Prevention of/Reaction to Financial Crisis

About a week before being elected President, this is what potential candidate Barack Obama told Time magazine in an interview: “We have got a boat with a lot of leak and we need to get it into port. Once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, it is time to get back to the fundamentals of our economy.” The truth is that one of the worst financial crisis of recent times has been because of gross violation of the fundamentals. Giving loans to low- income or sub-prime US households in the hope that they could recover the money on bad debts from the property in the hope that property price would always go up and stay up turned out to be financial hara-kiri. The Times of India reported that the investors could not be protected from one simple and irrefutable principle — if these housing loans turned bad, the instruments based on these loans would lose value, which is, what happened, denting investment portfolios of banks and destroying their capital, inter-bank liquidity and general confidence. In 1999 during the tech stock bubble, many of the hot tech companies had no earnings, little revenue and no long-term track records and without these absolute basics, it was a bubble waiting to be burst, which it did.

Financial education
From an individual’s perspective, there is again a simple and irrefutable fact — a sound practical financial education emphasising on basics as prevention is better than cure. Since everybody has to manage money, a knowledge of accounts, which is known as the language of business, is always an added bonus. The book Rich Dad, Poor Dad says that practical financial intelligence is a synergy of accounting, investing, marketing and law. Each child needs to know the rules — a different set of rules. According to the authors, being rich basically implies being financially independent, which implies that one’s regular income from investment is such that one can survive from that alone and can choose not to work if one wants to. This implies financial freedom for which instant gratification has to be postponed initially. I learnt all this from my father, a chartered accountant. Unfortunately a lot of young people do the other way around in an effort to get rich quick and start lives in debt. For being a good investor, one has to learn how to do financial analysis of company balance sheets along with the qualitative analysis to the extent possible and also have a sound knowledge of technical analysis for investors to enable them to know when to enter and exit. The most intelligent man I met in the stock market was a broker who had a background in merchant navy (most individual brokers are commerce graduates). He told me that he had a position trading system which he had been perfecting over a period of 10 years and was still coached by a mutual fund advisor. Even with all the fancy software in the US, trading has a 95 per cent failure rate and most traders speak against day and to a lesser degree, swing (weekly) trading. Unless one has a very good intuitive sense of the market which very few people have, it would be foolish to trade. There is an old saying that nobody can claim to be an expert on the market including the mutual funds which the current crisis clearly reveals. Today’s computerised era makes it possible for even a layman to maintain systematic financial records for effective follow up. A good basic knowledge of both investment and financial administration is a must.

Avoid greed
Since many people get into financial trouble because of greed, it is interesting to know what the above book says about high consumption spenders: “They get a few bucks in their hands, again the emotion of joy, desire and greed take over. But the joy that it brings is often short-lived, and they soon need more money for more joy, pleasure, comfort and security. They don’t want to lose the big houses, the cars, the high life that money has brought them. They worry about what their friends would say if they lost all their money. Many are emotionally desperate and neurotic, although they look and have more money.” In one of my previous articles, I have mentioned how eight prominent people in the US who were at a peak in their careers in 1923 were nowhere 25 years later — one became bankrupt, two died as penniless fugitives (one pardoned from prison), one went insane, one died insolvent, one was imprisoned and three committed suicide. I do not know the root cause of the problems in all the above cases but there is a book called World Famous Riches to Rags where a lot many other cases are given in detail and much of their fall from grace can be directly attributed to the high consumption lifestyle. A couple of them went bust because they could not control their over-spending wives. Many committed fraud out of blind greed, some could not manage at a higher and a more complex level and some suffered because of trying to operate on a bigger scale which was done for still better status. A majority of them were a case of ‘all covet, all lose’ or ‘those who miss the silver lining are those who opt for the gold’.

My father who turned around a sick company once and had to operate on a shoestring budget for four years says that the problem arises when one starts doing well, the feeling of “having arrived” can go to one’s head and one tends to get extravagant. This could be true both for companies and individuals. The old saying ‘success is never certain, failure is never final’ is true even more now because of the kind of turbulent changes that are expected in the 21st century. Some of the things I learnt from my father about the wisdom of frugality are better expressed in how the world’s most famous and perhaps the best ever investor, Warren Buffet conducts himself. Buffet never travels by private jet, although he owns the world’s largest private jet company. He even drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him. He does not even carry a ‘cell phone’, nor has a computer on his desk. He does not socialize with the high society crowd. He still lives in the same small three-bedroom house in mid-town Omaha that he bought after getting married 50 years ago. He advices young people to stay away from credit cards, to live their life as simple as they are, not to go for a brand name; just wear those things in which they feel comfortable, not to waste their money on unnecessary things and last but not the least to remember that money doesn’t create a man; it is the man who created money.

Even if one were to follow the middle path advocated by the most famous enlightened man in history, Gautama Budhdha, one would be much better off. Unfortunately, many young people learn this the hard way, which is why we have situations like the one where two MBA students were arrested for kidnapping 15-year-old Arjun Verma after suffering a loss of Rs 80 lakh in the stock market, which would not have happened with more balanced thinking. It would not be out of place to mention that Buffet and another great speculator-cum-investor, George Soros are now known as much for their philanthropic activities as for their financial expertise.

Looking beyond money

The root cause of the high-consumption lifestyle is keeping up with the Joneses syndrome and false notion of the role of money and status in determining a person’s worth. Unless that issue is addressed in pragmatic realism instead of giving lectures on values and character sounding as platitudes, it is not likely to be resolved. I read once that Sachin Tendulkar earned eighty times more in endorsements than his contemporary hockey superstar Dhanraj Pillay when both were at their peak, which is only because of the fan following that cricket enjoys. It does not mean that Pillay is a less superstar. Similarly, someone like Govinda may have more commercial success than a brilliant actor like Naseerudin Shah. Even Abhinav Bindra, who was the first individual gold medalist in the Olympics in over a hundred years, will probably earn less in shooting than a good Indian cricketer would do but his achievement is greater in a certain context as the competition in the Olympics is a lot stiffer as a lot many countries participate than in cricket. While attending a function for a school of mentally challenged children abroad, referring to the activities of the school Rahul Dravid had remarked, “These are the real heroes. We are just more visible.” The role that the NSG played in the recent Mumbai terror attack also reveals this but how much paid are these real heroes or the army heroes who protect our lives paid compared to cricketing and bollywood heroes or even corporate executives? There is nothing wrong in wanting to be rich and famous but looking at the element of destiny from a reality perspective, one realizes what can best be summed up by a quote from Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

This can be said for other fields as well. In a recent article in the Hindustan Times, journalist Karan Thapar wrote that once upon a time his merchant banker’s wife’s salary was eight times his salary. He may be a very good journalist but if the profession itself does not pay, what can he do? In Vir Sanghvi’s book, Men of Steel, Infosys CEO and MD Nandan Nilekani stated that his success was being at the right place at the right time. He elaborates that there are people who are much brighter and work much harder than him. His wealth is partly a consequence of good timing. Likewise, in his book on Bill Gates, Jonathan Gatlin states that his leaving Harvard for starting Microsoft was largely a matter of timing. On the other hand Leonard Mlodinow has written an entire book on how the element of chance makes less talented people more commercially successful than their talented contemporaries.

