Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Elect Humor

Election 2014 is turning out to be a great pot boiler, more than any other election in the history of India. No matter how stiff the fight and how serious the situation there is always scope for humor and the build-up to this crucial election is no different. I soak in some of the election time humor.

AAPMark Twain said never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel. But looks like that’s exactly what AAP has done and their leaders get generously bathed with ink. Ofcourse one might ask, in this digital age when pen is hardly used, leave apart the ink pen, who is buying so much of ink? Also AAP seems to have found the easiest tool to differentiate the good from the bad – A Cap!! Unfortunately AAP supporters have been given only two choices to make, either they could be a Congress B team or they are wrong; no middle path exists.
BJP – this is where things get very interesting. At the moment this party seems to have answer for every problem of mankind and that answer interestingly is a four letter word, in fact it’s a name. This party is busy finding MS272. No it’s not another flight that went off the radar but it is Modi Sarkar with 272 seats. Such is the fervor around this one man that unfortunately either you support him or you are wrong; no middle path that exists today.
Congress – No, no don’t start laughing just yet.  So, this is a party for whom nothing seems to be going right. Even an interview! The whole party is desperately trying to help a certain individual gain maturity and wisdom, possibly with the help of crash courses. They strongly hope that this was 2004 all over again and probably that is what all members have set their calendars too as well and living in a make believe world. Such is the negativity surrounding them that unfortunately either one is a national traitor or a Congress hater; no middle path exists here either.

While politics is considered to be a field of compromises and middle path, looks like this election there are none. Probably people have become objectivist like Ayn Rand. She once said there are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Unlikely Champion

I am sure all have heard quite a bit about Western Materialism and Eastern Spiritualism. The progress of the west is often attributed to its materialistic view point. Contrary to this the East has always focused on understanding human nature, looking inwards, treating this external world as false and thus shunning materialism. Western materialism has an inherent belief that human wellbeing and hence happiness is the result of material wellbeing. Pursuit of happiness is suggested to be synonymous to pursuit of materialistic wellbeing. Contrary to this, Eastern Spiritualism has an inherent belief that any happiness drawn from materialism is temporary and true happiness is through detachment and through an inward journey of knowing thyself.

Today, for many reasons, the east has decided to embrace western form of materialism and has moved down that path, hoping for prosperity, peace and ofcourse happiness. Now that people have gone
down that path how could we reconcile these two thought processes? Or is any form of reconciliation, a futile effort? This whole reconciliation process has led to a tremendous sense of dissonance within me. I could not place my finger on exactly what was bothering me – but definitely something was. Self-help books after Self-help books promote materialism yet, they draw inspiration from religious scriptures. Strangely though,when one looks towards religious scriptures of the east it leads towards seemingly irreconcilable differences.

Such irreconcilable dissonance, as a theory states, could lead to one of the following three things. Either a permanent alteration of belief, or suppression of any information that could lead to aggravated state of dissonance or lead towards a hope of getting a sufficient incentive to carry on with the dissonance. This human need to resolve dissonance in one of the above ways, has created a situation where there is a shift in the thought process of the younger generation of the east. Infact, any or all of the three situations explained above don’t augur well for Eastern Spiritualism. Also the extraneous flaws that have plagued eastern spiritualism also make it difficult to consume for the younger generation. The comfort that western materialism brings, at the very outset, appears to outweigh any tangible benefits that eastern spiritualism has to offer. So, have we heard the death knell for Eastern Spiritualism?

Interestingly, the glimmer of hope almost always comes from unexpected quarters and as odd it may sound, I think, the possibility of revival or survival of eastern spiritualism comes from the materialistic west. While talking about this revival I am in no way indicating towards the thriving presence of many eastern spiritual organizations all across the occident. Nor am I pointing towards the westerners who find their way to spiritual hubs in the east either out of curiosity, adventure or other tangible reasons. I would rather point towards three stalwarts of Western Materialism who, strangely, through their action have demonstrated that eastern spiritualism would continue to survive no matter whether we identify it or give it any new name.

