Tera kya hoga kaliya?

Friday is a day for Bollywood movie releases and on 15th August 1975, three years after India celebrated its Independence Silver Jubilee, a movie released this day would leave its indelible imprint for decades to come.

While ‘Sholay’ has cut across generations and is fondly remembered for its captivating dialogues, I recollect a scene when the chips are down for a soldier of the dacoit gang. With the stakes heavily loaded against him and chances of his survival bleak, his boss mockingly asks him about his fate, Tera kya hoga kaliya?

Most of us have been through tough times and some of those times were worse enough to make you wonder whether you’ll pass this one. The look in the eyes of the others suggested that they thought it was the end of the road for you. In these tough moments you hear an inner voice that asks, ‘What will you do to cross this one honey?’  And you immediately identify yourself in a predicament similar to the soldier, ’Tera kya hoga kaliya?’

All doors closed. No light in sight. No escape route. And you wonder – what now?

This is the point. This is the litmus test.  This is a position where you have to dig. Think desperately. Think out of the box. Pull out the proverbial rabbit to get out of the hole. You can either make it a point of no return, or bounce back.

In a sense these points define people. They define how they differ. They are the points of distinction.

On a smooth road there is little to choose between vehicles. It is the rocky roads that determine whether you can absorb the shocks and cross the rough patches smoothly. It is the turbulent weather that tests your mettle in the skies, and whether you can sail through after weathering the storm.

A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for. -  William Shedd

To many, tough situations signal the end of the story. Whenever they face adversity they begin to sink, they go weak in their knees, and their minds limp. They start wondering why this has happened to them or who is to be blamed for their misery. They blame others, forgetting that in these times you don’t need to inspect but introspect.

And it is in this exercise, within layers, that are hidden the prescriptions to the life taking ailments – waiting to be discovered. Scholars have oft repeated that the solution always lies within the problem. Those who align themselves, bounce back and those who malign, turn back. They give up, to go down.

Rewind your tapes. Recollect your desperate times. Times which looked like it was the end of the road for you. But you fought your way out of it. Your obituary was ready to be published but you got out with a relish. You survived. You won. You continued to stay in the game.

You recollect those fighting moments. You recollect those bleak chances. The fight from hopelessness to your gradually clutching the straws and building your nest of survival. Your heart swells when you recount the moments, you walk taller. You are glad it happened.

Yes, you are glad because you came out of it. But more importantly you discovered yet another weapon in your armoury. You know that you fought your way out, to stay in. And now that you are in, there will be more such battles to fight and the next time around the confidence of winning this battle will help you face the forthcoming challenges.

So next time when you find yourself hopeless in a situation and the world mocking with a familiar grin asking you, Tera kya hoga kaliya? Smile to yourself. You know it’s yet another opportunity to fight and come out.  And tell them, I know what will happen, I will make it happen.

Tap of Energy

Imagine a sleek, aerodynamic car fitted with a powerful engine, ready to hit the road but…

Imagine a powerful wrestler, fit from years of practice, backing out of a contest because …

Imagine a powerhouse enterprise managing to achieve a good milestone, but stranded, because…

A lot of talk about success in life revolves around preparation and strategy, team and composition, action and follow up. If you get these, success is supposed to be a regular visitor at your doorstep.

Then why doesn’t potential always translate to performance; why do impressive specifications fail to deliver; or years of experience lets you down at that moment of truth?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Enthusiasm, excitement and energy are the cornerstones of good performances.

After a car is ready, it needs the energy to take it forward; a wrestler needs excitement to put up a fight; and an enterprise needs enthusiasm to move to the next level.

The most powerful gadget is rendered powerless when you remove it from the socket. A winner doesn’t go past the finishing line because didn’t participate with enthusiasm. The promising languish on the side lines because they didn’t jump in.

Though literally energy means power, energy comes from various sources.

Inspiration – With energy one can move mountains, with doubt, one can create them. A positive mindset is the seed of energy. You can be excited about the smallest and be cold towards the biggest opportunities. People who are inspired by a purpose derive their energy from it and don’t need external resources to build their energy bank. When you have a purpose and direction you don’t need to be woken up, you are awake within, waiting for dawn and not a yawn.

