & capitalise on possible opportunities. They acquired Flickr, but failed to ride the social media wave. After letting go of Google & Facebook, they bought Tumblr for $1.1 Billion. They yet again failed to turn this acquisition into a profitable one inspite of investing hundreds of millions of dollars into it.
Subsequently Yahoo, in 2017, as a result of the series of leadership failures, poor business choices, lack of vision and foresight, was sold for a little less than $5 Billion.Google just about two decades after Yahoo’s blunder in evaluating its potential, became a $2 Trillion company. Just about 15 years after Yahoo lost Facebook in return for dillydallying for $10 Million, Facebook is worth almost $1 Trillion today.
Those leaders who were entrusted to helm Yahoo by its gullible shareholders eventually were left with nothing but egg on their faces instead of potentially owning a possible $3+ Trillion company, notwithstanding overlooking lost business opportunities from successfully capitalising on Flickr & Tumblr. The palace of Yahoo ended up becoming a circus as the Turkish proverb forecast for such circumstances.
The tragedy with most of the laws across the globe is that appropriate punishments are defined for visible crimes, yet there are no suitable punitive proactive measures defined for lack of foresight in leadership and lack of maturity of leading capabilities that lead to destruction of careers, possibilities, murder of dreams and potential future of not only the organisation but thousands of deserving who got ignored and never got their due. For what was the outcome of a series of leadership failures in this case is the visible obliteration of a behemoth organisation but I dread and shudder to imagine the outcomes of the leadership behaviours of such incapable people on the hundreds and thousands of people under them, who also would have been led by their similar incompetence and whimsical inactions.
How many dreams would they have murdered with their business immaturity. How much potential would they have throttled with their lack of foresight and dillydallying nature. How many wizards would they have strangled with their indecisive inabilities. How many futuristic minds would have been shut down as a result of similar failure in predicting the possible future… How many lives would have been silently ruined in the shadows of their bloated incompetent egos and small minded pettiness.
There is no record of this untold saga of unforgivable crimes that must have been committed day and night in their corporate corridors. Many a bright possible future would have been choked to a premature death… for a leader who could not steer the team to its potential, undoubtedly wasn’t fit to decide the fates and future of the men and women whose future they held to ransom in the cage of their empty minds.
If those hundreds of thousands of unexpressed voices were ever to voice out their plight, the scale of the valuation of the blunder would be beyond the comprehension of any trade/fiscal calculations. For undelivered dreams and potential when trampled under the weight of incompetence and immaturity, cannot ever be sufficiently evaluated and compensated.
The clown can potentially make the circus cry in silent agony. Yahoo has shown such an unfortunate possibility.
Will return with another compelling case study in Part 2.
Till then… Charaiveti Charaiveti
In a recent conversation with a friend who advocates and practices integrity of intent and accountability of deliverables to its zeniths, we explored the merits of masking as a weapon of mass corporate appeal.
For the uninitiated, Masking is a process in which an individual “masks” their natural personality to conform to the demands of situations… In other words, overpowers their dominant personality traits in favour of compulsive environs that warrant conducive behaviour.
What is more jittery is people masking their real self, as a habit, even when in the absence of any necessity. People who have trained themselves to such perfection that they themselves have lost touch with their real self. As behavioral transformation is the basic ask of my work deliverable, I wonder how do we ever awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep.
How do you peel off the mask that has fused itself with the facial skin & the cultivated soul of the willful deceiver. What happens when deception becomes a way of life?
In the normal functioning of life, the way we have groomed ourselves from our infancy, we already wear a bouquet of masks…. As an offspring we have a different mask, as a sibling we wear a different mask, as a lover/spouse we wear a different mask, as a parent, we wear a different mask, as an employee we wear a different mask, as a reportee, we wear a different mask, as a manager we wear a different mask, as a friend we wear a different mask, as a colleague we wear a different mask, as a citizen, we wear a different mask… ooof how many masks!!! Who are we really…?
It perhaps has come to a stage, where we don’t reveal ourselves to ourselves anymore… We are increasingly frightened to spend quality time with ourselves… esp in solitude…while we should have been our own most ardent admirer and loved to spend time with ourselves… If we don’t love ourselves enough, how can we expect others to love us…. Even if we have to go for a tea, a smoke, a drink, lunch/dinner, we have become such compulsive social animals that we need some partner to accompany us. Think about it… when was the last that you spent time with yourself… alone.. introspecting on what is happening in your life… where is life taking you… or whether what you have made of yourself and your life, is it bringing you happiness as much as you desired for.
In any case, it is a no-brainer that corporate cultures demand that you mask your real self. Individual behaviours and individuality more often than not usually attracts untold sufferings and troubles… hence individuals start templating themselves into formats that are temporarily favourable and chase public acceptance. And over a period of time the individuality of a person gets deeply buried in the debris of the mountain of various masks that one has created for various occasions and relationships. What had once made you unique, is now a templated ghost of dictated and enforced guidelines. And eventually these created zombies end up talking of individualism, thinking out of box paradoxes and innovative pursuits. And there lies the problem…
Yet the question remains, can an individual ever risk being a unique specimen or develop into dictated templates of themselves. Can we afford to shun our masks ever?
Over various cups of adrak chais, me and my unmasked friend concluded that as a weapon of mass appeal, “masking” merits consideration. With the caveat, that, at least in personal realms and with people who matter, let’s unmask to default settings 😇
Till then… let deception rule your soul….
Of late Parag Agarwal’s CV is doing the rounds with the prognosis, that had it found it’s way to some traditional interviewer’s desk, it was a sure shot reject owing to some judgemental mindsets that have taken deep rooted space in interviewing philosophies
What really makes it so hard for some masters from my fraternity as well as interviewers in general that they fail to live up to such an important task in hand?
Why is the activity whose output is so critical to their own organisation as well as somebody’s life, taken so lightly at the input analytical stage. A large population of those sitting in the exalted positions of interviewing usually don’t even do their basic homework of detailing into the resume (many a times even the basic dekko they have there and pre-judge, itself seems to be a wrong practice) and preparing intelligent relevant questionnaire that can elicit meaningful responses, relevant to the role in hand.. so that neither their time is wasted in inanities nor is the candidate left in meaningless lurch with a sorry experience or worse with unspeakable opinions about my beloved ilk.
Do Interviewers really really devote the time & efforts to prepare themselves in providing an experience that is representative of their Organisational Philosophies, as a first exposure to prospective candidates or they just take it with the casual approach that it seems to now have become synonymous with… largely…
Sharing some profoundly enriching queries that I myself have had the ignominious luck of witnessing over the years… that might resonate with many here 😛
“So take me through your resume pls” (Did you do your homework and perhaps if you did, maybe you could have then had some pointed-specific-pertinent queries for me?)
“What are your main responsibilities in your role” (Gawwwdd.. did you even go through the resume? How did you miss out on the bullet points of my deliverables detailed thereof? Wish you had fished out information from there and asked specific queries relating to what I did that I put there v/s how I would perhaps add value to the current expectations… but yes I understand.. you just saw the cv now and didn’t bother going through the grind of analysing it earlier)
“Tell me some key things that you have done in your current role that you are proud of” (shall I recite from my tailor made compendium of fantasy responses, which you in any case cannot ever ratify.. or shall I take you through the maze of jargons and englees that will instantly make you too proud of my achievements that may not necessarily have much relevance in the ambit of your current requirements)
“Tell me some of the key critical methodologies that you have implemented” (In that nirvanic moment.. I can just about relate to how Jesus must have felt when he beseeched God-the omnipotent and ever merciful, to forgive the sinners who crucified him without knowing who he was)
Taking a chance in doing what you love v/s failing at what you don’t want, is a pin-sharp dilemma that has for ages pricked our conscience painfully.
Alas, the safety net of comfort zones have since times immemorial, stifled millions of dreams, killed incredible possibilities and abrogated plethora of opportunities.
From our sophomore years we are ‘educated’ and trained to aim for better paying safe jobs, that can give us a settled conformity, catering to limited blinkered utilisation of intrinsic capabilities. Not that I am waxing eloquence at the demerits of such a mindset.. which surely suits the meek (who incidentally won’t ever inherit the earth as famously prophesied) with a palate of risk aversion.. or the procrastinating indolent hibernating souls like the famous me 🤓
Yet fact remains that our educative curriculum and our socio-econo-political environs have resolutely refused on extolling our young minds to have an entrepreneurial mindset from a tender age.. cannibalising endless potential.
If we ever were to have a shot at our decisions again… would we, after all our life experiences, dare taking a chance at doing what we love?
Sharing a self explanatory wonderful story from the “Song of the Bird” by Anthony de Mello … It sure got me introspecting ….
There are so many events that compel us to think many times whether we belong to the circumstances that we have put ourselves into or whether we deserve the lives we are living… it’s then worthwhile to discover or rediscover our true self to soar as high as our dreams can dare…
“A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chickens and grew up with them.
All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.
The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked.
“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth—we’re chickens.”
So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.”
Taming the beast of change has never been easy for any living being. Those that did tame it, survived… those who didn’t … well normally never lived to tell the tale of their folly. So what really triggers the capability to adapt & embrace change? Is it the inevitability of the nature of the beast? Is it the optionlessness that it brings with it. Or is it the millions of the evolutionary years of inherent conditioning of some strand of our DNA?
Change always begins with the voluntary willingness to recognise & capitalise the hidden possibilities that it brings. For without this invaluable agent of disruption there could seldom have been any advancements. However I do not wish to deliberate on that change here today as there are tonnes of pages of material on it…
I want to discuss the change that is enforced on ones character and persona due to the actions and inactions of the actors that influence their surroundings. The change that is enforced by behaviours, experiences, treacheries of beliefs, principles, people and events. These are the ones that have the most damaging impacts on psyches of a person.. that indelible scar of learning that steers future courses of action. Change that disrupts innocence. Change that corrupts faith. Change that violates humanity.
As we have often been given to believe that we are circumstantial animals and that circumstances have a huge impact on us. If there is some element of truth to that, then there are many events that are beyond our control and the only control we ever have is our response to that. People will always act on the firm foundations of their motives and interests and nature. Those who don’t anticipate that and accordingly insure their own interests are the ones to blame. And hence it’s imperative that one normally wears the lens of their benefit through which they see the actions and inactions of their co-actors. The only exception to this tenet is the setting aside of such lenses when in the company of their most intimate companions. However a word of caution, choosing this genre of beings is perhaps the most challenging gambles of life and one can never really perfect the art. Here the vulnerability is the strength and any scrape on that vulnerability again has the potential to metamorphose one into a finer being. Or harm their persona indelibly forever..
Human experience is an outcome of it’s state of mind within. The impact of the experiences that one allows on one self is also the resultant of the inner state of mind. When you are joyous within, you tend to be sensible. That is when you are at your best strength and transformation is possible. You are ready to receive.. to accept… to forgive… to create… to inspire… to just be your best. However the moment that equilibrium of the inner joy shifts its scales, the sense and sensibility of the victim takes an unfortunate hit.
Thus the sages of humanity have since times immemorial advocated the supremacy of action over reaction and stability of the state of mind over tempestuous volatility of impulsiveness. It will do us a world of good if we were to transcend from compulsive reaction to conscious actions. Not for a moment am I advocating the dismissal of the supremacy of self interests even once.. just that one ought to not allow reactive impulses take over active positioning of appropriate measures.
The world is full of deception, conspiracies dictated by obscene selfish motives, conniving comrades, foes with masks of friends, teammates plotting a fatal backstabbing episodes, relatives burning your effigies constantly in their dreams, it’s just a wonder that one can ever wade through unharmed inspite of so dubious stratagems of the cabals of your dissidents. And that’s how thorny the path of life is. This requires incisive alertness of the senses to ensure that one not only remains unharmed from the various machinations of the renegades of life that adorn your circles. Therefore it’s imperative to remain stoic from within and embrace a joyous state of mind that no matter what, you will not allow those of such abominable standards impact your own nature, action and intrinsic goodness.