Remain motivated

Other prominent people like Shakespeare, Vincent van Gogh, certainly Munshi Premchand were all posthumous successes — a case of bad timing. Some books even state how to remain motivated if you are the wrong person at the wrong time. Even in well-paid industries the dynamics of business — markets, segments, customers, buying behavior and costs — can be drastically different and beyond an individual’s control. One may mention here that the Gita’s message of doing one’s work without being attached to the results is not merely because the Gita says so; it is so because the market profile in any profession is dependent upon tastes and preferences of millions of people apart from other variables which is beyond an individual’s control. So blindly following money as a measure of a person’s worth and running after brands and status can be counterproductive in the long run. Many spiritual books are critical of the role that advertising plays in converting wants onto needs in impressionable minds. It is better to hear it from the horse’s mouth — In 1982, a study entitled Advertise-ment and Social Responsibility indicated that of the total advertisements sampled only 3.3 per cent were factual and informative about the product without any psychological appeal. The appeal becomes more predominant when there is little to differentiate between brands and products in the market.. In such a situation there seems to be no other alternative but to win the consumer support by flattering his or her ego or resorting to a whole range of basic psychological and emotional appeals, including the most primordial ie sex appeal. With so many channels since 1982, I wonder if the situation is any different. What happens when one suffers from a sudden crisis for no fault of his? When a financial
crisis strikes, instead of letting our imagination blowing it out of
proportion, the best thing for coping initially is to think about the
intangibles.
Sometimes money itself can be a source of the kind of crisis mentioned above. About a year back, in Mumbai, a rich Parsi boy was kidnapped and murdered by four of his friends on whom he used to splurge. Some years back, when a builder was killed by extortionists, his wife mentioned how being rich had proved to be a bane in their case.
Filmstar Shah Rukh Khan mentioned in one interview how he was sometimes apprehensive about losing all that he had achieved.. It is perhaps because of the intangibles that both Osho and Krishnamurthy said that people follow security but it is like a mirage because even if one is able to achieve financial freedom, destiny can strike in other spheres of life over which one may not have any control. Severe problems in other intangible spheres — relationships, health and career can be even dicier even if the losses cannot be determined numerically. So the perception that once economic freedom is achieved, all will be well could be deceptive, which is another reason why a blind pursuit of wealth should be avoided.

Facing financial crisis with courage and dignity can prove to be an achievement in itself. In the book Riches to Rags, it is mentioned that Oil baron Glenn McCarthy, though down and out, remained a respectable man and a hero to many people who admired him for his courage, hard work, uprightness and honesty. He faced his destiny with ease and equanimity and never compromised with his principles though driven by destiny from riches to rages. So much so that a book was written and a movie made on him. The railway king of England, George Hudson died a poor man but when his procession passed through the streets of York, the citizens rose to the occasion and gave him a peaceful burial. Sir Clive Sinclair’s phenomenal wealth vanished because of cheaper and better competition but he continued to be treated as an honorable man. All this reminds one of that question one comes across in management books: “What would you liked to be remembered as when you die? What would you want your obituary to say — someone who earned so much money or left a legacy”? The examples clearly show that the world would remember you more for what you achieved and how you conducted yourself than how much wealth you earned or had.
J Krishnamurthy had mentioned in one of his books that pain is physical but suffering is psychological. This is true in the context of ‘perception of reality is more important than reality’ and therefore, how one responds to a crisis is even more critical than the crisis per se. However, as the earlier part of the article clearly shows, one can dig one’s own grave by ignoring certain basics. Whether it is finances or life, perceptions or reality, one thing is certain to avert any kind of crisis which generally has consequences that are mental, one cannot violate any fundamental.

Rock on or knock off

This article was published in the November 2008 issue of the magazine Management Compass. The relevant pdf file link is rock-on2(May take about three minutes to upload)

A Bollywood blockbuster reinforces the importance of correct career choice, for your career constitutes bulk of your waking existence

The most important hymn of young India today, ‘Rock on, hai yeh waqt ka ishara’, has the country ecstatic with joy. But the strongest undercurrent in the movie is the sadness that the key four characters carry with them, 10 years after they split, signaling an end to their music band. They achieve varying degrees of success in their respective professions, including investment banking, but that does not take away the bitterness about what they could have been. The best designation in investment banking and the best office suite can’t compare with the lifestyle — long hair, hair bands et al — they have left behind. No promotion can touch a chord, what music did 10 years ago..

The movie Rock On is about a character called Avinash (portrayed by Farhan Akhtar), an investment banker by profession, who comes across as quite grumpy and indifferent initially, but changes drastically when music reenters his life. He had been an aspiring music star in his college days but could not pursue his calling. Though he has become a successful professional, he does not at all seem happy with life. Rekindling the old passion does seem to rejuvenate him and infuse a spark into his somewhat moribund existence. Even the character Joe, played by Arjun Rampal, is shown rejoining the music band in the end, rather than take up a secure job which his wife feels so strongly about. The narrative in the end depicts practically everybody following what they enjoy doing after dropping old occupations.

A week before the movie was released, this is what I read in an article in the Brunch magazine of the Hindustan Times group: “Dancer and choreographer Sandip Soparrkar made quite a few pit stops before he found his true calling. He started out with a degree in hotel management, did an MBA, was the head of a PR firm and then turned to modelling. He left that boring life a few years ago when he discovered dance and never looked back.” Sometime later, The Sunday supplement of The Times of India had two articles on unconventional career choices, the jist of which was: Unusual careers like wealth manager, hair stylish, graphic designer, bar tender are now bringing both fame and fortune. The lead story of India Today’s Aspire (November 2008) is on out-of-the-box careers, where they have mentioned various other unconventional careers, apart from those given above..

In May this year, I went to Ladakh on a holiday. We were staying at Mantra cottages in Leh. One evening, in a group gathering, the manager in charge, Sunil Motay, played the guitar so well that there were repeat requests for other songs from everybody. His body language indicated that he was enjoying himself very much. That prompted me to ask him the very next morning, “Didn’t you ever think of taking it up as a full time profession?” He replied that because of lack of proper guidance, he could not make the right moves at the right time, and music being a field of sporadic and irregular income, he didn’t later have the guts to switch professions. He also told me that his niece was an aspiring singer and he was encouraging her to participate in the music shows on television so that she does not repeat his mistakes.

In the context of passion for music, the one person who comes to mind is the all time great singer, the late Kishore Kumar. He put in so much zest in his singing through his vibrant, bubbly personality that his co-singers were inspired to perform better by his sheer presence. The book Kishore Kumar by Derek Bose says that since he would perform a song with all nuances and expressions, his dancing and jumping around in the studios would make it impossible to hold one’s laughter, so much so that his lady co-singers would plead with the music director for half-hour breaks with Kishore not being around. He carried this exuberance to stage shows and could galvanise live audiences into dancing with him for hours on end. The king of playback singers was a living testimony of the fact that to “sing is king”.