Ambience – A man is gauged by the company he keeps and his energy is gauged by the people he engages with. Choose well the people you spend time with as they can inflate you with the air of positivity or deflate you by puncturing your confidence. While they are a constant source of encouragement, in times of doubt and indecision, these people help you get up, and don’t let you down.

Preparation – Remember looking at the skies praying for rain on a wintry day when you were unprepared for an exam. Preparation builds energy through confidence. And constant preparation builds competence that gives you the energy to do well which unprepared individuals feel the dearth of.

The coming week marks the start of the ‘Navratri’ festival. It is a festival to celebrate the goddess of ‘Shakti’. Energy will be on display during this nine day celebration. To the devout it is time to revisit the deity and seek divine blessings. To the youth, it’s time to let their hair down to keep the spirits up.

Energy is not muscle, it is spirit. It is not brute power, it is enthusiasm. It is not physical stamina, but determination to weather the storm. It is not a spurt of vitality, but the perseverance to move towards your goals.

Energy brings out the best in you and sends a signal to everyone of your positive intent. You can plot to win battles armed with power, but you can only fight with energy. You can spend years in execution and feel deaf if you can’t hear the beats of energy in your ears. You can push start with support but can carry on the momentum only with the energy from within.

Energy cannot be refilled at a gas station. Energy cannot be transfused from one to another. It cannot be stored for a rainy day. It has to be created from within, again and again, each day, each time, for every endeavour.

And those who are full of energy don’t manufacture it, they have it. They don’t collect, they have created a process within that produces it, regularly, and in abundance. They just tap into it. To succeed, others may need the spirit of festivity in the air, and the beats to dance, but they tap to the beats of energy, from within.

Test of T20

Some months back I was scheduled to address a group of cancer patients. As I sat down to reflect what could be shared to motivate them, my heart was filled with compassion.

So little time, so much to do!

It struck me that the desperation and intensity is definitely affected when you have limited time at your disposal. You may want to write for hours, but when you have three hours to attempt six questions, you start filtering what you are going to focus on. When you have to meet a deadline, you have to conclude.

Watching the on-going T20 world cup I could see players taking undue risks in the shortest format. If you know you have limited time to stay alive you better score the most in the limited time. This is a sprint, not a marathon. This is not an endurance test where you reserve and preserve for a final flourish.

Today, we live in a T20 mindset. You can witness the change all around you. Lifecycles of products and services have shortened. You don’t buy products to last a lifetime. You want to have the time of your life, you want to enjoy till it lasts. People are not looking too far and companies have to prepare for the immediate future as the uncertainty of the future is certain.

Ideas are transforming into reality much faster. Intermediates and go-betweens are being dispensed with, to connect with each other directly. Information is on tap, and days of mining, accumulating and preserving info have faded into oblivion. People find it easier to search for contact details of a person on the net than look for the card they exchanged, when was it?

To the old school these are times of discomfort and uncertainty. Rule books are going out of the window, and a new order of no order is emerging. Earlier there was one route to success, and a few diversions. Now new versions are dished out every day. New destinations are added and new routes discovered. You don’t have to be copy book anymore, you can rewrite a book every day.

There is no time to build gradually; you need to create an impact, and that too almost immediately.  Fours and sixes are remembered with glee, and it is no longer attractive to watch singles and twos being accumulated. Earlier, fours and sixes were a punctuation, and now singles are as unwelcome as singles at a couples get-together.

While this mayhem of speed and non-stop excitement has changed the game, few things haven’t changed: the preparation, the practice and the development necessary to perform. What hasn’t changed is the need for commitment to what you do.

What has changed is the intensity.  It has made people more focussed on what to do, to make it happen, quickly. What has changed is the absence of patience, and the time you have at your disposal to succeed. There is no time to get your act together, you perform or perish faster than a perishable. Maturity doesn’t have to wait for years. Wine has to find ways to get its taste faster. The slow cooking flavour has to be re-created, but in the reverse pace.