Goodness also must not really mean inaction against treachery or harmful attacks. It’s simply means calculated appropriate surgical response to such changes that have the potential to subvert your own tranquility and peace of mind. Embracing change is inevitable, but the requisite response to such changes also must be measurably inevitable. Kindness must never be taken for timidity. The measure of one’s worth cannot be pawned to scheming plots of the unworthy.
The quality of a person’s worth is in direct proportion to their commitment to the betterment of self. And that truly dictates the quality of the person’s life eventually. Having said that it’s not really all that gloomy. All the seven plus billion aren’t thus else the doomsday would have already descended ruthlessly. Humanity is thriving on the strength of the few who still are virtuous and genuine… who are still not corrupted by the decadence of baser motives and who still don’t subscribe to climbing the ladder of success on the corpses of their friends and those that trust them. It’s such finer souls who make the world a better place to live in and true spirituality thrives on the strength of their aura.
Let’s be that persona.. for those who mattered to us and those who don’t matter, doesn’t matter in any case. To be a Krishna as with Sudhama or a Krishna as with Shishupala is a decisive capability that one must develop … and that’s non negotiable. While both the decisions are right in their treatment basis their backgrounds, however what truly matters is that the change must keep improvising the divinity within you and must emanate from a sensibility that is tranquil in its state.. on the strength of your own innate goodness of your soul and core. Let that not be tarnished by the strikes of the unscrupulous or be carried away by the affections of the affectionate.
May all of us be blessed with the right struggles within our own pupas so that we may emerge as a colourful butterfly of life … with the hues and vibrancy of learnings imprinted on our wings. And let’s wade through our chapter in this planet dancing to the dulcet tunes of our joyous souls.
Lately a dear friend spoke of the legendary prayer that Shri Rabindranath Tagore gave this mighty nation on how it ought to actually be.. and wondered could we relate to such an expectation from the corporate world. What could perhaps detail out the utopia here? And that set my mind on fire and I here have voiced out for the millions of us who get up every morning and convert our capabilities into delivered competencies. Our dream of the corporate paradise…
Where talent works without fear and delivered capabilities are held high
Where voice of reason is free
Where the organisations aren’t broken up into silos of predilections espousing sycophancy
Where actions only come out from the depths of competence & values
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards collective goals
Where the budding rivulets of excellence are not devoured by the wretched swamps of apathetic cultures
Where the mind is led forward by leaders who first demonstrate steely will to walk their asks
Where padrones aren’t allowed to make pariahs of the capables by punitive practices
Where meritocracy isn’t decapitated by the gigantic guillotines commandeered by reprobates
Where excellence is a way of life and not a boardroom sermons of logic
Where transparency & care aren’t embellishments on the sepulchres of the intimidated souls of their meritorious
Into that paradise of excellence, my God, let my competencies be employed.
Almost a century ago an American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, created a very powerful serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
I have been thinking about it very deeply of late. And to me, it appears that, this is the key to that elusive happiness that we keep chasing all our lives. For in not following this is what we invite the full wrath of the unfortunate and disappointing events in our lives.
How? Elementary my dear friends. We perennially refuse to accept the things that we cannot change. We are inspired by the dozens of forwarded inspirational motivations to challenge the status quo. And it is here we often falter. For we do not seem to be a great judge of identifying what we can change, what we cannot and all the dark traumas that the abyss in between has.
In a world of the new order that is resplendent with its glorious moral turpitude of the many, where the mass lies are consumed as the gospel truth, where rumours hold the value of hard facts and where the confluence of the evil has amassed its own ugly creed, the usual moral vigilante is but destined to be lynched by the brute force of this mammoth clan of those many who are often threatened by the few whose moralities cannot be compromised.
Look around you and you will see the worst of us better off. The best usually spend lifetimes in seeking approvals of the worst.. which in itself is one of the most catastrophic ironies of the so called fate. And the code of the brotherhood of these social & moral termites is very sharp in recognising the faintest glint of creative streaks of the one who can make a difference to a community, society, creed, organisation, culture or civilisation… and are well versed in the art of ruthlessly squishing any such perpetrators of change… for this mob of corrupted corrugated mindsets are collectively too powerful for the individuality of the incorruptible to survive.
And it is here that one requires the serenity prayer. Yes the creators will certainly argue that if this prayer were to be answered, then how would the world have progressed with all its warriors accepting the status quo, and only changing what they can. If that were to be the truth then no creation or advancement would have ever been effected. Mankind would have never traversed across the universe or why, planes wouldn’t have flown or diseases never been cured or technology never advanced etc etc.
It’s here that we have to understand the prayer in its right spirit. No man enchained to the servitude mindset having pawned his capabilities for equated monthly bribe can ever create a dime’s worth of innovation let alone get the humanity forward or challenge the status quo. If you don’t believe me all you need to do is arm yourselves with intellectual luminols and investigate the millions of desks and boardrooms that have the gory stains of the sacrificial brilliance splattered across their entire area.. where time and again excellence has been battered & smothered senseless 🤓
To make a change worth its salt to anyone concerned requires independence of the soul & spirit… if you don’t have the luxury of operating in independent arena then the second & third line of the prayer immediately applies to you. Sit back, relax and train yourself to not get worked up by the conflict of the right and the instructed… for the bribe that you have sold your creative streak for presupposes your sacrifice of any remnants of conscience. Do what you are told and do it well. As much as you might be mollycoddled with the unmeant diktats to think out of the box, read in between the lines.. you are supposed to pledge your soul to the dingy darkness of that box and enjoy their resultant luminous perks. And if you in some silent corner of sedated conscience feel that you are kind of suspended on a ruthless corporate judas cradle, stifle your conscience immediately and get set to follow. For in this arena only a humble follower can ever conspire to be a great leader…
And if you obsessively feel the need to do the right, be a creator and not a paid parasite… be the tip of the compass needle for humanity… make a difference to any of your touchpoints… chase the best in you… unleash your true potential… be the beacon of excellence… feel alive in every proton of your every drop of your existential atom … throbbing with relentless excitement of having done something meaningful.., of having converted your potential for the heroic in you to reality… of having a clear conscience that knows no bondage or fear .. then unshackle your mind from servitude of the mediocrity and promote yourself & become an entrepreneur of life. Trade your creativity for happiness and shun the parasitic gospel that you have been engrained with right from your schooling to the commercialisation of your abilities through whatever ideological infection that you have been infected with by those who you handed the moulding of your conscience to. And if you are limited by your experiences and are a circumstantial victim of such a decadent dogma then venture out into chasing new experiences that complement your happiness and decorate the remaining journey of your life with the shade of blissful knowledge that you are a free bird chasing whatever makes you happy and not an imprisoned puppet of the destiny represented by the cataclysmic imbecile whom you had pawned your soul chasing abominable plugolas in return for loathsome douceurs of stifled talent.
And if you can’t do that.. then my friend… kneel down humbly, summon all the timelessly encoded divinity in you and with folded hands and blinded intellect beseech the universe to grant you the last line of the serenity prayer… of availing the wisdom to know the difference between that what you cannot change (yourself) and things that you can change (nothing really) and bask in the glory of a life that never knew it’s possibilities … potential and never ever wanted to explore.
Learn to remain happy in the dark panes of the photocopier of life and revel in the blankness of clarity that the virgin pages of your life churn out everyday… it’s only USP being it’s abominable uniformity of nothingness… churned out daily .. & destiny shall reward you for happily continuing to always remain in the box and always thinking out of it as instructed.
Something had been bothering me a lot of late. Life appeared to have landed at the cusp of a directional change, having to make a choice to perhaps let go of decades of heavily invested time, efforts and passion and perhaps embrace the unknown, unexplored future…treading untrodden paths… leading to destinations never conceived… The mind was perhaps conjuring up some kind of illusory destinations through untrodden paths…
At this juncture I had a providential chai pe charcha with a dear friend and a senior colleague, Pankaj Vermaji. We just chatted up on the futilities of searching for the elusive black cat in the dark room… which for all we knew (and cared?) didn’t even exist as of this moment of our zesty search…the worthlessness of brooding over such possibilities of happenings, which in the long scale of the timeframe of life may not have even a micro millimeter of marking impact.
Suddenly Vermaji threw a googly at me…
What’s your “Nasha?”
For the uninitiated… nasha here refers to intoxicating intellectual stimulant that gives you a intellectual high… zonks you out of your mind in its pursuit… an obsessive-compulsive purpose of life… the quintessential core of your drive… the zest of your existence… the nucleus of your survival…the chutzpah element of your soul… that which gets your adrenalin thumping like a rogue volcano of lava… just gathering the right amount of steam and fire to spew itself out of the encaged dreary confines of perpetual chronic procrastination…
And in that microsecond… seemingly ages… of nirvanic enlightenment, it dawned upon me that the mythical black cat that I was groping for in the dark room was for sure not my Nasha… Not at all… Absolutely…… NOT AT ALL….
Then what was I getting so worked up about? What was I so melancholically dejected about? Why was this impending possibility of nothing bothering me so much…? Why was I so overwhelmingly arrested by this “beyond my circle of influence” prospective happenings?
Was it because I had got used to the mundane and it had become my way of life? Was it because… I … a vociferous riotous disparager of the mediocrity of mind … myself had become an advocate of it… a subconscious ardent mediocre survivor… Had I too become a parasite … feeding on the ignominious morsels of leftovers of the dream-traffickers – the depraved decadent tradesmen who buy out your potential to reign supreme in return for averaged out worthlessness… a few dimes of pithy tithes?
Yes. that was it. I seem to have mortgaged my soul to the mundane existence. It was time that I sent out the right affirmations to the universe. It was time to erase my offensive ramblings and survival emg’s (electro-mental grams) from the akashic records, replacing it with my original theme of intrinsic genius… germinating the seeds of greatness within me, which seemed to be awaiting the watering of my obsessive pursuits and the soil of tireless efforts, enriched with the nourishments of the innate brilliance… chasing the iconic that is a human trait available in every homosapien dna… only requiring activation… and it was high time that I commanded the universe to activate it for me.
Thanks to my dear Vermaji for having triggered the chain of dormant thoughts that have always been my ancestral inheritance 😊 Since the beginning of humanity, the discerning crusader has always scripted his own fate…with the unlimited metrics of his imaginative possibilities enlivened by his compulsive creativity of a relentless mind and its capacity to comprehend the hitherto unfathomed ability of this species to achieve. It’s been tens of thousands of years of our existence, and we have recorded only a few known geniuses across the humanity,who dared to challenge the incomprehensible time-testedstatus quo and inspite of thousands of failures, went on to establish a code of success only on the strength of their conviction and firm belief on their own self. The cosmic codes of the Universe’s equilibrium have always favored the obsessive brave crusader… who dared tread untrodden paths to lead humanity towards progress emanating from the acts of their impossible efforts. I dare not talk of the many unknown milestones of the unknown crusaders…
This further reminded me of a humorous story that I had come across some time ago…
It all started one lazy Sunday afternoon in a small town near Toronto in Canada. Two school-going friends had a crazy idea. They rounded up three goats from the neighborhood and painted the number 1, 2 and 4 on their sides. That night they let the goats loose inside their school building. The next morning, when the authorities entered the school, they could smell something was wrong. They soon saw goat droppings on the stairs and near the entrance and realized that some goats had entered the building.
A search was immediately launched and very soon, the three goats were found.
But the authorities were worried, where was goat No. 3?
They spent the rest of the day looking for goat No.3.
Gradually there was panic and frustration.The school declared classes off for the students for the rest of the day.The teachers, helpers, guards, canteen staffs, boys were all busy looking for the goat No. 3, which, of course, was never found. Simply because it did not exist.