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet. Three individuals who came into this world and have definitely changed it from the way they found it. Yet all three demonstrate certain characteristic which echo much of the sentiments embedded in eastern spiritualism. All three in a process of knowing thyself realized what they were good at and dedicated their lives in working on that one idea that they found to be their true calling. The reward that they really hoped for was more work and excellence at work. It was work for work sake, not getting disappointed with failures or getting over joyous about success. Also all three managed to demonstrate a unique detachment with the results or outcome of their efforts. Despite the personal valuation that runs into Billions and billions of dollars, they lead a largely frugal and unaffected life. They continue to strive to give back to society and improve things around them and all of them demonstrate and untiring energy in whatever they decide to focus on. Simple living, high thinking and high level of performance seemed to be their motto for a cause that was much larger than them. They derived happiness from what they did rather than what they could buy.

Have they in this process managed to bridge this gap between Western Materialism and Eastern Spiritualism? While most of us struggle through our mundane lives, have they shown the path towards true happiness through a life of purpose? Or am I reading too much into? The dissonance has by no means disappeared but definitely there is sufficient food for thought here and a possible come back against the materialistic west and a chance to state that your mascots are actually championing our cause? I know not – but I wonder still.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Leadership Courts

Badminton is a game of vigor, swift action and nimble movements. While observing all the dynamics involved in playing week on week I realized that there are some strong emergent learnings for a leader that could applied in any field especially. Lessons are anyway lurking all around us for us to sense and grow. Badminton court is just another place for that. I present a short summary of the learnings for a leader from the badminton court. 

The format in which we play the game ensures we could be playing against or with different people of different skill levels, so first thing this/her teaches is to be flexible. Flexibility is one of the key attributes of a leader.

Because we might be playing with a partner of different skill level or style it would mean that one has to adapt to the situation by playing as per the strengths and weakness of the partner. So, adaptability and knowing subordinates well are another key attribute of a leader helping him/her to adapt the right style of leadership as per the situation (Situational Leadership).

While playing with a partner it is very essential that both gain each other’s trust. And Trust doesn’t come unless there is respect for each other irrespective of individual skill levels. What lack of trust does is, it makes partners lose co-ordination and makes partners constantly step into each other’s territory making a mockery of the game. Again as a leader one needs to respect all the individuals around him/her and ensure that through coordinated effort mutual trust emerges.
While playing with a partner with inferior skill levels, there are times when one has to cover-up for the mistakes made by them. Infact at times one has to allow one’s partner to commit those mistakes and play freely without antagonizing them. This/her is similar to how a leader needs to ensure there is sufficient tolerance for mistakes to ensure a team is confident to act and learn from mistakes without being under constant fear of repercussions.

Again there are times when one might be playing with a partner who is in peak form or is of superior skill level. Such stages one needs to adjust one’s role and be ready to play second fiddle and continue to provide support where required.  Great Leaders, as said somewhere, are not someone smarter than the team but are someone who builds teams with people smarter than them.

A player needs to be aware of his/her strengths and weakness just as he needs to know the same about his/her partner and opponent. While it is essential that he plays to his/her strengths and not to his/her opponents strength it is also equally essential that one endeavors to improve as much as possible on one’s own weakness and be alert to use the opponents weakness to one’s advantage. Strategic thinking based on a realistic assessment of one’s own, teams’ and opponents, strengths and weakness definitely helps in making a good leader.

Last but not the least is in the game of badminton there is no hiding behind anything. One is out in the open exposed in front of everyone with respective skills and attitude. One has to take responsibility and own up the mistakes committed and constantly endeavor to improve. A leader always has to lead from the front, constantly owning responsibility for his/her actions and the repercussions there off.

Leave a bunch of people together and in some time a leader bubbles up to the surface.

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Random: April 2014