December 15, 2012

Lessons from Prof. Pi

The first movie I watched with Sayantika post our marriage was 'Life of Pi'. Not the typical 'romantic' movie which one would ideally watch with their special one. Yet I cant stop romanticizing about this epic movie. Lets have a keen look at the lessons from Prof. Pi:

1. Sometimes your greatest fear can serve as the greatest purpose- Pi was lost in the middle of the ocean with the Tiger named 'Richard Parker'. Pi was scared of Tigers since childhood but his only living companion in the boat was his greatest fear 'Richard Parker'. Not only did he survive but he also made 'Richard Parker' his friend. He ensured that he put his constant effort to keep 'Richard Parker' alive.Taking care of 'Richard Parker' gave him the meaning to survive. It gave him purpose. Hence, dont let your greatest fear control you, allow yourself to control it and it will ensure you survive the biggest storms in your life.

2. Make sure you say 'Good Bye'- At times saying 'Good Bye' can be very difficult but if you indeed have to leave your dear ones, please look back and say 'Good Bye'. Pi was potrayed as a very strong human but the only time we found him in tears while narrating his story was when he spoke about how 'Richard Parker' left him alone in the shores and never looked back.

3. Above all, keep your hopes alive- Pi had a survival book which contained survival tips. One phrase in the book said "Above all, keep your hopes alive". This phrase deeply influenced him in all crisis moments. Had he lost all hopes even few minutes before reaching the Mexican shores, he would not have been alive to narrate his inspiring story to others.

4. Replace 'Worry' with 'Work'- At every stage of Pi's crisis moments, he did the 'right' actions in the 'right' way without wasting time. The depressing moments did not get him an inch closer to his purpose. Only focusing on the 'right' actions helped him to progress further.

5. You are not as lonely as you think- While you watch the movie, it might appear that Pi was extremely lonely in his journey. However, at every step he received support in various forms. Even in the worst times, we might feel that we are treading a lonely journey, but if our actions are righteous we would most likely receive support from unexpected corners.

6. Make that journey from Head to Heart- Towards the end of Pi’s journey in the ocean, Pi and Richard Parker felt extremely fragile and starved. This was a point where intelligence alone would not have helped. Inspite of Pi’s childhood fear for Tigers, he showed utmost compassion towards Richard Parker. At the final leg of the journey, it was not only Pi’s intelligence which kept him going, it was Pi’s compassion for Richard Parker which helped both of them to remain alive. Sometimes we have to make that journey from Head to Heart. You must know when to start that journey.

7. Be Grateful- Inspite of all the challenges, Pi never appeared to be cynical. At every step of his journey he thanked his parents, uncle and Richard Parker. As much as his strength and courage, he also appears to be endearing because of his gratefulness. Being grateful makes us happy and makes the journey tread so far really worthwhile.  Thank someone special in a special way today.

October 7, 2012

When a bit of kindness and patient listening means.......

Firoz was ready for his  internal exam in College. He seemed confident of keeping up his momentum of being a class topper. On his way towards college, he found a kid bleeding profusely near the 'traffic signal'. It seemed like  an accident.

Without any unnecessary delay, Firoz placed the kid carefully inside the car along with  the kid's father who seemed to have sustained a minor injury and rushed  his way towards the hospital's emmergency section.

Firoz's shirt had blood stains and it perplexed him for a while. Few moments from then he realized that he missed his crucial internal exam which would adversely impact his Final Grades.

Completely wavered of what his future would unfold, he reached his college in a jiffy and narrated the entire incident to Professor Mathew in a candid & lucid manner. The professor keenly listened to him and asked him if he could hug him. Firoz recieved a tight hug from his unassuming professor. Prof Mathew agreed to allow him to write the exam but with a 'condition'.

The condition was that Firoz's passing marks in the re-scheduled exam would be 60 as against 40 out of 100. Suddenly the lingering effect of that hug did not seem encouraging to Firoz anymore. Prof Mathew explained that he deserved aswell as earned this exclusive benchmark. Firoz deserved it because he got extra time to prepare for the exam and earned it because he was amongst the most promising students in the class.

Firoz found the decision unfair and wrote his exam with a heavy heart on a different date. When the results got declared, Firoz was delightfully surprised as he again topped the exam. Prof Mathew did not seem surprised at all.

Today Firoz is a career coach who helps his clients by providing  a purpose & direction to their career. Sometimes when his clients complain about slow career progression he tells them about the accident many years back near the traffic signal. Everyone in the traffic signal were busy in their race on that day. Their respective races were important to them. Even Firoz's race towards his exam was important that day but he forgot about his race on that day. Many years down the line, today he is much ahead of his batchmates because of the patient listening and kindness of Prof Mathew. Prof Mathew enamoured Firoz with the subtle message that "Sometimes there will be those priorities which will indeed seem much more important than our respective races but that momentory loss will not determine our long term fulfillment or even accomplishments in life.  'Goodness' and 'Cynicism' can never coexist. Choose 'Goodness' over 'cynicism'."