Those among us who inspite of having a good life are always feeling a ‘lack of fulfilment’ are actually looking for the elusive, missing, non-existent goat No.3. Whatever be our area of unhappiness – relationships, job-satisfaction, materialistic achievement……An absence of something seems to be always larger than the presence of many existing things. Perhaps we have either mis-identified the first three existing goats or are ignoring its presence at the cost of the non-existent goat.
Thus, why bother about Goat No.3 ???
Chase your Nasha… And enjoy the goats you possess 🤓😊
I sure will….
Recently I came across Simon Parson’s picture messages on taking courage from your cookie jar as given in these pics and as a mindset technique propagated by David Goggins.
This got me thinking and I did some research on David Goggins. And what I found was tremendously inspiring. David Goggins was an ex US Navy Seal. In 2005, several of his fellow soldier friends died in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash during Operation Red Wings. Goggins was extremely heartbroken by the incident. He set up a non-profit fund, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, to provide scholarships to the children of the military personnel killed in the line of duty & wanted to raise money for the same.
To raise these funds Goggins decided to participate in Blackwater 135 Ultramarathon. However it wasn’t as easy as it appeared to be. One of the precondition was to run a series of tests which began with a 100-mile race first, which of course Goggins had never done before. Why that, Goggins hadn’t even run a few miles straight in the recent times. While he was, as an ex US Navy Seal, no doubt very fit and agile, plus he had earlier been exposed to the rigours of disciplined regimen, yet this was even beyond the wild training regimens of the SEALS.
The race was about to begin in three days and Goggins had no time to prepare. Needless to say, most of us would have not dared do this feat.. But this was Goggins… his training in the toughest SEALS hadn’t taught him to give up.
Milestone 0: When the race began, Goggins did fantastic for the first few miles. His disciplined training background helped him get through the first few miles smoothly.
Milestone 25: When he reached 25 miles, humongous doubts began creeping in his mind on his ability to finish the remainder 3/4th of the task on legs . His breath was stuck in his throat and he felt that he would not be able to go any further. Goggins began to question his fitness limits. “I feel so tired already, can I run 75 more miles, which is thrice of what I have run so far?”, he thought. And here he still had about three such marathons to go after this. What kept him going was the hope of helping the children of his deceased friends. That was the only thought that egged him to stretch himself at this stage.
Milestone 50: With that thought he dragged himself the next twenty five miles. Now he was halfway through. When he reached 50 miles with such mind boggling difficulty his body began to pain crazily. He was gasping for even a small whiff of breath and his body was on the verge of giving up. Every sinew of his body was bruised and his mind was locking up the ability to pull through. He mustered all the reserve strength that was rapidly draining away from him and dragged himself further.
Milestone 70: As he scraped through another enervating 20 miles, his willpower had broken down. He did not have the energy left to take even one step forward. With no other choice, Goggins sat down. While he was sitting He noticed urine, mixed with blood and diarrhea dripping from his legs. At that point, he felt he was experiencing the worst point of his life. His mind started asking more tougher questions like, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why should I keep going?”
It was here at this moment, when his mind and body had given up, he remembered that this wasn’t the first time he had attempted an impossible task. There were innumerable moments of impossibilities that he had encountered in life, where he had felt that he could not get any further. That he could not succeed… Why, He had even successfully completed the US Navy Seals almost impossible gruelling training where the chances of getting through are extremely slim. The US Navy recruits approximately 40,000 people each year. Due to the popularity of the Navy SEALs, almost half of all recruits express an interest in becoming a SEAL, but most do not meet the qualifications. According to Military.com, only about 6 percent of SEAL applicants meet the requirements. Just this thought fired some additional booster energy within his fatigued body.
Goggins managed to stand up. His mind now dug into old memories to help him recall past triumphs. Recharged with the motivation of his previous victories, he mustered the energy to put one step forward, then another, followed by a few more. His feet had swollen badly & had blisters all over. His soul had worn out. Yet, his earlier achievements in life generated enough drive to keep him going. Goggins completed the race in 19 hours and 6 minutes. Overcoming all the obstacles and proving every negative emotion that he or his detractors had… wrong… he had achieved the impossible. :Milestone 100
After this Ultramarathon, he ran many other such races. He ran the Badwater 135 Marathon later in 2007 and finished 3rd. He finished second in a three day, 320-mile cycling race without having ever ridden a bicycle competitively before. He also held the world record for the highest pull ups completed in 24 hours by hitting 4030 of them in 17 hours. In two years, he completed 14 ultra-endurance races finishing nine times in the top five.
Goggins accomplished many other such unbelievable feats based on what he calls as the cookie jar concept for motivation.
“Everyone asks me, were you thinking about the children of your friends who had been killed at that time? I’m not gonna lie; I wasn’t. This became a personal thing, this became me against this race; me against the kids that called me n***** – offensive contemptuous terms based on my skin color; me against me. It just became something I took so violently personal.”
The advise here isn’t on pushing yourself to the limits to where your body starts shutting down, especially with no training… so don’t just favour me by reading this and jumping to run a 100 mile marathon immediately. What I am rather talking about is the true power of the cookie jar that David Goggin speaks about … which powered him to achieve humanly impossible tasks…
We all have battled various battles in our lives. We all have fought innumerable small impossibilities in our lives… be it having come up through worst circumstances, be it getting through something like maths that seemed impossible to many of us, be it achieving the percentages in our matriculation that seemed like an uphill mountain, be it getting through job interviews, be it fighting procrastination on a daily basis in pursuit of your real passion… we all have innumerable moments of triumphs up our kitty… life is one long chain of struggle… it’s a battle that’s fought everyday… when we were kids, we had different insurmountable tasks that we eventually got through, as teenagers, we had so many impossibilities that we had our minds chained with, which we eventually shattered, as adults and professionals, we wage a war with so many multiple things on-an hourly basis, right from getting up daily to motivating ourself to wade through a sea of traffic and reaching our workplaces… through buses, cars, taxis, trains, walk, cycling… snaking our way into the rat race as many many of us are in such employments that we never really aspired for… then we put up with so many uncertainties across the day, managing stakeholders, partners, teammates, bosses, clients, etc etc… eventually reaching the glorious fiscal end every year and wishing for that elusive rankings and rewards… yeah… life is sure one helluva series of battles…
Through all these we have our moments of triumphs and glories.. our moments of success.. where we have battled against tough tasks and won the same…
And that’s what can build your cookie jar. David says “the cookie jar is a place in my mind where I put all things bad and good that shaped me. Some people try to forget the bad in their life. I use my bad for strength when needed, great lessons learned. In that cookie jar, I pull out whatever I need for the task at hand. Remembering what you’ve been through and how that has strengthened your mindset can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass those weak, one-second impulses to give in.”
We all are ultimately the outcome of what our mind decides. If our mind says that we can’t .. then we can’t for sure… If our mind says we can… then we can for sure… all the greatest battles won were won in the mind first… all the greatest successes achieved were achieved first in the achiever’s mind… only then it fructified into reality.
Thus the need of the hour is to condition your mind with your own small success stories. You need to remind your mind that it was you who has put up with similar or more difficulties before and emerged victorious. For this you first need to build your cookie jar: Sit down and ruminate on your life… jot down 5-10 such remarkable achievements that you achieved… where you had initially thought that you would fail. We all have many such examples… it could be getting the top score in your most difficult subject, or marrying the love of your life, or getting your first car, or getting that promotion from the group of other equally competent colleagues… or jogging daily for an hour… or maybe as simple as getting up in the morning… or successfully going on a trekking expedition… or doing say those 40-50 crunches in your exercise routine.. or being able to swim after a lot of struggle… or maybe ( as many of my rural friends will agree) being able to give a public speech in fluent english… there can be dozens and dozens of such cookies in your life…
Once you have it ready, keep it in your mental bank and when the time comes when you are pitted against a seemingly tough difficult task… pull out an appropriate success cookie from your jar and bite it… remind yourself that it is the same YOU who has earlier battled against a situation that your mind refused to support you with and yet you succeeded in achieving the task… and like David Goggins… You will also undoubtedly be able to achieve that which many might call as impossible or damn difficult. The need just then is to get to know your badass side…
Will you discover the badass in you?
Will you build your cookie jar my friend?
What does it really take to do what the majority would call as impossible ….
Why does someone who stubbornly refuse to conform to set ideals and tread the socially acceptable path & norms go on to create unparalleled benchmarks and new pathways hitherto never conceived….
What makes an outlier dream outrageously bizarre heights of success and then inspite of disappointments, dejections and discouragement by all yet pursue it unyieldingly… only to break the shackles of acceptable mediocrity and achieve the superlative… the iconic.. that is available ungerminated in all of us…
What is the secret of success… found usually in the very arenas and methods that every expert will tell you it can’t really be found and can’t be achieved… only to be achieved by the tenacious single-minded obsessive pursuit of the penultimate purpose…
What is that catalyst… the alchemy that makes prophets out of common human beings, legends out of the most common underdogs and gods out of mere mortals…
How does one crack the code of the possibilities of the impossibilities?
Date: 4th July 1999
Location: Tiger Hill, Kargil
Task: Capture three strategic enemy bunkers located at the top of a treacherously vertical, snow covered 1000 ft high cliff face. Task Assigned to: Ghatak Force Commando Platoon, Indian Army.
Time: Early Morning Hours
A 19-year-old newly enlisted 18 Grenadiers soldier, Yogendra Singh Yadav, volunteered to lead the assault in the most severely life-threatening circumstances. He had to not only climb the cliff face but also install ropes that would allow further assaults.
It was a steep uphill stiff climb with the enemy having full clear view on us and the soldiers below just grappling their way up the dark to a most certain death. Halfway up, as expected, the enemy attacked the platoon with machine gun fire and rocket attacks. The platoon commander and two others were killed instantaneously. Yadav was hit by multiple bullets in his groin and shoulders. Inspite of being brutally injured and having lost lot of blood, Yadav climbed the remaining 60ft & reached the top. Summoning extraordinary grit and courage, he crawled to the first bunker, lobbed a grenade which killed four enemy soldiers and neutralized their firing power giving the rest of the platoon the chance to climb up the stiff cliff.
Yadav by now was hit by almost 21 bullets and had lost lot of blood. He could only see dead corpses around of his people, blown to bits, and life threateningly ebbing out from himself. He summoned the remnants of extraordinary determination laced with outstanding courage… charged at the second bunker and engaged with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat… inspite of having shoulder that was smashed with machine gun fire and a body that was filled with 21 bullets with lots of blood lost… he killed 4 enemy soldiers with his bare hands and the platoon succeeded in capturing the Tiger Hill.
When he was awarded the Paramvir Chakra – India’s highest military decoration – awarded for displaying extraordinary acts of valour during wartime – it was awarded to him posthumously before it was discovered that he was alive and recuperating in an army hospital. His PVC citation states that Yadav displayed the most conspicuous courage, indomitable gallantry, grit and determination under extreme adverse circumstances.
What really triggers this kind of mindboggling determination to achieve the set goal in a human being, inspite of the most adverse extreme brutal slaughtering of fate that one can wildly imagine?
It’s your Sisu.
Sisu is a Finnish trait that the Finns have declared as their national character. While it unfortunately doesn’t have a literal English equivalent, Sisu is described as the extraordinary determination in the face of extreme adversity, and courage that is presented usually in situations where success is considered impossible. It’s the trait that summons the tenacious resolve and resolute determination in us, otherwise lying dormant. It provides us with that continuous burst of steely strength to face exceptional odds, helping us decide a course of action to face impossible situations inspite of repeated failures, in pursuit of our set purpose.
In 1940, the Time magazine first time acknowledged the word in English, reporting it thus: “The Finns have something they call Sisu. It’s a compound of bravado, and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win.”