However, the same book also records the very same Kishore Kumar’s attitude towards acting. “I only wanted to sing. But I was conned into acting and I hated every moment of it — I muffed my lines, pretended to be crazy, shaved my head off, played difficult, began yodelling in the midst of tragic scenes, told Meena Kumari what I was supposed to tell Bina Rai in some other film. I screamed, ranted, went cuckoo.” All this considering that he was such a natural actor that neither could any director enact a scene for him, nor any seasoned actor find it easy to match his style. When his elder brother, the established star, Ashok Kumar pointed out all this to him along with the fact that actors got paid more than singers and musicians, he replied “Acting is fake. Music is real as it comes from the heart. Only that which emanates from the heart can reach the heart of others.” It would not be out place to mention here that many, if not most Indians would have even at that time preferred to be a Bollywood acting star or a part of the Indian cricket team because of the visibility and following they have always commanded compared to other occupations in India. More importantly, it shows the plight of a person in the wrong sub vocation even within the same domain, the film industry.

What Kishore Kumar says about the heart seems to find an echo in management circles as well. I found Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla’s views, the most intriguing in this context. In the book, Smart Leadership Insights for CEOs, he says, “It is not always that a family member wants to spend his entire career in the family business. With education and changing value systems, today’s youth often prefer an independent path, and sometimes a vocation completely different from a family business. If those aspirations cannot be accommodated, then the successor may as well have to come from outside the family.” That would probably happen when the family member decides to follow his passion fulltime. One such person was Subir Malik, key recordist and manager of the most successful rock band in India, Parikrama, who made a conscious decision to switch from his motor spare parts business in Kashmere Gate to music. The adulation that the music band received at an informal public performance queered the pitch for the formal creation of India’s first rock band. On the other hand, Osho had once advised a very successful surgeon to spend the last fifteen years of his life as a musician for personal fulfillment because the person felt that music was his real calling.
Since this article is written in the context of music, it may not be out of place to mention that Singer Abhijeet was a chartered accountant, singer Shanker was a software engineer and last but certainly not the least, AR Rehman was a civil engineer. The so called extra curricular activity may sometimes turn out to be the main activity. Anupama Shah’s book on Shah Rukh Khan states, “Shah Rukh enrolled in Hans Raj college for a degree in economics but his real education started in the evening with the Theatre action group.” What draws out innate talent in the right vocation is real education indeed — “In work, we have the possibility of discovering ourselves.” This is a far cry from the tendency to have a somewhat negative attitude towards vocational education vis-à-vis studies. In our time, SUPW, which stands for socially useful productive work, included music, electronics, clay modelling, batic etc among other things. As students, we used to joke that SUPW could also stand for some useful periods wasted but such jokes can turn out to be very costly in real life if one is in the wrong profession, where he may have to spend a majority of his waking hours for a lifetime.

Many people, though they feel miserable in the wrong profession, do not have the guts to change because of various reasons: fall in income, fall in stature and status, lack of confidence of functional excellence in their professed area, possibility of exploitation etc. An American entrepreneur, when complimented on being able to leave his six figure salary to pursue his passion of opening a chain of food stores, said, “such decisions can only be made if the personal profile, the business profile, and the market profile match.”. One cannot ignore the practical perspective before making such a shift. The point to note is that like Soparrkar, if you take a very long time in seeking your correct working identity or matching the personal and business profile, the chances of success can reduce considerably as your unique talent also needs to meet the market requirement of the times. This could especially be so with certain unconventional career choices having low success rates and the solution is to know your correct vocation early. There are certain things only practical experience can teach for which there is a gestation period in which one learns the new trade or occupation.

The director of Rock On, Abhishek Kapoor himself started off as an actor but after his first couple of films (which he didn’t believe in) flopped, he moved out of the film industry to create an entertainment-based website at the wrong time when the dotcom business crashed. He then wrote and directed a film in which he believed, Aryan, which took four years to release but didn’t do well. That, however gave him the confidence and practical experience to write and direct Rock On, a film in which he closely identifies with the character Joe. He has been overwhelmed with the response to this movie. The correct working identity with a suitable market profile at the right time queers the pitch for commercial success. Currently, the demand for music and new sound has been rising because of the media and the entertainment boom, which means opportunities for people with that kind of profile.

One wonders why determining the right career can be tough. Supposing one were to indulge in a bit of upside down thinking and contemplate how the situation would be if sports or music education is imparted the way general education is imparted. Supposing here the aspiring sports or music students were stuffed with all kinds of facts on their subjects for a few months/years, earn a degree and then made to try the musical instrument or their respective sport. What could probably happen for some of them is the opposite of what happened in Soparrkar’s case. Many of them may realise that music or sport is not their cup of tea and opt for an MBA but it may not be easy to shift. Learning by doing not only enhances learning but helps in pinpointing vocation. Functional talent and passion can only be reaffirmed if not known by functioning and not by analyzing what others may have done, which can, at best make an intellectual of the particular subject or vocation.

It was the pioneer of training and development, Dale Carnegie, who said that choosing one’s spouse and one’s occupation are the two most important decisions of one’s life. When one comes across fancy expressions on career coaching sites like life purpose, life work, personal fulfilment, career meditations to know one’s vocation, it reminds one of the lines in the movie Dil to Paagal hai: “God has already made your life partner, it is a matter of finding him or her..” The Tagline: Someone, somewhere is made for you. That is equally true for the right occupation as well — something, somewhere is made for you. One may not find a hand in glove kind of match but at least the broad direction has to be right. The negative is also worth pondering upon.. Just as the lover Devdas is shown destroying himself in a spiral of negativity because of not being able to marry his desired choice, the misery of the Career Devdas is even greater for not being in the right occupation because of the time involved. In my article ‘Soul of a profession’, I narrated the real life plight of the great Indian actor Balraj Sahni. Another Sahni, Jaideep Sahni, the writer of Chak De India, called the wrong occupation “Lifetime imprisonment”.

These questions of career coaches explain it all:-
Do you dread Monday mornings and feel that the day and week just drags by? Are you ready to make a change but want to avoid saying ‘yes’ to a job that you may end up despising even more? Do you lack self confidence and have the belief that you can’t accomplish your career goals? Are you feeling stuck in your career and confused about possible job options? Are you puzzled about your strengths, talents, career values and career interests? Is your work your calling? Are you engaged in work that you value or does it merely pays the bills? Does your work bring out your strengths or do you keep thinking about turning work activities into your life’s work? Do you have the financial security to effect a career transition?

Another analogy could be the recent big bang experiment, where the The £5bn machine, Large Hadron Collider (LHC), was designed to smash protons together with cataclysmic force to discover what the Universe was made of billionths of a second after the Big Bang. In the West, no foolproof method has so far been devised to know the talent of a human being (what he is made of). Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know oneself”, is almost as relevant today as when he first said it. As far as I am concerned, if you discover what you are made of correctly early in life, it is like the big bang either way — it considerably enhances your chances of success and happiness as career constitutes 70-75 per cent of waking existence. On the negative side, life can bang you very badly — you can suffer both emotionally and financially — a lifetime of frustration and regret according to Devajit Bhuyan, chairman of a Career NGO.

It is not easy for everyone to determine his working identity but that can pave the way for both satisfaction and professional success. Writer Salim Khan, who joined films as an actor but switched to script writing, says in the book The making of Sholay that he had the gift of conception but not the gift of projection. He managed to make a shift within the same domain but what about people like Soparrkar who have to seek their working identity by trial and error across industries. While feeling a rift within, one can continue to drift for discovering one’s gift by making a shift from occupation to occupation. It can be a merry dance and as stated in the movie Rock On, life may never offer you another chance. Contrary to the commonly heard phrase among youngsters these days, “You rock, dude”, the wrong occupation could be a prelude to your being anything but a dude. It could very well be knock off; not Rock on.