Today Firoz  gives seemingly tough advice to his clients much like Prof Mathew did many  years back.

Irrespective of whether you are playing the role of Firoz or Prof Mathew, play your role with empathy, logic & patience. There are many who will overtake you with short cuts but do not loose your goodness at any cost and do not be 'cynical' at any cost. You might be well ahead of the driver who overtook you in the next signal itself ;-)

August 5, 2012

Mentor matters!!!

"Momma always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them"-Forrest Gump

The above statement  justifies not only because Forrest Gump was differently abled, anyone irrespective  of any factors influencing them  deserve and require to be explained things in a way they understand.

Irrespective of the power position you hold, you still need a mentor. Few days back I was in a discussion with a senior collegue  on his career lessons and he mentioned that one of the greatest lessons which he learnt was to never think too much all alone.  It's important to bounce one's ideas, thoughts and even insecurities with one's mentor. Mentor acts as a guiding force only, he doesnot play the game for you.

So the relevent question is "How can I find my right mentor?". Even though the relevance of the question cannot be challenged, the question still remains wrong. I feel there cannot be one right mentor in our lives. We need to have multiple mentors as every career has multiple aspects to it. There cannot be just one mentor who can specialize in all aspects of your career.

For example, in your office that super intelligent young lad who champions data analytics can serve as your data analytics mentor, the elderly senior collegue who speaks eloquently can serve as your communication mentor, the quite fellow who exudes maturity can be your job mentor.

Yes! finding multiple mentors might seem tedious but if it seems tedious then maybe you are not in the right place or maybe you do not have the required amount of patience or maybe you are not a keen observer.

A few checks before you choose a mentor:

  1.  He  must have great work ethics- A higher designation doesnot qualify him to be your Mentor.  Its higher order of 'work ethics' which is the most basic criteria for choosing a Mentor.
  2. He must be a champion in his field- Not only its important that your mentor masters his subject but has the capacity to further contribute in the growth of his area of specialization.
  3. He should understand business and more importantly 'life'- He must know when to switch  a journey from heart to mind and from mind to heart.
  4.  He must be a keen listener- He should listen to you till you know that you must stop :-P
  5. He must have his list of failures- You need a mentor the most when the chips are down. Hence its important he must have bounced back from his failures so that he can help you.
  6. He should not give the answers. He must ask the right set of questions till you give the right answers yourself.
Last but not least, he should be a friend in need and a friend indeed :-)

Happy Friendship Day!!!

April 21, 2012

Can your team celebrate mistakes?

 I remember my 'Maths Tutor' in school trying various means to teach me  how to solve  complex  maths problems. Considering my limited acumen in maths, nothing seemed to work for a considerable amount of time.

He 'seemingly' gave up any remote hope which was left. Finally, he told me about his struggling phase of dealing with maths in childhood and more importantly how he came out of it.

That was the 'inflection point'. I felt I was not being taught by a super human but an human. Maths was no more a 'Horror Show' for me since then.

On a different note, in a Team context, our pursuit 'towards'  success unites us relatively more than enjoying 'success' itself. In that pursuit of success, we make 'mistakes'.

Now keep the thoughts mentioned above in the parking lot for sometime.

How different would be the morale of the team in the below two different scenarios?
  1. Your Team Leader talks about his previous success stories with a special focus on what he did 'right' and expects you to get motivated from the same.
  2. Your Team Leader  talks about his previous success stories with a special focus on what he did 'wrong' and expects you to get motivated from the same.
There is no proven data points/ research available with me but I feel the later scenario mentioned above would ensure a better team morale. The reason is clear if I consider the example discussed earlier about my Maths Tutor.

It's natural for all teams to celebrate success but it takes a lot of humility, sensitivity and wherewithal for a Team Leader to celebrate his mistakes. Discussing one's mistakes with the team might  create a better bonding with the team than the overrated Pizza or Beer party. The team would feel 'comfortable' to tread beyond their 'comfort zone' yet be more 'cautious' about the possible mistakes.

Allowing yourself to celebrate and candidly discuss your mistakes would ensure each and every Team Members in your team to be  an "Idealistic Pragmatist"  (coined by Peter Senge).

However, its important that while sharing your mistakes, you adequately and more importantly do focus on the lessons you learnt from the mistakes. Finally, encourage your team members to make mistakes and keep learning but never repeat the same mistakes.

It's fine to make different mistakes and not repeat the same ones ;-)