This was a direct result of what the Finns had displayed a month ago. In the bone chilling – 40° winter of Nov 1939, the predatory neighbor of an unprepared, unequipped weak & fragile Finland… the mighty Soviet Union, 66 times their size, attacked them with 7.5 Lakh soldiers armed with 6500+ tanks and backed by a fleet of close to 4000 fighter aircrafts.
Finland was backed by an army of 3 lakh untrained, largely inexperienced reservist soldiers who were rather their peace loving agrarian citizens. They did not even have equipment or uniforms and had to use their own clothes. Against a might of the 6500+ soviet tanks, the Finns had just about 32 tanks and against the 4000 soviet fighter aircrafts, the Finns had dilapidated 114 aircrafts.
Yet despite such a superior mindboggling military strength, in the Winter War, the Soviets suffered incomprehensible losses at the hands of a small insignificant weak nation that was one sixty-sixth their size. By the time the Sisu enabled Finns were done with them, the Soviets had 3.8 lakh casualties against a total of 70,000 Finnish casualties. The Soviets lost 3500+ tanks & 500+ aircrafts.
Whatever could be imagined as superlative strength or superior might was on the Soviet’s side. Yet the David against the Goliath here were the Finnish. It was an easily pre-determined victory for the Soviets. Then how did they get routed and wiped out so heavily? How did the tallest ferocious wild giant of its time get its nose bloodied and punched by the circus dwarf? What fuelled the Finns to face such an unprecedented adversity where the odds of surviving itself were below nil… as minus as the climate of a bone chilling – 40° winter.
It’s the Sisu in us that propels & breathes life into the untapped beast of aggression against unforeseen brutal adversities that threaten to subdue our will to succeed against odds and achieve our dreams. It’s the Sisu in us that feebly whispers in us to keep moving on even if fate repeatedly has dealt us bloody blows and defeat has become the way of life. It’s the voice of tenacity in our soul that we usually strangulate with the manila rope of societal conditioning and circumstantial beliefs. It’s the voice that few out of billions pay heed to and go on to achieve the extraordinary impossible that the rest of us thereafter make motivational fables and stories to recite passionately to our friends, children and relatives or make viral through exciting forwards.
Sisu is the strength that propels you never to give up. It is the single free neutron of resilient determination that strikes against the nucleus of the atom of epidemic epitomes of accepted impossibilities. In this process when one or two neutrons are set free with their achievements which in turn releases the energy of possibilities…. this chain reaction sets of the nuclear fission of unprecedented energy and success that hitherto seemed highly improbable. To break that first neutron of rock-hard mindset of survival mediocrity, one needs the Sisu. Only then the chain reaction of possibilities can be set free.
Across the timelines many souls have discovered their Sisu and triggered that fissionary reaction of monumental energy within themselves that has given impossible momentum to their wings of desire.
After guarding the prestigious JNU campus as a security guard for over four years, Ramjal Meena cracked the entrance exam to the very university that he guarded and became a student there. Lekhraj Bheel, an 18-year-old youth and the son of MNREGA labourers from Rajasthan, hadn’t even heard of the JEE-Main exam till a couple of years ago. Now he has become first from his tribal village in Rajasthan to crack the exam…Middle class privileges leaves us blind to how difficult things are for those who aren’t as fortunate as we are… Like Sreekant K who worked as a coolie at Ernakulam Junction for five years, using the free railway wifi there to eventually clear the Kerala Public Service Commission Exam & become a Civil Servant…. Or Satendar Singh whose eyesight was lost as a result of a wrong injection.. but did not lose hope… cracked the toughest exam in the country – UPSC Civil Services Exam…Or the 18 year old Rekha who ran away from home in a small rural village in Karnataka to escape getting married and with the assistance of a friend scored 90% plus in her 12th …. Or 20 year old Asharam Choudhary who inspite of being a rag pickers son and living in absolute penury and suffering cleared his AIIMS entrance in first attempt all by himself…
There are millions of us who summon small amounts of Sisu everyday and fight the battles of our lives as we weave our way through making a living, reaching our workspaces and fighting to survive against all odds, giving food and security to our families and quality education to our children, millions of us who work as doctors, engineers, social workers, manual scavengers, teachers, soldiers, mill workers, farmers, insurance agents.. and millions of what is considered as menial jobs … that hold the structure of the society intact and keep the wheels of progress moving at its minuscule speeds.
But if we want to achieve the astounding, create history in a single lifetime that the universe has blessed us with, battle with the impossibilities of life and win against all odds against the most adverse extreme brutal slaughtering of fate that one can wildly imagine… then we will have to summon extraordinary determination and courage … the tenacious resolve and resolute determination in us to face impossible situations inspite of repeated failures, in pursuit of our set purpose…. Our Sisu
Can you discover & activate your SISU?
The deluge of necessary and unnecessary information in this age and time is astounding and mind-numbing. The cache is storing trash that practically has zilch recall value.
Let me give a small demonstration… Try remembering any three likes on any FB post.. Tweet… Instagram pic that you liked three days ago. Try humming the first few lines of your favourite song from the last three favourite movies you saw. Try recalling three favourite lines from the last three books that you read that made a deep impact on your intellect. Try recalling what made you laugh out the loudest last week. Try recalling the news that made you question the future of this country quite negatively… from the newspaper or tv news that impacted you two three days ago…
Chances are that you might find it difficult to recall any of them or even all of them.. since chances are that we may have been exposed to some or all of the above indispensably important activities…
Then, also try and remember when was the last time when you actually sat down and gave yourself a straight one or two hours of uninterrupted dedicated time .. thinking about the most important person in your life… YOU… introspecting on where you stand in life today… where you are really headed… what really excites you the most and are you doing that? if not then when will you embark on that journey? what is your passion and are you living it … or are you merely surviving.. existing… just earning a living… creating a security blanket for self and family and managing some stray savings between so many EMIs and the various taxes that are bleeding you… chances are that you wouldn’t really recall when you spent dedicated time with yourself.. thinking about yourself…
Many of us actually dread to live alone with ourself.. spend quality time with self in solitude.. look within.. contemplate.. introspect… evaluate.. criticise… admire.. most of us don’t either really know ourselves or rather we have buried ourselves deep inside the debris of our unfulfilled desires and possible ideal… and masked our true self with various vizards… suitable to various situations.. people and circumstances.
And hence the need to continually keep ourselves busy craning our neck towards the ground… staring reverently into the inanimate battery operated instrument between our thumbs.. ensconced between our palms … that usually fatuous scrapbook of barren unproductive trivia… that is our window to life today.. or so we think… gluttoning away inutile information as a passionate indoctrinated disciple of nomophobia..
As a result we have lost our path. That’s a hard hitting reality that many of us may intellectually refuse to agree since we have now programmed our mind into believing that this is the way if life we always wanted… that whatever we are doing is our passion and that we actually get up every morning trembling with excitement.. as we look into the day ahead and the joys of what we are about to do that day… this is the state of condition of.. well many of us… many of us who have mediocritized our existence.. many of us who are just striking days off our existential calendar existing…
Some of us never ever really knew what we wanted… some of us knew it all along but compromised with it due to the circumstances of life.. some of us are still in the process of discovering what we really want… some of us may never really discover what we wanted… and some of us are pursuing temporary goals that will empower us to actually one day chase & achieve our ideal life…
But those of us who are really really contented.. really really happy… really really loving every moment of their existence.. really really looking forward to each day excitedly.. not putting on any facade but strutting around with their own happy faces devoid of any situational masks are the ones who are doing so because of the operative existence of one single word in their lives that they have in abundance.
Clarity is power.
It empowers the owner to pack maximum satisfaction into every minute of theirs. They aren’t threatened by any social termites that eat away into any part of their meaningful existence. They revel in their own company and are so much in love with their real selves. They just adore who they are and what they do. They squeeze out maximum out of every minute because they are clear on what they want.. where they are headed and what the milestones of their existential path of life are.
Yuval Noah Harari says in his Sapiens that as far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.
If there is any iota of truth there in that, as it evidently is.. then what are we really chasing. As said the narrator in a movie that I saw..On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. Then what use is any glory or any achievement or any goal that is not stamped with the stamp of permanence.
There are seven billion plus breathing human beings out there in the planet … in different stages of discovering their purpose of existence. How many do you know. How many know you. How many do you want to know you. How many do you want to know of your existence and your purpose in life. Do you really have a purpose? One that you are breathing and living for? And if yes, then what is the importance of that purpose in the timeline of this impermanent universe. Do you have clarity on the cause of your existence? Or just because your parents decided or undecided.. whatever may be the case of your existence.. you are justifying just that.
We need clarity.
Simply because clarity will set us free. It will add meaning to our breathing. It will bring a smile on the face of our existence. I don’t want to recommend any grandiose plans or suggestions on what you should or shouldn’t. But you must have clarity… for sure… on the way of your life. Is your life so insignificant that it doesn’t merit the respect of a purpose? Is there anything more dangerous than an irresponsible causeless existence? Status Quo is a crime against humanity. Status Quo of existence is despicable suicide of the soul. It makes us as animate as the other organisms of the vicious food chain and the sands of time will mercilessly devour us without a trace. Don’t cannibalise your own existence. We need to give meaning to our existence and perhaps only then we will be able to crack open the being from the mere human that we are.
That clarity of purpose is required. As a mark of respect to our relentlessly & tirelessly pumping heart and the mind that consistently subconsciously wants the best for its owner.
For clarity is divinity.
Do you have clarity in your life?
In continuation of my last post, I did manage to gather some thoughts on the topic.
Is destiny stronger than the human karma?
Is our will power weaker than the pre-designed fate?
Are our aspirations meaningless in front of heavenly plans?
Do we have any aspect of our life in our control at all?
Our ancestors never tired of sharing the hereditary wisdom that even a leaf doesn’t sway in the wind without the desire of the cosmic powers. If we take that seriously, then does it mean that every action of every living being is robotic in nature and is being controlled by some allocated staff in the heavenly offices?
Highly doubtful. Simple common sense dictates that displacement of any object is due to the result of external force. A stationary object cannot move by itself. It needs force to move it ( I am not a science guy.. just applying newtons law in simplistic terms 😊). I tried to extrapolate this into lifesituations. If I have a fear of failure, then to displace it out of my psyche, I will have to apply such force of logic that is greater than the strength of the fear itself. What needs deliberate consideration here is that there are other forces inimical to the force you apply to move your fear. Forces like friction, gravity & resistance. Friction caused due to the volatility of your introspective deliberations. Gravity of your inertia – your love for the status quo and the appeal of your comfort zone. Resistance imposed by your dogmas, conditioning and long held beliefs & inherent value system. If you unshackle yourself from these three, the possibility of your rational mind winning over the force of fear is more possible.
Too much English … eh! 😃
Let me discuss it in simple terms.
What I am trying to say is that nothing … absolutely NOTHING in this universe happens by itself. The actions and reactions that happen in this universe are harmonious with its laws.. known and unknown. Whatever happens is always a byproduct of some action or some choices that you make. The moment a choice is exercised, it’s destiny is decided… the outcome is preordained now. If you jump out of window.. you will not fly off… the action of jumping is followed by the action of falling simply because the laws of gravity will apply. Thus actions and its resultant outputs are usually a factor of the relevant laws governing the discipline of that action.
We are a product of our choices. Our fate is the name we attach to the results of our conscious & sub-conscious choices. Whoever…. Whosoever …. who has ever achieved any extraordinary success… scripted immortal historic achievements in the sands of time… become a beacon of hope and a lighthouse of millions of direction seekers across centuries… just think and analyse… did so as an outcome of their obsessive, relentless pursuit of their goal … achievement of which they are held in high esteem for.