Spiritual and emotional intelligence;Consciousness and intellect

This article was published in the August edition of the magazine “The management compass”
Intro: The magazine version pdf file is here- spirutal-intelligence-august-2008

More than intellect, it’s spirituality that leads us to bliss.

In my previous two articles, I tried to explain emotional intelligence from a life purpose and a practical perspective. Another word that one comes across is the word spiritual intelligence. Some years ago, I attended a workshop which covered spiritual concepts for successful management. The conductor of the workshop mentioned that the byproduct is to become happy, peaceful and balanced, which more or less matches the goals of emotional intelligence as that would help in good inter-personal relations. The word spiritual however has a wider connotation and would encompass wisdom, compassion, connection with the higher self etc.

In this context, one of the best definitions of spiritual intelligence is by D Zohar and I Marshall. They define spiritual intelligence (which they abbreviate as SQ) as “the intelligence with which we address and solve problems of meaning and value; the intelligence with which we can place our actions and our lives in a wider, richer, meaning-giving context; the intelligence with which we can assess that one course of action or one life-path is more meaningful than another. SQ is the necessary foundation for the effective functioning of both IQ and EQ. It is our ultimate intelligence.” While emotional intelligence is based on the notion that the ability of managers to understand their own emotions, and those of the people they work with, is the key to better business performance, spirituality assumes that one needs to become fully conscious of the emotions before one can feel what lies beyond — love, joy, peace.

Emotional intelligence is operative at the cognitive/intellectual level or level of the mind, whereas spiritual intelligence is operative at the consciousness level or beyond the mind. One comes across people who gloat about being spiritual rather than intellectual or sometimes go overboard in expressing consciousness vis-à-vis intellect. The objective here is to put things in proper perspective while exploring the common ground between spiritual and emotional intelligence.
In the book, The power of Now, it is given that thinking cannot exist without consciousness but consciousness does not need thought. Identification with mind causes thought to become compulsive. The basic error is to equate thinking with being and identity with thinking. Enlightenment is a state of wholeness or felt oneness with being or consciousness and can bring about the end of dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking, which prevents one from the realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being. The author states that if one is able to observe the mind as the witnessing presence rather than be swayed by it, one can be in a state of constant peace, if not happiness.

Vipassana meditation explains the significance of experiential wisdom vis-a vis the intellect very well. Vipasana is a meditation technique that was introduced by Gautam Buddha 2,500 years ago. Vipassana literature states that with his strongly concentrated mind, he penetrated deeply into his own nature and found that the entire material structure is composed of minute subatomic particles which are continuously arising and vanishing. In the snapping of a finger or blinking of an eye, he said, each of these particles arises and passes away many millions of times. An American scientist discovered the same thing through a bubble chamber and found that in one second, a subatomic particle arises and vanishes 10 to the power of 22 times. However that scientist is not an enlightened person and has not been freed from all the suffering because he has not experienced truth directly and is therefore more of intellectual wisdom.

However, intellect is also important in its own place. For one, one needs intellect to have a basic understanding of consciousness. My first understanding of consciousness came from a book which stated that just as you cannot be your shirt or trousers, as anything that is yours cannot be you, you cannot be your body or your mind. Then who are you? Osho said once that you are nothing but your consciousness. When one is able to respond to situations purely as a witness or with equanimity, this may be the pure or witnessing consciousness. This is because it is free from greed and fear, craving and aversion or as described in certain religions, Raga and Dvesha.

The Power of Now further states that emotion is the body’s reaction to the mind or a reflection of the mind in the body and arises at the place where the mind and body meet. If there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought will be the lie and the emotion will be the relative state of the mind at that time. Awareness in the context of emotional intelligence however has more to do with the intellect. People who recognise their emotions and their effects know the emotions they are feeling, can label them, can realise the effect of emotions on their actions, can know how their feelings affect the quality of work and working relationships and can readily acknowledge the gaps between the actual and espoused goals and values. People who have this kind of self awareness are more objective and are able to respond to day-to-day situations with poise, self assurance and sound judgment. Emotional intelligence is more about understanding emotions but spirituality is about transcending them.

Though connectedness with the being of higher consciousness may enable one to stay at peace with oneself, in day-to-day life, what one says in response to various life situations can be deemed equally important. At a press conference after the 9/11 when mayor of New York, Rudy Guliani was asked what he thought the body count would be, instead of saying that he didn’t know or the figures were not complied or passing on the question to his aids, he replied “I don’t know what the final number will be, but it shall be more than what we can bear”. With those empathetic words, he was able to emotionally connect with twelve million New Yorkers who began to then look upon him as the person who would see them through the crisis. Being connected with the higher consciousness may put one at peace but what one says at the spur of the moment spontaneously in response to situations would come within the realm of intellect. Emotional intelligence here is a kind of talent. Some of the greatest leaders in the world, being superb orators have been able to emotionally connect with their audience because of their dexterity with words.

In the context of emotional intelligence, empathy has a prime place. However, one has to be clear on where empathy works and where it does not work or may not work that effectively. Empathy is generally considered one of the best tools to connect and bond with people but there are certain situations where it may not be required or not be effective. For instance, in human interactions associated with activities like credit collections, empathy can prove more to be a liability than an asset.

In addition to being spiritual, being intellectually clear on specific issues is equally important.. This would also be issues like violence for instance. The Dalai lama had this to say about violence in one of the books written on him, “Violence is fundamentally wrong but in some external circumstances with an altruistic motive, when there is no other alternative, one can consciously and full awareness of karmic consequences, commit such an act.” Even Mahatma Gandhi had to clarify once in the context of Hindu Muslim riots: “To stand by and do nothing when your brothers and sisters are killed and raped is not Ahimsa but cowardice.” These statements clearly show that intellectual discretion and discrimination is equally important, especially on critical, provocative issues. At the same time this should be in the right proportion. Considering that “Knowledge is food for the ego” endless intellectual discussions is against the very essence of spirituality.

J Krishnamurthy was perhaps able to put things in the right perspective. He said that meditation of the heart is understanding, which is the very basis, the fundamental process of meditation.. Understanding means giving right significance, right valuation to all things — the right value of property, the right value of relationship, the right value of ideas. The beginning of meditation is self knowledge, which means being aware of every thought and feeling and action as it arises. Here the implication probably is that if one looks at a negative emotion like jealousy/ envy without understanding the false importance or over valuation to certain things/issues which caused the emotion to arise in the first place, the whole practice of meditation would be superficial. The conscious mind has to understand the significance of its own activities and thereby bring tranquility to itself. According to Krishnamurthy, the mind is an excellent instrument of thinking and communication in the functional context. However, the very same mind in the psychological sphere could create severe problems if thoughts and emotions are not observed without reaction and transcended

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In the original article, the editor chose not to mention this but I consider it important:-

One of my cousins who lost his son in an accident told me that being a person of spiritual orientation helped him cope with the tragedy better but he could empathize with others who had lost children better after losing his own child . So equanimity from spirituality need not translate into empathy; spirituality cannot be the be all and end all of everything .

