Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Can Character and Competence Coexist?

Here is a lively story from the Great Epic “Mahabharata”. I fondly recollect this particular recital – ‘
‘Dronacharya, the great Guru taught skills of archery to the Pandavas and Kauravas, the two royal family groups. Arjuna of the Pandavas was his favorite student. In the modern days, we talk of the inter-continental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and all that. In those days the missiles in the form of arrows, backed by proper chanting of hymns would annihilate the targets. These chants to go with the astras were taught only to a select few by the Guru.  The yardstick to identify the deserving was far different from what that our children face today as entrance tests.
The guru’s son Aswathama also studied with the royals and was as skilled in archery as Arjun. These classes used to be conducted at the Guru’s home, as these young students had to stay with the guru on a 24 by 7 basis and learn.
During one such practice sessions, Guru Dronacharya took Arjuna separately to a nearby forest and started teaching him the most powerful ‘Brahmastra’. It was the most powerful archery tool ever.
Dronacharya’s favoritism towards Arjuna aroused lot of curiosity in the Guru’s friend, ‘Why would he not teach of Brahmastra to his own son, Aswathama who demonstrated equal skill, perception and speed in learning?’ Unable to resist, the friend asked Drona the reason for his action.
What was interesting was Drona’s reply.  He said, ‘My dear friend, I am not surprised that such a thought occurred to you. My son has all my competence too. But that is not just enough to use this astra. A balanced mind alone makes the astra work. Aswathama, in my humble opinion, lacks such balanced mind and ability to time.

Character without competence is an empty paradise, competence without character is a crook’s paradise. Charater with competence alone is the real paradise.
God bless


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Results may crown you or crucify you...

We hear this too often..
work is virtue, work is worship, do your duty without any attachment thereof. Does that mean that we have a right to our duty and not to its fruits thereof?
A student works hard to get a top rank. A farmer works hard to get a good harvest. An executive works hard to go up the corporate ladder. Without an objective there is no incentive to work hard. How is it possible to work without attachment?

Please note that the verse does not say that you have no right to the fruits of labor! It urges you to do your duty but learn to accept the result. You may expect but you should have the realization to accept the result of whichever nature. You cannot control the result. Hence give priority to your duty and not to the result. The same thing was said by Confucicus (551 BC – 479 BC), ‘The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness, the mind of the mean man is conversant with gain’.

Being dedicated to work has to mean ‘working for the sake of work, generating excellence for its own sake’. If we are always calculating the date of promotion or the rate of commission before putting in our efforts, then such work is not detached. It is no ‘generating excellence for its own sake’, but working only for the extrinsic reward that may (or may not) come by. Working with an eye on anticipated benefits, means that the quality of performance of the current job or duty suffers – through anxiety for the future. In fact, events may not always respond positively to our calculations and hence expected fruits may not always be forthcoming. We should not mortgage our present commitments to an uncertain future.

It has been held that this principle of detachment leads to lack of incentive for effort, striking at the very root of work ethics. To the contrary, concentration on the task for its own sake leads to the achievement of excellence – and indeed to the true mental happiness of the worker. Thus, while commonplace theories of motivation may be said to lead us to the bondage of extrinsic rewards, the detachment principle leads us to the intrinsic rewards of mental and indeed moral satisfaction.

The result can crown you with a kingdom or can crucify you on a cross. You should have the readiness to accept the result, while doing your duty.
Chase as far as the input / effort phase is concerned, and learn to face as far as the result phase is concerned. To put it in another way – ‘Do your duty and be prepared to face the result of whatsoever nature, don’t give up!’ Since there always seems an affirming view coming from the Western world on anything that the East propagates, let me quote from William Shakespeare. He said, “Three sentences for achieving success: know more than others; work more than others; expect less than others.” Therefore you should stay focused on the purpose not on outcome.”
Stay on purpose, not on outcome

God bless


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Count your blessings , not your curses

When we face successive failures, it is difficult to regain optimism. The lectures on positive thinking may have a soothing effect for a day. The shelf-life of a lecture on positive thinking can be at best one or two days. Many could not even get out of the bad phase till their death despite intensive efforts. Only 1% of them end up being successful. Is that destiny?

“Dwelling only on your destiny deprives you of your dues . The unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates). The problem with most of us is that we always brood over the closed doors of opportunities. We never see so many windows of opportunities open for us. A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity: an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty (Winston Churchill). We need to have the courage and conviction to face adversities.
Don’t jump to conclusions on destiny and give up. You might have faced difficulties, Premature pregnancy is dangerous for the baby. A prolonged pregnancy is dangerous for the mother. Hence don’t jump to conclusions too fast nor delay your realization. Evaluate yourself calmly.

We forgot the flower’s aroma amidst the perfumes we developed. We forgot the full moon’s light amidst our mercury lamps. Devoid of courage, we stay content at safe positions and face unseen retardation. Without doing things with full conviction, we call ourselves unlucky and brood over our failures.

When the world was believed to be flat, Galileo challenged it. In the same way, the Wright brothers proved that humans could also fly like birds. Any society operating with an urge to grow will always look ahead.
You are what your deepest nature is.
As your nature, so is your will.
As your will, so is your deed.
As your deed, so is your destiny.

Difficulty is a part of life. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

One day a software engineer travelled in a first class compartment of a train from Chennai to Bangalore. He used to grumble that as Project Manager he had too many things to do. Looking at his brand new hi-tech laptop and highly casual attire, his co-passenger asked, ‘Are you from the software industry, sir?’ The co-passenger greatly admired the software industry. The software engineer irritatingly replied that they have to go through several complicated processes in their field and it is not easy. He also complained that as Project Manager he had to face ever-changing requirements from customers, users always cribbing about information deficiencies and the boss always complaining about overruns. “You don’t know my friend, what it is to be in the line of fire!” he blurted.

The co-passenger patiently listened and said, “I definitely know what it is to be in the line of fire, young man! There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture point 4875 in Kargil during the war between India and Pakistan – in the cover of the night. The enemy was firing from the top. There was no knowing where the next bullet would come from and hit whom. In the morning when we finally hoisted the tri-color flag at the top, only four of us were alive. In the army we took the first pledge – the safety of the nation first followed by the safety of the men we commanded, and lastly our personal safety. I have surely faced the line of fire in the army too often sir,” he said. The software engineer felt ashamed of his constant cribbing and bowed to the Army man.

There are so many people around us who face harder battles than us; we should understand this. When something negative happens, we need time and support to deal with the consequences. With time, things heal and we move on. We should not keep brooding on the wounds and failures, as we need energy to move in a positive direction. Nurturing the wounds would only buttress our failures.

When one works for a goal, even if victory is not achieved, he will be happy for having made honest attempts. Mental fatigue and the loss of drive to achieve are the foes that kill us.

Stay hungry,stay fresh, chase your passion unmindful of the outcome
God bless