This is not a passing fad, it is a lifestyle. It is not optional. Jump in or be left behind. Good news and bad news get dissipated equally quick. Neither can you brood too long, nor can you celebrate for too long because the next news is at the door, waiting to be let in.

Albert Einstein had the entire varsity management gunning for him when they found he had set the same physics exam paper for two consecutive years. He smiled and replied, the questions are the same but the answers have changed.

These are testing times. Same questions now have new answers. And the answers keep changing at the blink of an eye. The game has changed, but what hasn’t changed is that, to be the best, you need to test yourself. And if you don’t change with the speed of light, the tunnel will be a never ending one.

Trudge or trot your dreams

Dreams have always been a fashionable subject of discussion.

Hey, what’s your dream? A question you can ask a lad of eight, a teenager, a grown up, or a person at an advanced age. And you can always expect people to give you a comfortable answer, almost instantly, without thought. You get an impression that they are quite clear about their dream, have it at the top of the mind and hence the ready answer.  The truth however may be quite different.

But are dreams really important? Aren’t they a subject of innocuous conversations which you indulge without any serious intent? They laugh at your dreams and you at theirs.

Compared to other living organisms, humans are the only species who are given the power to dream. They are given the power to aspire; the power to attain. And it is ironical that we squander or neutralize this unique ability by not giving dreams their due.

In the navigation of life, on extremes you can either drift aimlessly or steer to a destination of your choice.

And it is your dreams who serve as your compass. They give your life a direction, guide you towards it, and give you that definitive purpose to fill your empty life with a purposeful journey.

You can choose to either go blindfolded and hope to get somewhere that you like, or go to a destination of your choice with your head lamps on, working on the maps and tools that will take you there. It is therefore no coincidence that people without dreams or clarity in them always seem to be either in inertia, or engaged in activity that lacks direction or purpose.

Most people feel they have clear dreams but on close scrutiny you may find them to be desires rather than dreams.

But desires too are desirable. Why? Are they stepping stones to your dreams? Yes. Some desires have the potential to grow into dreams. So how do you differentiate them? It depends on their distance. The further it is, bigger the dream. The closer it is within your reach, it is a desire.

Dreams or desires, blessed are those who have them as it sets them on to a path. A path of their choice, a path that propels them towards a known destination compared to those who have no idea where they are going.

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. - Lewis Carroll

Dreams come in different shapes and sizes.  They don’t depend on the size of your attire but on your appetite for success. You get into comfortable clothes when you go to sleep and tighten your belts to get into action. Similarly you can choose comfortable destinations and relax, or challenge yourself by setting your sight on envious heights.

And when you dream, you crank up your life and set your wheels into motion. You gather momentum with your determination, perseverance and effort. It is your hunger that draws you towards that meaty goal. You dream of it, you can sniff it, and the desperation of your aspiration leads to your perspiration.

People who achieved something substantial did not stumble upon it. They didn’t just get it. They went for it, and got it. Dreams lay the path for you to set your sight on.

In reality very few people have dreamt their dreams; those that hide deep inside them. And when they discover them, they discover the hidden potential that lies within.

You can either go through life or grow through it. You shape your dreams and your dreams shape you. In pursuit of your dreams, you don’t only achieve what you pursue, but a bigger reward awaits you. You become someone you had not even dreamt of.

To bow out or be ousted

Monday morning found two friends discussing the weekend. One was delirious of the friends who had dropped by over the weekend. The other was distraught at his friends coming for dinner. That made one wonder how the friends’ visit meant differently to both of them. ‘They left so early, I wished they had stayed longer’, was the first friend’s comment. ‘They stayed forever, and refused to leave well past midnight that we forgot the great time we had until then’ was the latter’s experience.

When to leave; when to call it a day; when to exit, has always been a point of conjecture between people in both personal and professional lives. Whether it is a senior member in a company, a sportsperson, or even a father handing over reins to the son in a family business, the timing has always been the fine line of distinction between agony and ecstasy.

The world of cricket, in recent times has witnessed some exits and some calls for exits. Both issues have raised eyebrows and left people further perplexed on this delicate issue.