Guidance to Management students.

I had done my one year post graduate full time course at the International Management Institute(IMI) in 1990-91. After going through various published articles that I had written in the Times of India and four other magazines, I was invited by IMI to write something in their newsletter of the third quarter of 2007(July-September’2007) Accordingly, I prepared a special write-up

Career Choices

Hiren Shah is an IMI alumnus (PGPIM-1991) who has adopted the mission of advising students about the adverse implications of choosing a wrong career. In this article for Interface he answers questions about finding fulfillment in work.
How serious is the problem of students making wrong career choices?

It is vital that students realize the importance of choosing an appropriate profession and career which enables them realize their potential. Wrong choices result in misery and frustration. Dale Carnegie said “Nobody is to be pitied more than the man who gets nothing out of his work but his pay”. The Gallup Corporation in a survey of US employees in 2005 found that 31% were “engaged” in work, 52% percent were “not engaged” and 17% were “disengaged”.

The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the extreme expressions used by sufferers such as “lifetime imprisonment” ,”spiritual suicide”, “living death” and from the titles of books on this subject:-

I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want. Barbara Sher
I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This. Julie Jansen
True Work: Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do. Michael Toms
How to Find the Work You Love. Laurence G. Boldt
Passion at Work: How to Find Work You Love and Live the Time of Your Life. Lawler Kang
To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love: Marsha Sinatra
Discover Your Passion : An Intuitive Search to Find Your Purpose in Life. Gail A. Cassidy Success v/s Joy. Geet Sethi
What should I do with my life. Po Bronson.

The titles indicate that this is a major problem in the US. I suspect it is also fairly serious here, but many Indians accept it unquestioningly. An Indian career consultant told me,”Americans can afford to think of all this because they have money but in India we have to work”. This may be a practical perspective now but it will soon be outdated. In The Greatest Secret of Success; Your Passion Quotient Virendra Kapoor points out that Indians can now afford to look beyond just Roti, Kapada aur Makaan.

Many students may get stuck in wrong jobs and mess up their working (and personal) lives. When such students start working, they discover that they have neither aptitude nor interest in their work. Their excellence lies elsewhere and the earlier they can do something about it, the better the chances of living a fulfilled life.

What should educational institutions do to help students make right career choices?

Unfortunately educational institutions do not currently provide sufficient help to students to identify the vocation which would enable them fulfill their potential. For example, though many B-schools have efficient placement services which help students get well paid jobs; they do not ensure that students get jobs which will suit their mental and emotional profile.

Educational institutions need to be proactive in creating awareness about the problem of wrong career choices and arrange professional counseling for students to enable them analyze their strengths and weaknesses, scan the environment and choose appropriate jobs and careers. This is routinely done in many societies which thus ensure that their human resources are productively, efficiently and happily employed. In India the lack of proper counseling for career choices can result in huge economic costs to our society because of suboptimal utilization of human resources. Also Business schools could arrange short term courses for people who wish to completely change their career line.
I have written about these matters to several HR consultancy companies but they seem to have adopted the perspectives of placement consultants. Even those who claim to help in changing careers do not do much about it. Incidentally, even the Gallup Corp referred to above, which is doing excellent work, has more to offer to companies than to individuals.
Are there tools available to help students make right career decisions?

Internationally acclaimed HR consultants Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks used to ask “Are you comfortable with data, people, things, words or numbers? ” Such questions have profound implications. The answers provide indications of the type of job which will match one’s talents. There are now many such profiling tools available which gauge a student’s make-up and can suggest suitable work. The Gallup study referred to in an earlier answer, identified 34 themes to enable people discover, or rather uncover, their potential so that they know where they belong and how their weakness can be complimented by another person’s strengths. Examples of themes are ‘harmony’, ’empathy’, ‘command’, ‘activator’, etc. Some, like ‘harmony’ and ’empathy’, are relationship oriented which help in connecting and teambuilding while others like ‘command’ and ‘activator’ are task oriented which help in getting things done.

The Gallup study also recommends specific career choices for strengths in certain themes. For example there is a theme called ‘restorative’ which has to do with identifying, analyzing and solving problems. People in whom such themes are dominant do well in medicine, consulting, computer programming or customer services. ‘Individualization’ is another theme which has to do with observing styles, motivation, how people think and build relationships – career choices for such people could be counseling, supervising, teaching or selling. Since too many themes can dilute focus, the five best “signature” themes are identified for each student. They help in knowing “who you are and who you are in relationship with”. This enables better relations with teachers, fellow students, spouse, friends, relatives and strangers as well as choosing the correct profession, which is the primary purpose. There is also a book “Strength Quest” which explains the themes in detail and advises students about how to identify their talents. Gallup has a site http://www.strengthsquest.com where one can take a test to identify strengths and weaknesses. The book and the site are specifically for students.

How does one deal with a wrong career choice?

The Times of India (5/8/2007) devoted a page to nine examples of drastic career switches by persons discovering that they should be doing something else. Most transitions mentioned in the article were from professions like engineering and medicine to arts and sports:-

Tyre technologist to classical singer. Doctor to actor and film producer.
Advertising to adventure sports. Airline steward to restaurateur
Financial consultant to tour operator. Engineer to marketing educationist.
Engineer to theatre person.
IT professional to winemaker.

One may earn money and gain recognition but still feel unfulfilled. An interesting example is Sunil Aggarwal, who despite being from IIM (Ahmedabad), IIT (Delhi) and rising to become a Managing Director in a media company complained of feelings of “failure and inadequacy”. After all the ultimate goal is happiness which to a great extent depends on fulfilling one’s natural potential. In my experience the basic question about wrong career choice is that you may be able to ignore your inner or spontaneous urge in the beginning of your career but could you ignore it for a lifetime?
People with an artistic bent of mind need to be particularly careful as discovering the artist in oneself can be a long drawn out process and artists in the wrong profession can have a very bad time. The chairman of ICICI, KV Kamath said that if you want artistic satisfaction in the business world you have to innovate continuously.

For students interested in this subject I recommend the following books:-

Achieving your Dream Career. Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks
Passion to Win. Abadmed and DO Chopra
The Greatest Secret of Success: Your Passion Quotient.Virendra Kapoor
The five great Myths of Career Building. Sanjiv Bhamre

Those interested in knowing more about consequences of wrong career choices could visit my blog, “Make your passion your profession” at http://mypyp.wordpress.com/.

Soul of a profession

This article appeared in the HR Magazine “Management Compass” in June’2007. Unlike some other articles given below, it is not possible to give a scanned version of this article. I am giving the text version:-

Soul of a profession

Forget material considerations while choosing a career; Follow your heart to be happy in a job

Having worked in the corporate world for several years, I found management work quite mundane. I was more inclined to study management and write about management than actually operate as a management executive.

Since changing careers is never an easy option, I tried to ignore the ‘football player in a hockey field’ or ‘square peg in a round hole’ feeling to the best of my ability, but it was never easy to ignore the constant stifling feeling that one gets when one is in the wrong profession. Over the years, I got to read about the heart element in deciding one’s career and how important it was to be passionate about what one was doing. I read about how some artists endured a lifetime of poverty for the love of their profession, how some animal lovers lived under appalling conditions, how actors took rejection after rejection but continued to do the work that they loved.