Whoever is your ideal hero .. whom you hold as an ideal of success.. has been a product of their determined tenacious pursuit of their passion. They rose above the limitations of circumstances… the restrictions imposed by the wisdom of the crowds… the bruises & hammerings of failures and hopelessness… the cold scary trepidations of the unprecedented… they conquered all and more to script the destiny of their choice. Fortune has always been known to favour the brave.. the prepared and the extraordinarily persistently competent. Very minuscule percentage of the global population has ever belonged to this elite club. For very little population of the world has ever taken the risk of believing in themselves faultlessly… in dreaming wild dreams of the impossible and acquiring the competence and tenacity to be prepared to pay the price to make their dreams come true. The bergy bits of success that the masses call destined success is the tip of the iceberg that is bulked up with invisible grit.. determination.. choices.. unforgiving pursuit of passion… we see the result… we need to see the exercise of choices of those whom we hold in high esteem.
Thus, karma is powerful. Willpower is known to rescript any preordained fate.. if such a thing does exist. Our tenacious aspirations are more powerful than any heavenly plan and yes, we can control most of the outcomes in our lives by exercising right choices… pursuing right corresponding actions and maximising utility of every moment available to us by living it to its maximum value.
Though there also are cases where the best of actions and choices have not yielded desired results.. .. then perhaps it’s time to delve deeper into analysing the course of the actions and revisiting the manner in which we are exercising our choices.. perhaps something is amiss… perhaps some different strategy needs to be deployed.. perhaps we are not playing the game in accordance with its set cosmic rules … perhaps what we are assuming as our best… really isn’t .. introspect..
For as I asked in my previous blog… who decides which stone becomes a divine idol and which one becomes a gravel on the road. Which paper becomes a mythological epic that is revered and which one becomes piece of scrap… well the answer is quite clear… the sculptor to a large extent decides the fate of a stone and the passionate author chooses to either draft an epic or just jot down gibberish on a piece of paper… for inanimate objects don’t decide their fates… their fate is decided by the hand that owns them…
Who owns you?
After my musings on Nothing is Better than Something, I was bombarded with queries on what should be the plan of action if a discerning soul were to indeed realise the futility of their journey already undertaken well past its time, and they want to return to a path that they always wanted to pursue ever since they could recollect.
Or simply put… the journey undertaken for so many years has failed to deliver the destination.. is no more exciting.. has not yielded what it should & seemingly may not yield desired results ahead too.. or just is not making sense anymore…Many of my dear friends wanted to know whether it is possible to ever consider a UTurn midway…
Tough question actually! A vast majority wouldn’t even dare consider such a perceived blunder. It’s too late to turn back. To rewind the clock. You are way too invested into something already, that the fear of nothing coming out of it cannot be entertained… the hope of the possibilities from the known, someday yielding some semblance of comforting output, is far preferable to the fear of the unknown and untrodden gamble, at this stage of life. The adrenalin tanks have dried up. Risk taking abilities are buried deep in the debris of the catalogs of perils that the society has enumerated in its evolutionary wisdom.
Imagine yourself setting out on a road trip to a much awaited, much planned, passionate journey, to your life’s most favourite destination… to some exotic location in some mesmerising hilly terrain. You prepare yourself carefully, get your vehicle serviced and fuelled up and set out. Miles and miles of travel through some dense forest.. after some turn that you took.. on either some expert advise or thanks to the scintillating voice of the gmap… and now you are cruising along the dense forest with tall trees lining the road on both sides .. so dense that visibility is only a few meters in. Network has disappeared. Fuel is running out. Dusk is nearing. Destination seems to be nowhere in sight. All your gut feeling and survival instincts are screaming that you took the wrong turn and are on a path that ain’t goin to the place of your desire.
Wouldn’t you take a u-turn? Wouldn’t it make sense to return back to that crossroad and start over right again? Would you still be adventurous enough to explore the possibilities of perhaps hitting the right destination through the seemingly wrong path. Or maybe look forward to a possible more fantastic destination ahead.. one that you didn’t even conceive.. would you really attach importance to your instincts? Or would you in all your wisdom rectify your mistake, turn back to the point from where you will got your dream destination. What would you do?
And what if some stray native, enroute, did confirm that the path was indeed wrong. Would that influence your decision?
Nerve wracking dilemma … or an easy question with a nobrainer solution?
Well this imaginary situation was just a simple attempt at exploring the possibilities of making a u-turn from an off course vacation path. What if your wrong road is the path of your life? What after an arduous trek up the uphill of life.. after covering a lot of distance… bearing the brickbats and treacherous ups and downs .. having spent a good part of your youth you discover that you are about to reach a wrong peak… or worse.. you are on the wrong path of life with no peak in sight… what should one do at this juncture.
I don’t know what you would do. Or what anybody should do. I would return back and attempt the right journey again. I have always returned back unabashedly and unhesitatingly from any erroneous judgment or choice. It has been difficult undoubtedly. It is nerve-racking and calls for yet another instalment of timeframe from the fast depleting balance of the current account of your timebank… yet I wouldn’t be caught dead on a trail which didn’t lead to my destination.. or worse a journey to nowhere. I will die attempting what I want to do rather than live in pursuit of what I don’t want to do.. That may delay my journey or the time taken to reach my destination.. or maybe I may not reach it at all.. but I will have the comfort of being on a road of my choice … inching towards a goalpost that I have chosen…
And to live the life that you want for yourself is a basic necessity of any existence. It’s not a luxury… and the rules of the game always has shown that necessity is the mother of reinvention. The last six months have disastrously shown us that reinventing sometimes isn’t a choice. All the grandiose plans of humanity went for a toss with some miserable uncouth moron of a bat transmitting it’s curse over to the most spectacular of the planet’s creation, who with such monumental advancement hasn’t been able to remotely reach a solution yet.
All tenets of humanity have been reinvented. All practices and customs and traditions have been forcefully reinvented. All beliefs and dogmas have failed to stop the reinvention of their dogheaded existence. Early February this year if someone had said that people sent to hospitals with flu like symptoms would never be seen again … and disposed off without any semblance of time tested rituals, one would have earned some money by passing on such an imbecile to a mental asylum. But today it’s cloaked as a new norm. All the rituals have reinvented themselves on the diktats of the necessity of times.
Why, even the established organisational processes and methodologies and ways of existence of many businesses that were sworn by as the only one kind of possibility.. bequeathed by decades of unrelenting experiences are now being questioned by their own vociferous fanatic preachers.
When necessity hits you unexpectedly, you got to reinvent choicelessly… and that’s not written in any scriptures.. it’s the basic tenet of existence. Mankind has usually always progressed on that very single motive… necessity. The first guy who created/discovered fire or a wheel or a motor car or a plane or a cure or a theorem or a rocket or a vaccine or a philosophy or a religion or a machine … Or anything that helped the civilisation progress a notch better than what was bequeathed… he/she was never influenced by the factor of doing good for the society as a sole objective… it was his/her raw selfish desire to make their own existence better than what was given to them. That as a collateral might have inched the humankind a level ahead.. but only as a collateral to the primary objective of the necessity of its creator.
Any underdog success story that is any day hair-raisingly inspiring… be it the likes of Oprah, Branson, Rowling, Musk, Mandela, Ambani, Dell, JackMa, Schultz, VijayShekar Sharma, Bansals, NarayanaMurthy, Bachchan, Lincoln, Jobs.. and the plethora of them are nothing but products of dire necessity… the difference being that, for the mundane, the basic necessities of life hold them ransom over their choices and for these rare success icons, the burning desire for extraordinary achievements become the necessity. And a random analysis of their journey will lead to the fact that they failed or missed their paths many a times before stubbornly backtracking towards their chosen purpose.
So there is no shame or fear in any U-Turns. It’s just the question of your own appetite for your goals and your hunger for your ambitions and your raging obsession for your aspirations. That’s the clincher.
Necessity is the mother of reinvention. If it isn’t. .. it ought to be.
Every event of our life is a page in a cosmic chapter.. including the entire journey of a soul on this earth… we are a cumulative book of many such chapters across many lifetimes… across many planets, perhaps… we are travellers and travelling across any terrain is our only dharma .. let’s do it to our best abilities.. in the journey you will get great cotravellers and and great situations… we may also get some extremely bad ones.. laugh & be merry with the good ones.. bear with the bad ones and keep travelling. Let’s amass the best possible experiences in these journeys that may dictate better scripting of future chapters.
And hey… if you are on the wrong track of life.. one that doesn’t excite you.. one that doesn’t lead you to your chosen destination… then don’t hesitate..
Take a U-Turn.
May the force be with your necessities and buddy… keep reinventing.
Yet another Happy Teacher’s Day gets past us. We are done with forwarding our favourite quotes and e-wishing those who purportedly contributed to some format of learning in our lives. A new day beckons us tomorrow, bringing alongwith it a new set of learnings & teachings…
Notwithstanding the quote pictured above, by one of the most respected first citizens of this mighty civilisation, a BharatRatna who championed the cause of teachers by telling us to celebrate his birthday in their honour rather… it remains an irrefutable fact that the end objective of any aspect thought is not just enlightenment in the area of the topic but also attaining freedom from ignorance, as far as at least the scope of the subject matter of such teaching is concerned.
How many of us ever imbibe what we learn… what we learnt or whatever we will ever learn. If we do… good for us. For the most of us who don’t… then why hoard the learning in some decrepit dark dungeons of the unreachable crevices of our mind.
I have spent over two decades now in pursuing my obsession of sharing knowledge, influencing intellects and attempting to direct the human intelligence towards whatever can possibly yield incremental results for every unit of effort invested and milking the maximum potential of any possible opportunity. And what I have realised is that, perhaps, I have embarked on a journey that is the toughest of all paths … that of influencing human intelligence…. or the lack of it thereof.. as the case may be.
Simply because the superlative power of habits and the intoxicating magnetism of the known is so enchanting, that it refuses to release its victims from the dopamine inducing comfort zones and the smug overconfidence provided by the lessons of their own experiences from within their constricted laboratories of limited circumstances. The darkness of the known is so powerfully permeating that it swallows any semblance of any form of light that vaguely attempts to dispel the ignorance or share lessons from bigger laboratories of life.
If the above isn’t remotely true, then you will find it almost impossible to refute my assessment that there are millions of doctorate degree holders in the field of LifeLessons from the University of Whatsapp, a dangerous credo who cannot be influenced with any teaching today as they have seen it & shared it all. Any homosapien worth his salt, is today a willing stranger belonging to the comforting crowds of multiple groups which preach him “invaluable lessons” in … well you name the topic… and my guess is that most of them would have been exposed to some expert treatise or the other on the said realm. We are forward junkies and mass consumers of the flood of irrelevant information. From the complexities of nuclear physics to the possibilities of finding life on Mars… from the cure to the elusive corona virus to how the US Govt could provide better doles to its citizens… from how Sushant Singh Rajput unnecessarily lost his battle against perceived hopelessness which the self professed professors of life could have cured within the snap of their fingers.. to how the CBI should conduct their investigations, from how RBI can manage it’s affairs better to how they could provide an alternative to the experimental approach to alleviate global poverty propounded by Banerjee, Duflo & Kremer… there is no topic that a living being with a connected smartphone isn’t an expert of today or has an opinion about.
SmartPhone Slaves love to forward videos on the harmful effects of digital slavery… incompetents do justice to their existence by sharing the virtues of discovering the purpose of one’s greatness as extolled by Simon Sineks of life… wannabe hunks like me with ageing stubborn paunches take intoxicating pleasure in spreading the benefits of fitness regimes and healthy food practices that have never ever been practiced by self… or worse still, hardcore digiaddicts who forward anything that is forwarded to them without as much as bothering to check the veracity of the junk thus forwarded, unsolicited.. such irreversible stage has the terminality of this malady reached. And this is just an insignificant list… The legions of this self anointed digital knowledge evangelists have surpassed the infectious capabilities of the most dreaded viruses ever to have been inflicted upon mankind.