I recollect attending many conferences where the speakers enthrall you and then stall you because they don’t know when to stop. There seems to be a misconception that more is more effective. Theatre and cinema exhibits plenty of examples on how people with short but effective appearances leave a lasting impact. Sometimes these cameos even overshadow the longer main roles. Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length wrote Robert Frost. Like a good play, or a movie the performers make an appearance at the right time, and exit at the right time too.

Every useful product has an expiry date, and becomes dispensable from being indispensable. And it is this understanding that makes people time their decisions well. Staying beyond the ‘ideal’ time or overstaying hospitality will find people gunning for you, and leaving early makes people long for you. In one case they have had more than enough, and the other they long for more.

Brand management includes many things, and also includes the crucial sense of knowing where to draw a line. First impressions get you started. Last impressions are what people carry with them. They can leave a bitter after taste if not well managed.

In a career where performance matters, people who are brand conscious end up being conscious of getting the timing right. They can’t see themselves being seen or recollected in a manner less than their usual high standards, and call it a day when they see darkness approaching from a distance.

The late Vijay Merchant, great Indian cricketer chose to retire from Tests after a last innings effort of 154 at Delhi. He said one should retire when he’s good enough to play on. Why now, people should ask, and not why not now, was his view.

A popular line from a commercial was, ‘Catch me if you can’. The delayed departure bandwagon believes, ‘Push me out, if you can.’

Leave early and be remembered for all the great feats and good times. Delay it and the ugly froth of that extended unwanted stay will make you be remembered for the wrong reasons.

In this speed crazy age there are no warm welcomes or emotional send offs. It is better to leave by yourself, than to be shown the door.

To be pushed or pulled

My last blog has set the cat amongst the pigeons. There has been a flurry of mails with people taking positions on either side of the tug with the blog at the centre of it all.

With the comments flying thick and fast I consider it imperative that this post be devoted to spell out the issues pertaining to the contentious thought.

For recollection: So ask yourself the key question: Do you voluntarily give your best or has it to be extracted out of you?

About a decade ago, one music director had given some great hits. On close scrutiny it was discovered that he had succeeded with just one producer.

Was it a case of compatibility? Probably yes. It is true that in the creative world your best comes out in a fertile environment and minds that click with each other. But why just one producer, you could have hits with at least five to six producers, if not more.

Around the same time another music director also composed hits, but with a variety of producers.

A decade later the first has faded away and the latter continues to churn out great hits.

So compatibility was not the issue for the first music director. You can reconstruct the deficiency. The producer who worked successfully with him had the patience of working with him. He probably also combined well with him and filled the gaps to produce something that the composer could not do individually or without intervention. The producer made sure he got the best out of him. However it was not something other producers could do or had the patience.

Coordinating with different constituents of a programme I found some people who needed no prodding; no follow up, or supervision. And some whom you had to constantly remind of gaps in what they had to do, or to take care that their role would not be compromised.

Watch closely those who perform well consistently. It is evident that they take ownership of their performances. They love to collaborate but recognize that their performances stand against their names and no excuses are valid for poor or below par performances. They give nothing less than their best and their performances are a manifestation of their persistent efforts.

To deliver great performances you may take assistance of as many people but taking cognizance of the fact that at the end it is your and only your performance, and that is a great attitude. With this approach you set high standards for yourself. You are motivated internally and voluntarily do all that is required to make it happen as an implied obligation. You don’t wait for someone to pester you and extract it out of you, as this motivation is external.

When working in teams it is always a pleasure to work with such people as they set the tone for the performance standards. They do well and it rubs off on to others. Not only that they don’t need reminders but there is a healthy competition between high performance players within a team, with each wanting to let the team know that they are giving their best.

Yes, it’s a pure delight for the coordinators as they don’t divert valuable time to extract but channelize it to raising the bar.

Taking ownership of your performance is the only mantra that has been the bedrock of successful people. They don’t need to be pushed. They are pulled from within.

Thrive or Survive

Many events occur in our lives. Some come and pass by innocuously, some make their presence felt while they are around, and some leave an indelible imprint on our lives.