The word “passion” is more tilted towards the heart and it goes without saying that one shall be able to like one’s work in all circumstances throughout lifetime. And that is possible only if one is genuinely interested in one’s work. In the artist’s context, the word ‘soul’ is used because the word art generally implies an expression of one’s soul and artists are generally completely absorbed in their work, which really is the expression of their soul.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
— Henry Ward Beecher (1813 – 1887),

The role of the artist I now understood as that of revealing through the world-surfaces the implicit forms of the soul, and the great agent to assist the artist was the myth.
— Joseph Campbell

The chairman of ICICI, KV Kamath once said that if you want artistic satisfaction in the business world, you have to innovate continuously. Being a poet myself, all I can say is that nothing can match the intense delight-cum-satisfaction that comes from writing anything well even if it does not attain commercial success.

Nothing explains ‘artistic satisfaction’ or satisfaction in terms of heart and soul more than the life of the great Indian actor Balraj Sahni. I empathise totally with him since I have led a somewhat similar life.

In his book My Brother, Balraj, Bhishm Sahni has narrated how his brother was a career dabbler all his life — handling his father’s business, a printing press; Sevagram with Gandhiji; Shantiniketan with Rabindranath Tagore; off to London as a radio broadcaster; actor in the Indian film Industry; and when still unfulfilled, going back to his native Punjab to write in Punjabi.. Balraj Sahni had a literary bent of mind and his brother describes his dissatisfaction in their father’s commission agent business vividly:

“He was not content with the mode of life he had adopted and his impatience with it was increasing with each passing day. That also explains the varied shifts that took place in his interests during the next few months. Dissatisfied with the vocation he had adopted, he was now groping for a better outlet for his talents and energies.”

Balraj Sahni used to participate in English plays and writing activities. This paragraph describes his plight even more vividly:
“All these varied activities, more or less at the same time, only reflected Balraj’s inner restlessness and his increasing dissatisfaction. Such cultural ventures were perhaps a desperate attempt on the part of Balraj to convince himself that even while he was pursuing a business career, he could somehow reconcile business with his inner urges. He had stuck on to business for nearly three years, out of deference for Father’s wishes, but his heart was not in it, and his dissatisfaction had begun to increase.”

It would not be out of place to mention here several people who moved from corporate/management to film life on account of dissatisfaction. Amitabh Bachchan was a corporate executive before he shifted to films; director Shekhar Kapur and singer Abhijeet were chartered accountants. Music composers AR Rahman and Shanker shifted from civil and software engineering respectively.

It is generally artists and sportspersons who insist on “enjoying your work”. Cricketer of the century Kapil Dev always stressed on the need to enjoy the game. Chairman of cricket selectors and former cricket great Dilip Vengsarkar, when asked which job he found toughest, playing, officiating or selecting, replied, “there is no such thing as tough when you are passionate about cricket. All roles are satisfying. Having the commitment to stay in them is important.” Is that kind of commitment possible without a passion for the game? Kapil Dev as a director of National Cricket Academy answers that when he says that he tells recruits that if they found that cricket was a
punishment, they should leave their sport.

Lately, a lot of American writers have started expressing the same theme in terms of the soul. Nanette Hucknall explains in her book Karma, Destiny and Career, the practical dimension of life’s work with one’s soul. She says that one may achieve a high status in a particular job and do very well at it and still not be doing his vocation. The feeling of doing well may give a sense of self but if it is not one’s life’s work, one may always feel something wrong with it. She says, “If an individual relinquishes his or her vocation for material considerations, he or she will be unhappy at a later time in life. Never will the worldly goods replace the feeling of accomplishing the chosen vocation and never will the vocation be relinquished without deep feeling of regret.”

According to American consultant Lance Secretan, “Finding joy in our work depends on the relationship between our soul and our work and on the degree to which our work engages and nourishes our soul. Whether or not you have found your calling determines the level of soulfulness in your work. We all experience soulful moments in our lives — when we are at the symphony, when we watch a sunset, when we gaze into the eyes of a baby, when we play with a puppy, when we are deeply appreciated or practicing our highest mastery or when we are connected to the divine. We all want to feel the same way at work throughout our lives. There is no reason why this should not be so.”

Nick Weiler and co-author, Dr Stephen Schoonover have written a book Your Soul at Work on over 20 years of research with many well-known organisations worldwide. Their tools and techniques are used by numerous Fortune 500 companies (GE, IBM, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, Sun Microsystems EDS, Citibank etc.), in addition to small startups, and not-for-profit organisations. If the following questions hit home, then their book is written for you:
• Would you like to fulfil more of your personal and spiritual values on the job?
• Do you love your work?
• …Or like most people do you wish it were a little more satisfying? Maybe you’ve been the victim of downsizing and are trying to make the best of the situation.
• Could you use some very practical techniques for finding and pursuing a career path that better satisfies your values?
• Would you like to learn specific, research-proven non-technical skills that are key to success and advancement in just about any career specialty?
• Are you frustrated with career planning books that neglect your more spiritual concerns?
• Are you frustrated when you try to practise on the job what you’ve learned in spiritually oriented self-help books?
• Is this all there is?

Often it’s the people who are very successful financially who find themselves asking, “Is this all there is?” But it’s more than time and it’s more than money. In a recent cover story of Fortune magazine, one executive was quoted as saying, “You get to the top of the ladder and find that maybe it’s leaning against the wrong building.”

Mahatma Gandhi expresses the same sentiment in his autobiography, “My aptitude for nursing gradually developed into a passion, so much so that it often led me to neglect my work and on occasions, I engaged not only my wife but the whole household in such service. Such service has no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it. When it is done for show or fear of public opinion, it turns the man and crushes his spirit. Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant not the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.”

The emphasis on the words “spirit” and “service” clearly indicates the spiritual dimension of being in the right occupation. In any case, the word “spiritual” implies peace, balance and equanimity and the more chances you are in the right occupation, the better chance you have of being practically spiritual.

Passionate leadership- Excitement begets Excitement

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Text Version :-

Excitement begets excitement

Productivity is possible only if the leader is passionate about his work

Leadership has always been an evergreen hot topic. Every year, new books appear on the subject by the stars of the corporate world. There are endless debates on the diverse styles of leadership and various other facets of leadership. There are articles and seminars on how good leadership is critical to the development of a nation. People go on and on discussing leadership attributes such as skills, beliefs, values, knowledge etc, the importance of communicating vision and having a mission statement, significance of motivation, direction and implementation in leadership etc.

In all this verbal gymnastics, one forgets that the most important thing that determines leadership is functional talent, as most of the times people expect to be led by example. Now functional talent is something that can be determined only when a person attempts a particular activity. It is quite possible that somebody maybe qualified for something and may have a functional talent or operative skill of something completely different. Being good at something is more a matter of the mind but since a person has to spend a majority of his waking hours at work and has to work for most of his life, it is better if he is also passionate about the work, which has more to do with the heart, especially if he is expected to lead others.