But then what is the problem in all this.. nothing much… just that constant exposure to expertise galore has made us knowledge numb. We have motivated ourselves to such peaks of maximum possibilities that the only way ahead is downwards. We are so immune to any byte of relevant information now that when it comes knocking at the gates of our limitations, we shoo them away in auto reflex mode.. most of the times not even knowing that we did so. Thus continuing to revel in the mediocrity of the known and the comfortable… A vast multitude of the billions continue doing that.. gluttoning away their own limited time and a minuscule percentage who heed it then chase and achieve various levels of successes and amongst them many becoming YouTube channel producers propagating their mantras of success and the rest continuing their commitment to remaining consumers of others learnings…
It is said that we are a product of our thoughts.. and our thoughts are today exposed to the best of motivations, access to success skills and zillions of examples of underdogs emerging victorious in the fields that you can care to imagine… then what stops us from emulating such grandiose examples of exemplary success .. why do we then continue to express our joy at such success .. smoothen the electrified hair of our goosebumps into its known territories of timidity & servitude to dormancy and habitual mediocrity of the mundane and revert back into the dungeons of our own self imposed limitations? Why nothing motivates us anymore. Why are we so immune to the world of possibilities. Why has our intrinsic thirst to move a notch higher been quenched by the liquor of dogmas. Why are we so proud of being a nameless face in the vast multitudes of the digital zombies.. knowing everything and contributing nothing.
We tch tch our inability to implement any motivation by blaming the limitations of our circumstances. We even refuse to practice what we preach, comfortably pinning the blame on the impracticality of the utility of the best of lessons given the limitations of your environment… we refuse to live by our own values.. whatever we have … if we have any left … as they are good to hear in stories that can only be forwarded … we have programmed ourselves to switch off whenever any learning calls for implementation. The addiction of the comforting confines of the known cannot be deaddicted by any teaching of any level.. for we have buried our ability to explore… innovate … and try in the rubble of the tonnes of forwards and limitations of our so called experiences … like the proverbial chained elephant.
We cannot let any knowledge free us from that comforting chain of limitations. We shall be proud to remain such horses that could only be dragged to the water but proudly exercised its right to refuse to drink. For there is no thirst to explore the extraordinary lying dormant genetically in every strand of our DNA.
We shall remain grateful to all the digital sources that have imprisoned us in their servitude by providing us zillions of bytes of unsolicited knowledge that is available at the tap of our index finger… and that itself is comforting enough. Why even tap and mess with what is going fine… change is just a theory.. disruptions like the one imposed by covids of life will come and go… what we know is far more than enough.. who can dare tell us what any norm is… let’s not rock the boat of mediocrity that millions and billions subscribe to…
Let’s wish the best of em all .. Prof Whatsapp … Happy Teacher’s Day Buddy🙏🏻🤓
When I was grappling with science in my intermediate, on the verge of quitting, I was advised to opt for commerce… If I had made up my mind not to “become” an engineer or doctor. “Something is better than nothing!!”
When I turned into a serial entrepreneur pursuing series of interests one after the other, and when they really didn’t take off as expected, today as I know it as the resultant of the want of passionate persistence, I was advised to seek a regular paying job. Something is better than nothing.
In my two plus decades of L&D Life, I have met thousands and thousands of bright minds, who are passionate about singing, dancing, writing, acting, photography, painting… living … who shunned their passion, buried it in truckloads of pecuniary wisdom, flooded with abundance of advice: Something is better than nothing. Most of my sales colleagues, (Peace Be Upon Their Hallowed Souls 🤓) at all levels, have almost always been a product of some accidental rerouting of their life and landed themselves as reluctant sales professionals. And that I daresay holds true to almost 90+% of the corporate role holders in this corporate world. All products of Something is better than nothing….
I dread to imagine the unseen fiduciary loss of these organizations saddled with human capital who were products of something is better than nothing, rather than passionate pursuits of the arena that they were tasked with producing results in. Old Vedic wisdom said that if the cook of the house were to cook with absent mindedness or any other distressful emotion of either anger, sorrow, hatred etc., then the essence of such negativity percolates on the hapless eaters demeanour. If I were to stretch the scope of this ancient wisdom, then the cumulative resultant of the tasks performed by unwilling, apathetic zombies imprisoned in their roles culminating from their monetary need rather than their passion, the massive onslaught of average work that the recipient organization unseeingly suffers is mind-numbing to even fathom. Thus, never reaching its zeniths of possibilities, ever… relegated to average obscurity of ‘also existed’ category.
And this “also existed category” of humanoids in its billions of numbers is the root cause of the air of depreciating possibilities that the planet suffers from. While we rejoice the random acts of progress made by mankind over the thousands of years of its recorded history, what we fail to evaluate is that the denominator was absolutely nothing to which we are comparing the progress with. If we were to denominatorize the possibilities of the products of passionate pursuits of human beings, then the limitless scope of the same would really stun us with the similar effect that one may feel when they were to stare at the sun with their naked eyes.
Something is better than nothing empowers us to pursue any channel of alternative to our original passion, since our perceived survival instincts get the better of us. Perhaps that is the conspiratorial flaw of the survival program of the celestial programmers in delaying the realization of the true potential of the denizens of this planet. Perhaps that is the conspiracy of the Gods in ensuring that we don’t become one of them. As all the religions worth their existence scream out that we were created as clones of the almighty in form and we ensured our systemic disintegration over the time zones through our mediocrity mindset and pursuits of something is better than nothing.
Just for a moment imagine… what would happen if we were to pursue education with the intent of knowledge acquisition and not rote rigmaroles of scoring cent percentiles in the rapacious pursuit of becoming a campus recruitment statistic. We acquire ‘education’ with an intent to earn. Better the ‘education’ better the earning potential. Did I hear you ask learning? Well. I bet you must be joking. Who buys education to ever acquire knowledge?
And just for a divine moment imagine, if we were to opt for nothing, instead of settling for something, in our pursuit of passion. That we were unwilling to sacrifice our dreams and happiness for the sake of survival and security. That we were to continue chasing our craving for that which gave us goosebumps in its pursuit and make us moony eyed to even imagine its smidgeon achievement. That which triggered the release of millions of wild butterflies in our stomachs when we imagined treading the path of what made us happy and gleeful. How many of us get up every morning with this feeling of electrifying excitement and look forward to the day of our chores as passionately and eagerly as the elusive sighting of your first love during your sophomore years. If you don’t… You have your answer.
When you settle for “nothing”, snubbing the pursuit of the substitute “something”, then you devote your entire focus and energy on that one thing that you want. You employ all your energies and channel every single iota of strength in the sinews of your brain to make your dream a reality. You look for ways and means, while you have the luxury of time, to chase the objects of your passion and aspirations. You are not bogged down by the mundane chores of mediocrity shoved at you by someone you care two hoots about. You are the owner of your dreams and you are the driver of the vehicle of your passionate pursuit. You create plans, roadmaps, strategies to achieve what you have always wanted and not get imprisoned for decades, proving your worthlessness in the servitude of tasks that never were your passion in the first place. The pursuit itself adds meaning to your life, happy in the thought that you are chasing what you love. The excitement is always in the journey and not really in the termination of the journey at its destination. Destinations keep evolving … heralding many instalments of journeys that continue to give a new lease of life to every atom of your body and soul and keeps you truly alive. And if a collective humanity were to chase its passion, then the collective possibility of this planet would have perhaps surpassed the imaginations of its creators, as they always suspected, while this program was being finalized.
And thus, the bug was planted in the software of life. Something is better than nothing.
If you want to chase true happiness, give life back to your heartbeats, return the glow of existence to your glassy eyes and defog the potential of your intellect, then, my friends, you need to rather settle for nothing …. Nothing but life at your terms… Nothing but your passionate best…. Best of your primal possibilities of magnificence… crack the code… subdue the urge to merely exist and shun the warmth of the shades of the known… the dark alleys of the comforts of mere mediocre survival…
For no man or woman worth their salt who ever made history, no creator who ever advanced the human race, no billionaire who succeeded in his venture of passion, no superhero who thought that he can change the world and did, ever pursue the comfortable alternates of something while they nurtured their ardent ambitions…. For the pursuit of something is the curse that makes you a Midas of Mediocrity. If something is the only option while you hibernate in your pupa, then opt for nothing rather. And in the moments of nothingness, metamorphose your dream into reality. For only those succeeded in any extraordinary venture who single-mindedly chased their paths of passion without consigning themselves into the decades of the obscurity of mediocrity that the journey of something is for sure to relegate you to.
Nothing… Is Better Than Something.
The mythical Eklavya in the Indian Epic, Mahabharat, when refused training by the legendary Royal Guru Dronacharya, epitomises the Guru in a statue and with extraordinary discipline trains himself in the art of archery to become better than the best than, Arjuna. When the learned Guru Drona realises that a non royal outcast has trained himself to be better than his best pupil, connives & conspires and asks for GuruDakshina – his fees … strangely enough for actually not having imparted any art to the poor trainee who had rather magnanimously assumed the learned Guru to be his spiritual teacher. The gullible and awestruck poor lad agrees. What does the Guru ask.. His Thumb. And the poor lad.. without blinking an eye cuts off the thumb and offers it to the Sage.
In the same Mahabharat, the Empress Draupadi is disrobed and abused in the most profane language that would put some of our uncouth lads of today to shame… bang in between a fullhouse royal court that had in attendance & dishonourable witness of the iniquitous act.. the then epitomes of character & wisdom, the mightiest of thé mighty warriors… Mighty Bheeshma.. akin to the Empress’s Grandfather.. Mighty Guru Dronacharya.. her fathers best friend, the blind conniving emperor, Dhritarashtra.. akin to her father in law, and her defeated husbands and the mightiest of them all.. Arjuna, Bheema… all bowing their heads in helplessness imposed by self preached dogmas… of purported dharma..chained in their own twisted philosophies of truth…. nevertheless a lady of the stature of an empress was being violated and shamed in their helpless witness.. the very act notarising their acquiescence of the concupiscence of the depraved brutes who were like her own brothers.
In Ramayana, Sita gets abducted and the entire epic gets written as she accepts the request for alms from a scheming treacherous demon king Ravana who is disguised as a sage and rituals have it that sages begging for alms cannot be turned away.
Alas. Alasss. Ohhh God… Alas…. All that these hapless victims of so called preordained fate had to do was take a stand. Say NO.
By saying No, the unsuspecting pupil perhaps would never have become an embodiment of sacrifice and a devout pupil of historical repute… but might have taken his rightful place as the best archer in the world .. better than Arjuna, as he was.
By saying No to being a mute spectator to the revoltingly perverted act of a woman’s public dishonour much less that of an empress.. that told of the plight of the women of the times, the Mighty Bheeshma, or the Mighty Guru Drona may never have been considered as epitomes of loyalty in servitude towards their motherland… but rather might have saved millions of lives from meaningless savage deaths in the name of the bloodiest of battles ever fought and may also have had history respect them as real men… of substance.. who refused to allow such depravity to be conducted in their witness to happen and were willing to let go of bogus oaths that shames humanity forever in its upkeep.
And by saying No, the Dharmaraj Yudhisthira.. The helpless emperor, whose wife was molested in front of his own eyes by agents of decadence may never have been respected as a man who could sacrifice anything for the pretentious upkeep of dharma.. which was not more or could ever be more than the honour of the woman whom he had vowed to protect… what use was his dharmic pretension or the might of Bheema with his strength of 10,000 elephants or the expertise of Arjuna who could destroy any chakravyuha or bore the eye of a fish hanging in sky with his arrow, when their collective strength & wisdom could not protect their own wife.. their honour.. their empress and least of all their subject of avowed protection.