Once every four years comes an event which touches in many ways. It is not a symbol of competition or achievement or even excellence. It embodies the spirit of human existence.

Yes, it’s Olympics time.

I must confess that in moments of introspection, I do sometimes think about the never-ending flurry of activity in the world, the madness so to say, of people seeking to achieve more and wonder whether there’s any need for it.

Nature has devised a wonderful process of self-sufficiency. There’s enough for everybody. The flora and fauna has an unrushed pattern of growth. Birds live a contented life and sing happily. The animals have a cyclical journey and seem to enjoy their existence.

Then why do humans, who have an option to peacefully live their lives, choose to push themselves higher: towards bigger goals, towards greater heights and aspire to better benchmarks.

Let’s face it, what material benefit will the world derive if someone betters the mark by a fraction of a second, how will it affect the world if someone swims the laps a little faster than the others. How would the weightlifter add some weight to the purpose of the world? How will a team’s win add to the victory cup of the world?

Events such as Olympics provide the answers.

Humans differ from other living organisms essentially in one area – the spirit of achievement.

Humans alone possess the indomitable spirit to challenge themselves to bigger goals. They have dreams and desires and can dedicate their lives towards this purpose.

In pursuit of their dreams and desires, these achievers experience a sense of fulfilment and it is this contagious spirit that forms the edifice of human existence. They manifest that human life is not about survival but conquering new heights.

The spirit is the true self. The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel are the things that endure. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Though events such as these come after long intervals, they serve only as a reminder to all of us to reach inside us. Reach inside and dig into that spirit that will set our sights on higher goals and in turn inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Tide or Ride

Economies have cyclical patterns. They oscillate and you find yourself on the low end or high end of the curve.

To some a steady ride is comforting, predictable and soothing. To some a predictable, smooth ride is boring and lacks adventure.

The recent upheaval in the world economy has set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. Having been witness to these cyclical trends many a times, I watch with keen interest all those who are new to these waves and those who have experienced it before.

Every situation has many sides. It depends on what you choose to focus on and your interpretation of the situation.

When you are stuck without power, or caught in a traffic jam there’s little you can do about the power or the jam. You however can choose to react in a way to minimize the damage and make the best use of the opportunity.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. – Anon

I have seen great organizations use the lean periods to great advantage. They clear backlogs, sharpen their saws, have training programmes and spend time on preparing strategies.

They use these periods so well that sometimes you sense as if they look forward to these breaks. Metaphorically, I view this as a landing step after a long flight of stairs which you can use to regain your energy or reflect on the next steps before continuing your journey.

The other issue revisits the proverb, once bitten twice shy. Every business has experienced turbulence at some stage or the other. However some choose to forget about it when times get better. The successful businesses factor in these cyclical occurrences into their strategy.  They have disaster management plans, do contingency planning and the like, much like you have fire safety in place, prepared for the eventuality, irrespective of whether you have been a victim.

Other ways to counter is to avoid gathering excess fat when you have the muscle and stay lean to face the lean times. This is simply a state of mind. Going over the moon one day and come crashing down the next are indicative that, yes, you have been bouncing up and down, but for the wrong reasons.

Like day and night, light and dark, good times and bad times will always punctuate your journey. Whether you sink or swim through this ebb and flow will depend not on the tide but how you wish to ride.

To be known or unknown

Everyone does something. Some do what they ought to. Some what they like. Some do it for pleasure. Some do it for profit. Some do it quietly. Some make a noise about what they do. Some are known for what they do. Some do, but are hardly known. Some do it with a purpose. Some do it without knowing why they are doing it.

Different folks, different strokes!

A passionate teacher works tirelessly, sometimes for a pittance and sees many students reach great heights. They prosper financially, make a name for themselves and are remembered more than the one who taught them the foundation principles.

A small actor from a town’s street play group performing for social awareness makes it big on the silver screen. Though doing meaningless roles, he becomes immensely popular, starts making big bucks and hits the headlines.

If you look around, you will find that these are not isolated cases but some of the many that you will come across.