Taking the mind alone is a parochial view in the context of leadership. As they say, “A boss tells others what to do…a leader shows that it can be done.” If the mind alone is considered, one may be good at something but is not likely to “show” to his subordinates. In sports like Tennis and Cricket, it is said that a great player is one who is able to play well in all conditions.

A manager may also have to face adverse situations in other spheres of his own life and to be able to exercise true leadership in all conditions and circumstances. Thus it is imperative that he likes his work because then, adversity will not prove too cumbersome for him.

“As a cure for worrying work is better than whisky”
— Thomas A Edison

It was Edison who said, “Success is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” A leader is hardly going to work that hard (perspiration) unless he enjoys his work, which again is explained by Edison the scientist-entrepreneur-innovator thus: “I never worked in my life. It was all fun”. That apart, when one is pursuing what one truly likes, one is driven by a sense of broader purpose.
l Managers have a short-term perspective, leaders have a longer-term perspective
l Managers have an eye on the bottom line, leaders have an eye on the horizon
l Managers administer, leaders innovate
l Managers imitate, leaders originate
l Managers emulate the classic good soldier, leaders are their own person
l Managers ask how and when, leaders ask what and why
l Managers do things right, leaders do the right things
l Managers accept the status-quo, leaders challenge the status-quo
From the above, one can deduce that a majority of these things can be done only if the leader is inspired about his work. He is hardly likely to be original or innovative (asking what and why, challenging the status quo, doing the right things etc) unless he loves his work. Leaders cannot be their own person if they are unsure of their own working identity, which depends on how well one suits a particular role.
l Managers focus on systems, leaders focus on people
l Managers maintain, leaders develop
l Managers rely on control, leaders inspire trust
As for the ability to inspire trust, the focus on people or the long term perspective, these are all matters of emotional intelligence, which are tested at higher levels of management because management at the bottom level is a science but at the top level is an art, which is why real leadership is tested at higher levels. If a person does not like his occupation even if he has the mental aptitude for it, he may not always carry people with him and therefore win their trust or display the emotional intelligence, so crucial at higher levels of management.
The book Passion to win is based on a research study by All India Management Association. The book, citing examples of companies like Hero Honda, Reliance, Ranbaxy, L&T, HLL, Dr Reddy’s laboratories Titan, Sudarshan Fasteners, Wipro, Infosys and Satyam, states how they are driven by passion, they had a long term institution-development orientation, they attracted and nurtured talent and leadership across the organisation, they created and valued an ambience for innovation, initiative, entrepreneurship and constant improvement in every aspect, and in the process sustained outstanding performance and their competitive edge.

The chief executive officer of Dr Reddy’s labs says it all: “I think only companies and leaders who are passionate about what they are doing will be able to create great organisations. Without passion, you cannot create great organisations. You have to be excited about what you are doing”. How true. Just as money begets money and ideas beget ideas, excitement begets excitement and a person who is not excited himself can hardly excite others in different situations.

The heart element is not always given its due importance in leadership literature. This is what the Harvard Business Review on ‘The mind of the leader’ has to say about it: “If you are looking for leaders, how can you identify people who are motivated by the drive to achieve rather than by external rewards? The first sign is a passion for the work itself — such people seek out creative challenges, love to learn and take grade pride in a job well done. They also display an unflagging energy to do things better and are forever raising the performance bar.” Since everybody obviously cannot be a leader on every issue, it is passion for a particular work more than intelligence that paves the way of identifying great leadership.

The book Success v/s Joy describes the lives of two friends, former billiards champion Geet Sethi and his friend Sunil Aggarwal who shared a common passion, billiards. While Geet Sethi followed his passion and became a champion, Aggarwal, despite being an alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad and IIT-Delhi and becoming a managing director of a media company, complained of feelings of inadequacy and failure. He even went on to say that it is a lousy idea to do MBA if you are not suited for business.

There are many people who may be good at a particular thing but in their own words “do not have their heart in it”. For instance, Nagesh Kukunur, director of famous movies such as Hyderabad Blues, Dor and Iqbal, is a chemical engineer by qualification but had no liking for that and gravitated towards films where he has carved a niche for himself.

Some of the people who fail to make such decisions or discover their passions end up writing books like Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design. Such people can hardly excel in any leadership role. One of India’s best known corporate leaders and one of the world’s richest Indians, Azim Premji used the word “meaningful work” which could imply different things to different people and stated that profits in his company are a byproduct of allocating the right meaningful work to different people.

President Abdul Kalam who has headed organisations related to space, atomic energy and defence has this to say on the subject in his autobiography Wings of Fire — “If you are a writer who would secretly prefer to be a lawyer or a doctor, your written words will feed but half the hunger of your readers; if you are a teacher who would rather be a businessman, your instructions will meet but half the need for knowledge of your students; if you are a scientist who hates science, your performance will satisfy but half the needs of your mission.” The personal happiness and failure to achieve results that come from being a square peg in a round hole is not by any means new. In another part of the book, he states, “I myself would tell naiveté engineering students that when they choose their specialisation, the essential point to consider is whether the choice articulates their inner feelings and aspirations.”

As pointed out by the President, due significance should be given to the “feelings and aspirations” but many times it happens that young people choose the wrong profession on account of the glamour of money and qualification and then feel trapped. How can anybody who feels like this excel in varied management situations and be expected to lead others? This is a critical issue both from the point of individual happiness and society’s productivity.

A double life Heart or Mind in choosing one’s career or living a double life.

Heart of Mind in choosing one’s career- Part II

Heart or mind in choosing one’s Career- I

Text Version of the article

A Double Life-Heart or Mind- Passion or Money in choosing one’s career- Which one would you choose? Heart or brain? Money or passion? It is worth making your passion your profession than to live a double life, says HIREN SHAH

It is not uncommon in today’s stress-prone world to come across questions like “how to be successful in one’s profession, spiritually?” The word spirituality implies peace, happiness, balance, and equanimity, probability of achieving which becomes much greater when you are in the profession of your choice.

Swami Vivekanand said , “materialism and spirituality are two wings of the same bird.” In this context, the debate on money vs passion is best explained by seven-time world billiards champion Geet Sethi in his book Success vs Joy. Sethi always followed his heart focused on billiards and became a champion besides completing his MBA from the University school of Management, Ahmedabad..

Though Sethi focused on billiards, his friend Sunil Aggarwal did the opposite. Though he shared his passion on billiards, he focused on his IIM and IIT and achieved the exalted social status as the managing director of a company, “a feeling of inadequacy and failure dogged me continuously, which was primary because of lack of achievement in what he considered to be his true passion- the billiards table.”

After exposure to the game for only a few months at the age of 13, Sethi got addicted to billiards. “To experience joy, you have to be yourself. I realised that joy for me can only come from what I do with passion. It has to involve me physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” says Sethi. “I have spent countless hours in complete solitude trying to align myself with my natural being. The ultimate experience is the joy of making a full effort in reaching out to the core within. It is the act of staying in the moment that gives immense, immeasurable joy. That joy is not a state of nirvana; it is the result of a moment of absolute concentration. I played for the sheer joy of the moment,” writes Sethi in his book.

The natural state of oneness with being can only be possible when one is present in the moment, according to the wonderful book The Power of Now. Besides conscious efforts, this happens naturally when one loses awareness of space and time in doing what one enjoys doing the most. It is also said that the luckiest man is the person whose hobby and profession are the same, but how many such examples do we come across?