By saying No, to the demon king disguised as a sage, Mother Sita would have bore the brunt of the ire of a wicked disguised demon.. who would have been unable to do anything actually… but instead would have saved the whole brouhaha of a massive war that killed so many and led to issues galore. Instead Lord Ram would still have got to know of this vile attempt and would still have befittingly punished Ravana.. minus the bloodshed of the innocent… perhaps…
And we face many such traumatic dilemmas daily in our lives. And our yes costs us dearly… We so want to say No.. Our heart and soul and mind cries out to say No and lo behold our tongue refuses and orders itself to parrot a Yes. And that ruins a lot of things.. potential to achieve greater good as we saw in the many examples above.. possibilities unexplored that could have resulted in far better outcomes… or plainly peace of mind .. in having done what YOU wanted to do and what YOU felt right.. instead of silently suffering .. for the sake of being goody goody.. being known as a pleasing personality.. an amicable fool. All that you are buying .. is not peace of mind.. or even the brownie points of someone else who disrespected you enough to ask you to do what you perhaps don’t want to.. rather you are bargaining for devaluation of your self esteem.. degradation of your self respect and a possibility of you slowly metamorphosing into a replica of the type of personality you so violently detest.
Mark Manson in his celebrated treatise, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck says “We all get dealt cards. Some of us get better cards than others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on our cards, and feel we got screwed over, the real game lies in the choices we make with those cards, the risk we decide to take, and the consequences we choose to live with. People who consistently make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life. And it’s not necessarily the people with the best cards.”
There are only so many yesses that you have.. to so carelessly squander away. I say the real game lies in the choices we make with our yesses and nos… the risk we know is comparative happiness and the consequences… calculated.. yet not self defiling & self destructive. For the want of saying a No at a right time, many a possible great has been defrauded of his/her magnanimous future .. many a human parasite has gotten away with his/her devious plans and many an extraordinary possibility vanished into the dismal cavernous abyss of nothingness…
If you want to be happy… If you want to earn your rightful respect, if you want to pursue your well earned peace of mind.. learn to say NO. You have only awfully limited yesses in your life to keep dishing it out at every given opportunity. A simple no would have changed the course of Indian History many times.. from Ekalavya to Bheeshma.. to Dhritarashtra.. to Yudhisthira.. to Bheema.. to Arjuna… to those who said yes to Robert Clive’s convoluted plans.. to Gandhi… to Nehru… to those who said yes to the partition.. to those millions of hapless coward parents who said yes to selling their daughters… to those millions of children across generations who said yes to their parent’s dream of making them an engineer or something like that.. against their passionate pursuits … to those who said yes to anyone buying their right of franchise for a few pennies or a quarter bottle of cheap alcohol… to those who said yes to every whims and fancies of their bosses against what is right for the organisation that feeds them… to those who said no to their thinking minds and said yes against their conscience.. against their values… against the good and against the primal possibilities of intrinsic greatness inherent to be nurtured.. cultivated and bloomed.
Every ill-timed Yes sets you back irreparably and the nation’s clock with many an unsaid no keeps turning its possibilities back to centuries… as the breed of the No Sayers keep diminishing through the altered inherited DNA.
Just Say No My Friend… When the Heart and Soul says so. Heed the Right. Change the course of history… Just imagine the possibilities with the right No.. said at the right time in the limited examples above… India would have seized her rightful place in the comity of nations… in the front ranks..
At least, if not the country.. we would have been happier.. by saying NO at the RIGHT time.
Second Lieutenant to India’s first Field Marshal… Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw popularly known as Sam Bahadur was the best that they ever make. In 1931, Sam’s father refused to send him to London to pursue medicine as he was passionate about. In 1931 the Indian Military College Committee, recommended the establishment of a military academy in India to train Indians for officer commissions in the army. Through a competitive exam set up by the Public Service Commission fir the first time Indian Youth were allowed to compete and become officers in the Indian Army by joining a course in the IMA. In an act of rebellion against his father’s refusal, Manekshaw applied for a place and sat the entrance exams in Delhi. On 1 October 1932, he was one of the fifteen cadets to be selected through open competition. Manekshaw was placed sixth in the order of merit. And here started a journey which scripted a rare chapter of extraordinary contribution to the Indian History.
What’s my point? And why bring Sam Manekshaw to the fore with this topic. Well if there can ever be an outshining exemplar of the topic in question here, Sam Bahadur would unanimously be at the top rung. Best is a word.. if it ever were to have a life of its own.. would feel infinitely proud for having been attached to such a fine gentleman.. officer.. leader.. human being. Such men take humanity and excellence of being .. a notch higher than it was ever envisaged by the creators of life and the epitomes of quality manuals envisioned in the departments of excellence in the heavenly offices.
Folklore legend has it that when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked the Indian Army Chief Sam Manekshaw if the Indian Army was ready for a war against Pakistan in April 1971, against her own assessment and the advice of the cabinet, he told her about the inevitable defeat if India attacked East Pakistan untimely. The Field Marshal narrated this incident as a personal example of moral courage, at the inaugural Field Marshal KM Cariappa Memorial Lecture in October 1995 at Delhi:
“There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a Field Marshal. In 1971, when Pakistan cracked down in East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India, into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting in her office. The External Affairs Minister Sardar Swaran Singh, the Agriculture Minister, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, the Defence Minister, Babu Jagjivan Ram and the Finance Minister, Yashwant Rao Chavan were present. I was then summoned.”
A very angry, grim-faced Prime Minister read out the telegrams from the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. She then turned around to me and said, “What are you doing about it?”
And I said, “Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me. You didn’t consult me when you allowed the BSF, the CRP and RAW to encourage the Pakistanis to revolt. Now that you are in trouble, you come to me. I have a long nose. I know what’s happening.”
I then asked her what she wanted me to do.
She said, “I want you to enter Pakistan.”
And I responded, “That means war!”
She said, “I do not mind if it is war.”
“Have you read the Bible?”, I said.
The Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh asked, “What has Bible got to do with this?”
I explained, that the first book, the first chapter, the first words, the first sentence God said was, “Let there be light” and there was light. Now you say, “Let there be war” and there will be war, but are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China if China gives us an ultimatum.
The Foreign Minister asked, “Will China give an ultimatum?” And I said, “You are the Foreign Minister, you tell me”. I told them that my armoured division and two of my infantry divisions were away. One in the Jhansi/Babina area, the other in Samba and the third one in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I mentioned that I will require all the road space, all the railway wagons, the entire railway system to move these formations to the operational areas and that harvesting was in progress in the Punjab and UP and they would not be able to move the harvest which would rot; and I pointed out to the Agriculture Minister that it wouldn’t be my responsibility if there was a famine. Then I said, “My armoured division, which is my big striking force is supposed to have 189 tanks operational. I have got only 11 tanks that are fit to fight.”
The Finance Minister, who is a friend of mine asked, “Sam why only 11?”
So I told him, “Because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking you for money for over a year and you say you haven’t got it!”
And finally I turned around to the Prime Minister and said that the rains were about to start in East Pakistan and when it rains there, it pours and when it pours, the whole countryside is flooded. The snows are melting, the rivers would become like oceans. If you stand on one bank, you can’t see the other. All my movement would be confined to roads. The Air Force, because of climatic conditions would not be able to support me. Now Prime Minister, give me your orders. The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, “The Cabinet will meet again at four o’clock”.
The members of the Cabinet started walking out. I being the junior most was the last to go and as I was leaving, she said,”Chief, will you stay back?”
I turned around and said, “Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?”
She said, “Every thing you told me is true”.
“Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth” I responded, “and it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.”
She smiled at me and said, “All right Sam, you know what I want?”
I said, “Yes, I know what you want!”
Now this is what the anti yes men cult are made of. Even when facing imminent dishonourable discharge, even when facing the pinnacle of power, the officer in charge of taking a decision did but budge from the stand of what was factual, the best option for the responsibility he represented in his line of duty. A simple yes to all that the cabinet said could have won him incomparable brownie points and benefits. His moral compass was however inclined towards the facts in hand and the best option that his experience and training accorded him.
In fact in yet another place Sam Bahadur so wonderfully lays this treatise simply thus:
The problem with us is the lack of leadership.
There is lack of leadership in every walk of life, whether it is political, administrative, in our educational institutions, or whether it is our sports organizations. Wherever you look, there is lack of leadership.
So, if leaders are not born, can leaders be made? My answer is yes. Give me a man or a woman with a common sense and decency, and I can make a leader out of him or her.
What are the attributes of leadership? The first, the primary, indeed the cardinal attribute of leadership is professional knowledge and professional competence. Now you will agree with me that you cannot be born with professional knowledge and professional competence even if you are a child of Prime Minister, or the son of an industrialist, or the progeny of a Field Marshal. Professional knowledge and professional competence have to be acquired by hard work and by constant study. In this fast- moving technologically developing world, you can never acquire sufficient professional knowledge. Professional knowledge and professional competence are a sine qua non of leadership
What is the next thing you need for leadership? It is the ability to make up your mind to make a decision and accept full responsibility for that decision. Have you ever wondered why people do not make a decision? The answer is quite simple. It is because they lack professional competence, or they are worried that their decision may be wrong and they will have to carry the can. According to the law of averages, if you take ten decisions, five ought to be right. If you have professional knowledge and professional competence, nine will be right, and the one that might not be correct will probably be put right by a subordinate officer or a colleague. But if you do not take a decision, you are doing something wrong. An act of omission is much worse than an act of commission. An act of commission can be put right. An act of omission cannot …
AND THATS THE CRUX. Acts of professional turpitude orchestrated by the yes men who throng the aura of a decision maker like a halo of a evil do untold harm to the one who falls for their ill meant advices as also those who bear the brunt of the impacts of such decisions influenced by vile sycophants.
Corporate and political history is abound with the travesties caused by such evil minions which eventually led to the downfall of dynasties, corporations and the even sovereignty of nations. Not to mention the calculated systematic meticulous destruction of superlative talent that could have reversed the fortunes of such nations, corporations or even dynasties. That’s the evil axis of influence of these lackeys in the garb of polite pleasing yes men … who can corrode the very pillars of what any entity stands for or ever stood for. These talent termites eat away every single possibility of excellence, every iota of potential and every ounce of opportunity ever presented by factual realistic representation of those who were competent and capable.
Yet, the silver lining is the path tread by such outstanding resplendent precedents like the Field Marshal Sam Bahadur who with their scant regard for systemic destruction, yet never gave up on the ideals and values on which humanity thrives. Becoming legend perhaps was never their aim. Being & doing the right always was. Irrespective of the fate that the sycophants scripted for them. They lived far taller than the mightiest peaks in their steely resolve and their unbridled pursuit of extraordinary excellence.
And it’s these instruments of change that Steve Jobs spoke of when he said: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.
“Remember, It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17
Before 14th June, I only liked Sushant Singh Rajput as a great actor, given my penchant for cinema and the avid movie buff that I am.
And then 14th happened.
I was taking my weekend power nap, when I was jolted awake by my daughter who just uttered that SSR had committed suicide. I jumped out of the bed and rushed to the television, in utter disbelief, only to hear the corroborative narration that an entire shocked nation was hearing.
It catapulted me to my sophomore years when I was gallivanting away from my college in my mofussil town and my close confidante … my friend in all deeds & misdeeds came chasing in search of me, the chain of his dilapidated cycle having failed as usual and he jumped down as blurred out… Divya Bharti is dead. Those were the days when news wasn’t a 24/7 gory business and I had to await the next days newspaper to get the details of the unbelievable painful tale of the death of someone whom I simply adored … along with millions of other admirers.
It was the first time that I had realised that these screen deities were also human beings… flesh and blood… and it hit really hard… this couldn’t be happening … it was just not possible… should I still chase my dreams of becoming an actor.. or is my dad right and engineering is the real thing… crazy random thoughts… it took an investment of some stolen money on a leading film glossy that carried the painful details… conspiracy theories … the picture of the place where the deity had fallen… intact… shattered… window without a grill… drunken parties till late nights… mother and father… separate accusations … the entire month was a nightmare..