The tough question is what do you aim, desire or be satisfied with. The teacher could definitely do with some recognition and of course money. The passionate, driven by a larger purpose of social awareness would welcome better achievement of their objectives and some better conditions for themselves too.

Like people there are many brands in the marketplace which face similar dilemmas in their journey. Should they aim at popularity, recognition or focus on what they have to. Should they look to more profitable avenues or continue in their areas of strength.

Honestly, there are no clear cut answers. If there were, then the world would not have the various shades of grey that makes up the landscape.

However, conventional wisdom does teach us that fame, popularity and financial gains should not be the sole guiding forces of any journey. They are by-products.

The teacher does what he does because he is qualified to do something, enjoys what he does and is happy for what compensation it provides. The actors driven by the passion to make a difference do what they do, enjoy their purpose, drive satisfaction and the compensation is incidental.

If people enjoy what they do, why they do, and what compensation they get from it, it bothers little to them if someone else is getting something which they aren’t. They understand that some vocations allow people to be more visible, some don’t and people are willing to pay more for some things even though they may not be of as great a purpose as theirs.

Many organizations especially in the B2B segment are doing a great job, and are in fact extremely profitable too, but are hardly known outside their industry. On the other hand small players who need to make themselves noticeable are well known to the general public even though their operations are a fraction. Both need the maturity to understand that popularity is not the litmus test for what they are doing.

However, there is something that the people can do in their evaluation process. On their part they too can understand that mere awareness or visibility of a brand is not what matters. They can put into their minds an evaluation matrix that will then put what people do, why they do, and what they get for it, in the right perspective.

Would that change your perception? Try it.

Travel Partners and Associates

Every brand has a journey and every journey has its share of partners and associates. While it may appear simple, brands have critical decisions to make on whom to partner with and whom to take along.

To travel fast, travel alone; to travel far, travel together. – African proverb

From early times brands with a larger vision have had a larger core base. Rather than source or assign tasks, they chose a partnership model in key areas. The partnership was usually not a financial one, but in spirit and cooperation. There was a marriage of ideas, concepts and purpose. There was belief on both sides about each other’s capabilities, which resulted in their looking at themselves as an extension of the organization, rather than suppliers to whom tasks and components were outsourced from.

Financial partnership was also a tool towards better engagement and commitment. It helped company empower promising talent who had meagre resources and it also allowed the parent company to have a handle on its management.  Armed with a realistic picture of the demand and assured of a continued order book, partners could concentrate on production and pass the savings of better volumes and marketing expenditure to the brands to use it to their advantage. For the brand, apart from the cost savings, they had the assurance of regular supplies, timely deliveries and unwanted worry of supplier management.

Such marriages indeed made possible a lot of savings. The largest benefit was however the confidence of a comrade-in-arms that assured supply, continuous development and substantial cost savings.

In the journey you cannot be expected to partner with everyone, and you also realize the need to use products and services from others with whom you are unable to forge alliances such as those mentioned above. The reasons could be several: from lack of credibility to technological expertise, or lack of judgement to decide to plain reluctance on the part of the other to view the relationship as you would like.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. – Proverb

When needs are to be met, and there are no alliances then you have to look at associates or those that will remain as an outsider both in their approach and outlook. While in many cases it doesn’t offer a choice, it does keep you tight lipped about your plans, development and secrets and you do know that both sides can walk out on each other at any time.

So far, so good. So we have two buckets. And all that needs to be done is put partners in one, and associates in the other. It’s not so easy. Here’s the test of the brand navigation. Whom you choose to partner with and who you take along can make a significant impact to the direction, the journey and the destination.

The best time to make friends is before you need them. – Ethel Barrymore

In this age of flip-flop relationships, technological edges and flimsy brand loyalties, brands consider choosing partnerships as a key decision and put these ahead of the journey itself. Without the right partners you cannot start the journey and expect to be bailed out midstream by a wayside traveller. Without the right associates you may be left high and dry in the middle of a journey with no solutions in sight. You should be able to anticipate the requirements and get started to reach your milestones.

The political tradition of ancient thought, filtered in Italy by Machiavelli, says one thing clearly: every prince needs allies, and the bigger the responsibility, the more allies he needs.