Follow your passion
Team Tennis is an Indian tennis academy started by Aditya Sachdeva, Jaideep Bhatia, and Sanjay Minotra———–all tennis enthusiasts. Aditya graduated in commerce but was not interested in the family business of distribution of FMCG products. Bhatia completed his MBA in international business from the University of Bridgeport in USA and also worked for Price Cooper before following his heart. While Sanjay Minotra, also an MBA, was already a director in his father’s tennis court installation company,. the other two were dissatisfied with their professions as their heart lay somewhere else..

Their attitude is summed up by Bhatia “Tennis had always been a part of our lives and it is more about our own happiness,” Aditya, Jaideep, and Sanjay share a common passion with India tennis ace Vijay Amritraj, who revealed in his autobiography that his worst nightmare would be to be forced in a business not of his liking just to support his family. All this only goes to show that a hobby is more a measure of a man than his profession is.

Make a life, not a living
“Make a life, not a living”——-goes a common saying, which is true for Ajay Maira. Maira, Director, Outdoor Adventures India, is the pioneer of whitewater rafting in India and is now a veteran outdoorsman. He completed his schooling from the Lawrence, Sanawar, apart from being brought up in the natural ambience of an agricultural farm in Panipat. Around the time he graduated, his family shifted to Delhi. Having been so close to nature, he found city life too stifling and could not resist his true calling———-adventure sports. Having bumped into and begun with some Canadian rafters ,in December 1985 while still in college, he managed to covert his passion to his full-time profession over a period of two decades. He now organizes river rafting, trekking, student adventure camps, corporate wilderness workshops, etc. His partner Pavane Mann, completed her masters in Spanish and history, but joined Ajay as her passion also lies in nature.

Sayings like “don’t work for a living”, “find a hobby that pays”, are many but how many of us actually achieve it. Mr S P Shah is a chartered accountant who was working with the Anand group of companies in 1978, when the chairman asked him to look into the possibility of turning around a small sick company of his brother-in-law. While working in that small company part time for six months, Shah took out time for his real passion———–the share market. He realized he would get an opportunity for all round exposure and personal growth in the smaller setup than a specialized job in a bigger company. He managed to turn the company around in four years and got a partnership on the strength of his management skills. Against everybody including his chairman, he consciously took a decision to “be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.” Over the next two decades, Shah progressed in all spheres as he could dabble freely in the stock market.

Take decisions consciously
However, the saying “choose your career not on the basis of what you know but who you are”, does not go true for all. Niki Kantawala, a 41-year-old lawyer, plays hockey over the weekends without fail and declares candidly, “I don’t mind playing hockey all seven days, but unfortunately that’s not possible.” He adds realistically, “even if I had succeeded in playing for India, I would have thought twice before choosing to opt for a career in hockey for the simple reason that it does not pay well. So I satisfy my passion by playing it even today.”

In my own case, though I have good writing skills and feel passionately for it, I always took it as a hobby and never pursued it as a full time profession. Today, after putting in years in the corporate world, I realized that my satisfaction and happiness lies in writing. Concentration while writing comes spontaneously, while for business tasks I have to concentrate consciously.

Unfortunately, except for some career consultants in the United States, nobody focuses on the two major ingredients for making the right career decision——-functional talent and passion. Most career consultants are unanimous that career transition is a long, arduous, and time-consuming process. It is ironical that one can reach outer space within a few hours but something like one’s own vocation, which is so fundamental to individual happiness and society’s productivity takes years.

On the right side of age…
From my experience, I strongly feel that the decision to switch jobs gets progressively difficult with age. The chances of both success and joy improve considerably if one is able to pinpoint one’s real interest at an early age. “Catch them young” or “the early bird catches the worm”, applies here more than anything else.

It must be pointed out here that everybody who chooses to follow his/her heart does not necessarily succeed commercially. An American entrepreneur, when complimented on being able to leave his six figure salary to pursue his passion of opening a chain of food stores, said, “such decisions can only be made if the personal profile, the business profile, and the market profile match.” Former Lintas Chairmnan Alyque Padamsee in his autobiography A Double Life reveals about the sacrifices he had to make while straddling with two careers. Eminent novelist and India’s representative at the United Nations Shashi Tharoor talks of the same experience when he says, “the full-time writer is a rare breed anywhere”.

There’s nothing wrong in traversing two paths——–if plan A fails, plan B has to be ready according to management experts. But the question is which should be Plan A and which should be B? Is the heart given its due importance while deciding?

Walk the path
Geet Sethi elaborates, “there is a difference in knowing the path and walking the path.” He admits, “I was fortunate to discover so early in life what I wanted to do.”
Best selling author Dale Carnegie said 50 years ago, “it is a pity that so many bright, young people coming out of educational institutions do not know exactly what they want to do.” The word education itself is based on the Latin word Educere, meaning to bring out what is already in instead of stuffing facts. Many Indian intellectuals like Shri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekanand and spiritual stalwarts like Osho have said this all throughtout their lives. But does that really happen?

People tend to be more money-centric when young, but by the time they reach midlife, many of them may feel suffocated and frustrated. Nanette Hucknall in her book Karma, Destiny and Career, writes, “no matter how important or well paying your job is, if it is not your life’s work, you will always find something wrong with it. The experience of wholeness or inner peace comes only when one is fulfilling one’s full potential.” That this is the true spiritual experience is conveyed by the fact that in the United States one can come across examples like a child psychologist becoming a taxi driver, an established accountant wanting to be a carpenter, men wanting to be nurses, etc. One can be moneyed and yet unhappy. Fortunately, sites like careerspice.com have taken the lead by stating passions, strengths and skills specifically, and in that order to enable people to decide and pinpoint what they want to do.

There are several prominent Indian examples
of people who made significant career changes. Amitabh Bachchan made a switch from corporate life to films; chartered accountants Shekhar Kapur and Abhijeet became director and singer, respectively. Music composers A R Rehman and Shanker shifted from civil and software engineering, respectively.

Commitment with passion
Cricketer of the century Kapil Dev always stressed the need to enjoy the game. Chairman of cricket selectors and former cricketing great, Dilip Vengsarkar, when asked which job he found toughest——-playing, officiating, or selecting, replied “there is no such thing as tough when you are passionate about cricket. All roles are satisfying, having the commitment to stay in them is important”. Is that kind of commitment possible without passion?

Geet Sethi had to often put in 14 hours of practice and also stresses the importance of the role played and the sacrifices made by his family. Says he, “my wife in fact calls me a very boring person because I am obsessed with billiards. I now try to find a balance,” he grins. “But she understands that the joy I derive overrides everything else. Imagine the plight of a person who finds his passion late in life——-since that is also a genuine need that has to be satisfied, both for making up for the past and for professional success, one would have to work much harder.

Last but not the least, one life worth mentioning is of the great inventor Thomas Edison, who said, “success is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.” The same man also said, “I never worked all my life. It was all fun.” He is the man who used to put in 18-hour workdays and often slept in his laboratory. Most great industrialists have put in long hours while establishing themselves. One wonders whether that kind of perspiration is possible without sufficient inspiration or joy in one’s work.

The writer specialises in writing articles on career misfits.