Peace and Sanity with or without Destiny.

This article was published in the December 2007 issue of the magazine “Management compass”

Right place, right time

But is that the only reason why some people succeed?

In 1923, nine of the world’s richest men met to discuss the economy. They were:-
Charles Schwab — president of the largest Steel company
Sameul Insull — president of
the largest electric utility
Howard Hopson — president, largest gas company
Arthur Cutten — greatest wheat speculator
Richard whitney — president, New York stock exchange
Albert Fall — secretary of interior in President Harding’s cabinet.
Jesse Livermore — the greatest ‘bear’ on the Wall Street
Ivan Krueger — head of the world’s greatest monopoly
Leon Fraser — president of the Bank of international settlements

After 25 years in 1948, the situation was as follows:
Charles Schwab was bankrupt and lived the last few years on borrowed money.
Samuel Insull died abroad as a penniless fugitive.
Howard Hopson was insane.
Arthur Cutten became insolvent and died abroad.
Richard Whitney had been imprisoned.
Albert Fall was pardoned from prison and died broke and penniless.
Jesse Livermore had committed suicide.
Ivar Krueger killed himself
Leon Fraser committed suicide.

One wonders how the lives of so many prominent men ended the way it did. Was it because of their own mistakes or forces of destiny/providence or circumstances beyond their control?

Recently, I read in the news about Superstar Amitabh Bachchan and his one time co-actor Naveen Nishchal. They had starred in a movie called Parwana in the early Seventies, in which Nishchal was the hero and Bachchan, the villain. Those were days when nobody saw much promise in Bachchan; he was called a tall idiot, heroines refused to work with him, and a prominent director even told him to shorten his legs. Today, the situation could not be more different — Bachchan is a monumental superstar with a fleet of cars and Nischal moves around in an auto-rickshaw. Other successful contemporaries of Bachchan have also faded into oblivion.

Purely by chance, I met actor Vijay Arora five years ago, who looked almost completely in contrast to the smart and handsome young man who romanced the gorgeous Zeenat Aman in the movie Yaadon ki Baaraat. He consciously avoided all my references to the movie because that was “a long time ago”. He died this year.

There can be various reasons as to why successful people end up like this but there are definitely forces of destiny, which are beyond one’s control. For instance, Ravi Shastri would not have been a part of the Indian team had he appeared a few years ago because of the presence of the Indian spin quartet-Prasanna, Bedi Chandraskekhar and Venkataraghvan. There was actually a bowler, Padmakar Shivalkar in the Bombay Ranji Trophy team, who was good enough for International cricket but who never got a chance because of four distinguished spin bowlers already playing at that time. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Even Mahatma Gandhi has a chapter Man Proposes, God Disposes in his autobiography. So there are factors critical to success and happiness that are beyond one’s control.

The management example corresponding to the above is an interview that one of the most prominent Indian CEOs gave in which he stated that he knew batchmates who were more intelligent and worked much harder than him but his net worth was much more than their simply because he happened to be the right person at the right place at the right time.

Sometimes, decisions can be a function of one’s conditioning, which in turn depends on the sequence of experiences. Some people who change jobs and marriages, realise later that the problem was not with the job but with themselves. I once read a case about an honest and efficient accountant. When he made a mistake, the owner was very angry. At this the accountant was very upset and left the job. Subsequently, a few other accountants joined in quick succession but were either incompetent or insincere or dishonest. The owner wished he had come across the bad accountants first to enable him to appreciate the good one. It is a matter of which experience you first have, and such decisions can sometimes mean a difference between success and failure.

In the book Ancient Indian Wisdom on Management, it is clearly mentioned that commercial success happens when talent meets the needs of society, which are not always easy to forecast or monitor. There have been many successful people who have said that their success has been because of being in the right place at the right time. Among the reasons for Amitabh Bachchan’s success are:-

1) Corruption was rising at that time and in the ‘Angry young man’ image projected by him, the middle class saw a hero through which they could fight back. This is corroborated in Anupama Chopra’s book The making of Sholay.

2) The sound effects had improved by the time he had come to enable action movies to succeed.

3) Video was introduced around the time, as a result of which he continued to live in the drawing rooms of the next generations, which enabled a continuity, an advantage that the previous superstars did not have.

4) The public had perhaps had their fill of romance, which immediately preceded his action films and desired a change, which is why his action films succeeded.

What happens to those who are not successful or fall from grace? One may admire Mr Bachchan as an actor but sometimes one cannot but admire Mr Nishchal to be just alive and kicking. The current generation may admire Hrithik Roshan for his James Bond looks and stunts on the screen but in reality, it is his father, Rakesh Roshan who pulled off a great stunt by resurrecting himself from the verge of oblivion as an actor (by his own admission, he was never much of a success) in mid life to an extremely successful producer director. The story how he had to mortgage everything to launch himself as a producer and how it would have ruined him had he not succeeded makes a compelling reading. To cope with failure and resurrect oneself from one is as much real life heroics as being successful, if not more.

If there are forces beyond our control, how does one cope with failure? Spirituality lays emphasis on ‘being’ or ‘the present’. Hrithik Roshan commented in Koffee with Karan that “Life is about living in the moment”. It is not so easy in times of adversity. One of the best books that has brought this out is The Power of Now. The author Eckhart Tolle says, “ Whether it is a car alarm, a rude person, a flood, an earthquake or the loss of all your possessions, the resistance mechanism which is the quality of consciousness in the present moment is the same.” He says, “ Being (present) takes you beyond the polar opposites of the mind and frees you from dependency on form. Even if everything were to collapse and crumble around you, you will feel a deep inner core of peace. You may not be happy, you will be at peace.”

There is a saying, “If providence wants to act against you, it has got several cards up its sleeve”. The ability of being in the present moment or being rather than the fantasies of being related to the past or the future is at the heart of being able to cope with adversity.
This may not be easy for everybody in severe adversity but is best brought out by Zen meditation. Normally, Yoga teachers talk of meditation in the lotus pose where one has to sit with folded legs but according to Zen, meditation is possible all the time depending upon how well rooted you are in the present.

A write up I came across ( goes like this:-
The body is God’s pattern. The practice of awareness, the practice of breathing, walking, standing, lying down, giving loving kindness to the body, in the many, many ways, there’s much we can say about that. That’s all day long. To a great extent in Zen, we practice with our mind indirectly through our body. Zen meditation isn’t something we do only with the mind. In Zen, we engage our body as an ally to enable us to practice with the totality of our being. Normally, we walk around in our bodies, rarely noticing how they feel unless there is pain. Seldom do we consciously think of the body as feeling good. Feeling good shouldn’t be an absence of pain. It should be an invigorated, energetic state where you are comfortable and happy in your body.

There is a reason behind this. We learn to think with the body, not just the brain. “ Only concentrate… Just let the thinking brain, the cerebral cortex, cool down naturally. The central brain, the body brain (hypothalamus, thalamus) becomes stronger, more active.”
Consciousness in the present automatically improves concentration. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Concentration is the secret of success in politics, in war, in all management of human affairs.” That may be selectively true as success depends on a lot many external factors as explained above, but being in the present is a lot more critical to managing oneself in adversity. Following the “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst” philosophy, if while tying to pursue success and happiness, one can at least mitigate the negatives if not able to generate the positives, or in management parlance, cut costs if not being able to generate revenue. n


One Response

  1. Nice site. will visit again..

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