And now this. As I .. glued to myriad channels.. where the merchants of pain spread their investigative paraphernalia and sold their sordid tales of grisly details… it is here that I discovered the extraordinary human soul behind the actor’s mask. And hitherto unknown facts came to my notice. The melancholic pain has consistently been increasing by the passing day. Inspite of the fact that other than the bond of humanity I had nothing binding me to this great soul. I tried searching for reasons on why I was suffering from so much distress on SSR giving up on life. Why did my eyes water at watching Dhoni the movie.. that I had already consumed a dozen times before… Why did the lines… Bin pooche mera naam aur pataa…. Rasmon ko rakh ke pare… Chaar kadam bas chaar kadam…. Chaldona saath mere… suddenly acquire a new lugubrious context…
Was it because of him being a fellow Bihari? Was it because that we tend to relate more to the success of the underdog stories? Was it because he left without according the basic etiquette of explaining his reasons to the masses who worshipped him and thus became enigmatic and the conundrum was killing us…
All the research that I set upon only disclosed a far superior quality of intellect behind that disarmingly enchanting endearing smile… a thinking brain… an intellectually advanced lifeform with an enviably fine balance of emotion between the heart and the mind… a positive persona with indefatigable zest for life and a passion par excellence to chase and achieve the extraordinary in the mediocre maze of this existence… It is here that I connected. It is here that the spark of pain became unbearable. A relationship between a thinking intellectual soul and another is one of the finest bonds that unites the known with the unknown … converting stranger souls into bonds of familiarity… based on mutual respect and admiration. This explained the lump in throat and the wetness of the eyes of my mind at every mention of the excellence that rid itself of a lifeform.
The pain now is more severe. For now, all the claims of depressive state of affairs or the compulsions imposed by the heinous conspiracies of the invisible omertà or the struggle cum failure stories, or the myriad relationships souring… nothing really justified the exit of a reasonably intelligent soul. As one who related to the same and may have borne the brunt of similar or far more devastating colourful blows of fate, I couldn’t for the respect of existence, in any order condone or corroborate any cause as worthy of depriving the already intellectually bankrupt existence of the times that we suffer.
I tried to look for the reasons in the immediate postings of SSR on his various social platforms and found these relevant random thoughts that perhaps joined the dots…..
April: What if consciousness is not something special that the brain does but is instead a quality inherent to all matter in the universe?
May: The Avatamsaka Sutra describes enlightenment as an awareness of the “interpenetration of space and time.” One can’t help but wonder if Einstein’s theory of relativity that unifies space and time was just a stroke of genius or also a glimpse of the divine. June: Blurred past evaporating from teardrops. Unending dreams carving an arc of smile. And a fleeting life, negotiating between the two…
All the above point to an extraordinarily advanced computation of the unseen aspects of existence or its meaning. The negotiation between thé blurred past evaporating from the teardrops and the unending dreams attempting to carve an arc of smile seem to have failed. The fleeting moment when the negotiations failed, SSR decided perhaps to merge the consciousness with the matter. Perhaps in such a random moment of some advanced realisation of the meaning of life… he merged with the divine. As SSR prophesied in one of his several musings…somewhere between the neurons of his passion and the narratives of his circumstances… he was born… lived… dreamt… and died…
And he converted his dream of being eternal into an immediate reality. May not be a right way to do so.. but who are we to judge the brightness of an exalted soul that might have sought and achieved enlightenment. History is abound with hundreds of stories of enlightened souls who never lived thereafter with the masses post enlightenment of the kind where the mysteries of life seem to have disclosed itself to them. Life is simply complicated. It’s the most misunderstood concept and the reality of death has only compounded the conundrum. We keep chasing death in the garb of living life. We surrender the genetically intelligent neurons to the narratives of mediocrity.
A dear friend if mine passionately attempted to mull about as to who we were to say that this lifetime is our entire book. That perhaps this may be a chapter… biding by its allocated time within the limited confines of the words and pages allocated to it. There may have been many chapters before or many ahead… Perhaps..
I fell for this concept.. And it is here … that with so much pain at the departing of such an inspiring soul as SSR.. it is but with respect we must accord his right to have refused to grant right to the limitations of the pages and words and spaces et al by ending the chapter consciously… perhaps he intuitively knew about the excitement and comparative superiority of the quality of the upcoming chapter… or perhaps the powerful omertà of the universe had authored the chapter to end thus.
Whatever be the case… the heart rules over the mind here and no explanation lessens the pain of reaching the last period of this chapter. The reader, who falls in love with the tale .. shall always have to bear the pangs of pain at the ending of such a tale. Many more tales may come… yet the nostalgia of the tale so loved shall continue to stab the memory… especially, when the author chose to end it at a sharp heartthrobbingly & mysteriously incomplete abrupt juncture… with no climax in sight… well the pain of suffering such a story that never ended and yet ended is only known to such unfortunate readers like us.
Hoping that SSR moved on to a happier chapter as he wanted. This ununderstood ending.. for sure will join the list of many such burning .. soul stirring … intellect confusing unanswered list of enigmatic queries that I have been collecting since my chapter began… to be asked and answer sought only from the supreme author.
In the lines of Kaifi Azmi Saab:
रहने को सदा दहर में आता नहीं कोई.
तुम जैसे गए ऐसे भी जाता नहीं कोई…
डरता हूँ कहीं ख़ुश्क न हो जाए समुंदर
राख अपनी कभी आप बहाता नहीं कोई
इक बार तो ख़ुद मौत भी घबरा गई होगी
यूँ मौत को सीने से लगाता नहीं कोई
माना कि उजालों ने तुम्हें दाग़ दिए थे
बे-रात ढले शम्अ बुझाता नहीं कोई
साक़ी से गिला था तुम्हें मय-ख़ाने से शिकवा
अब ज़हर से भी प्यास बुझाता नहीं कोई
हर सुब्ह हिला देता था ज़ंजीर ज़माना
क्यूँ आज दिवाने को जगाता नहीं कोई
अर्थी तो उठा लेते हैं सब अश्क बहा के
नाज़-ए-दिल-ए-बेताब उठाता नहीं कोई
Once upon a time, there was a lovely happy jungle located in the deepest forests of Gir… These were times when the civilisation hadn’t mushroomed wildly. The jungle had all inhabitants who lived in harmony and followed the rules and regulations of the nature. All were happy and life went on.
As anointed by the laws of the nature, the jungle was ruled by a wise lion. The lion was known to be just and a great leader. He was known for his honesty and authenticity. He was fair in his transactions and had been ruling now for many years. As the neighbouring forests started shrinking with the times , a troop of monkeys moved into this jungle and requested the lion to let them stay. The kindhearted lion agreed.
Over a period of time the monkey population grew compared to all the other animals. With the growing population of their kind, the monkeys eventually formed a group. They started murmuring on the administrative policies of the jungle and thought that since they were greater in number, the leadership must be from their species. One of the old monkeys voiced that since the lion is not from their tribe, why should they listen to him. They felt that the lion had been ruling the jungle for a long time unilaterally, and it is time they embraced democracy… a need for change in leadership was expressed. While they were prominent in number, but still were not the majority in the jungle… and thus needed the rest of the animals to support them. So, they devised a plan to persuade the other animals to join their cause. They started convincing the other animals to vote for one of them as the next king of the jungle. They said, “we are large in numbers; hence a leader from our tribe would benefit the jungle.”
The monkeys managed to convince most animals in the jungle to vote for the monkey leader. However, some old, experienced intelligentsia in the jungle were annoyed and approached their lion king. They spoke to him about this new dilemma. The wise lion understood the situation and could foresee what was coming and told those intelligentsia to have patience. He said, ‘wait and watch.’
The election day came, and the whole jungle voted. The big and small, the herds and the tribes, all voted for a change…. wanting the monkey leader to be the next king of the jungle. Hence the monkey representative came into power, and all the monkeys were thrilled. The monkey leader was ecstatic to have found the new leadership role, got very enthusiastic, started jumping from tree to tree, and showed his followers how serious he was about his job. The whole jungle was impressed to see the passion the new leader carried for his new responsibility. They all hoped that this change would be beneficial for the future of the jungle.
One day, a baby rabbit was lost in the jungle. The baby rabbit was not to be seen anywhere and the suspicion was that some predator must have taken him away for fodder. The jungle tribe got worried. In olden times, they would have approached the lion who would have found the victim for them and rescued it from the clutches of the predator… given its sheer strength and the fear its power invoked amongst any other animal. The mother rabbit approached the lion to help her rescue its child. The old king refused to help since he was no longer the king, and advised the mother rabbit to approach the New Monkey King for resolving their issues.
The mother rabbit now approached the new king of the jungle in the hope that he would resolve her issue and rescue the baby rabbit. As she approached the monkey king, she found the leader surrounded by his monkey followers who were singing songs in praise of his climbing skills. The mother rabbit and the other jungle inhabitants accompanying her put forward their issue, and the monkey king immediately jumped to their rescue… He said … “This is not a great problem… I will resolve it in no time”. Saying that, the Monkey King rapidly jumped down the tree and vigorously began climbing the second one. He again then jumped down the second one and climbed the third one. This way he started jumping on and off the various trees with great agility and speed… Seeing this dexterity and immediate action, the tribe & the mother rabbit were very happy….they were sure that the new king would resolve their issue and find the baby rabbit in no time.
However, much to their disappointment, the monkey king, kept jumping up and down the trees for the next full hour…. and the mother rabbit and her supporters watched him hoping he will resolve the problem. After waiting for some more time, they asked the monkey king, “ My Lord… We are amazed at the speed with which you swing from one tree to another… but what about our baby rabbit? When will you find it? Please find it…. else the predator will kill it and eat it up!!”
The monkey king replied, “I am not sure about the baby rabbit dear, whether it lives or dies…. But let it never be said that the Monkey King spared any efforts in doing what it knows best… swinging from one tree to another… I know how to climb trees, and as you all can see I have been doing that for the past one hour with all the honesty.”
During one of my sessions on the importance of storytelling as an important tool for pitching, one participant had narrated this story to me. It was not just allegorically hard-hitting, considering the socio-economic landscape of the society in general, but also a very apt metaphor on how the absence of relevant competencies can create havoc in teams, organizations, societies, or the planet eventually. Derailers to possibilities are usually found in nepotistic choices implemented by those in positions of power. Scientists have proven that even same community/family marriages within the human species, often lead to higher chances of mutated genes… leading to serious diseases… given their exposure to dormant mutative genes that find life… if the recessive conditions are triggered. What then, could be recessive regressive impacts of minds making way for what they please when they chose to ignore merit over other compassionate, nepotistic considerations. A cursory glance at the timeline of the greatest of dynasties reveals that, eventually, even they could never withstand the inevitable degenerating impacts of such choices. From Babur to Bahadur Shah Zafar, all over in 300 years…. From Chandragupta to Bhrihadratha… all over in 150+ years… Or be it the Grand Old Party of India…. Or even the industry titans who once ruled the roost in their exchanges & domains, disappear every half a decade or so… Would the possibilities have been any different if the option of meritocracy was ever considered? Perhaps….
Will humanity ever learn?
As many of us keep ducking routine stress and anxieties and pressures of aggressive asks of life as well as our mindowners whom we have tenanted our intellects to, we simultaneously also seem to grapple with various identity crises, imposter syndromes and existential queries that come as derivatives of the numerator we chase.
It’s here that the famed Peter Principle came my way again…a principle that seems to have been developed almost half a century ago as a satirical theory that people are generally promoted to their level of incompetence. It seemingly, as my experiential empirical evidence suggests, continues to remain relevant in the sense that a particular skillexceller is promoted based on their success of particular skills until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one role do not necessarily translate to another. Especially in such a dynamic changeverse that we seem to live in, skillsets of the morning seem to become redundant by the evening. On a lighter note that offers a continuing challenge for us talent transformance professionals to address, thereby offering us our own role continuance 😊
Lawrence Peter in this almost 50 year old video relevantly questions oft ignored questions as to what really does an individual chase in their climb upwards of the success ladder.