Story Time: How Buddha learnt a lesson?


Gautam buddha was sitting underneath a banayan tree, meditating.On the other side of the tree two local musicians met and were discussing their work.

One of them wanted to learn the ‘ektara’, to increase his expertise.

The other musician, to express his expertise, started talking about the ektara.

He said ” The ektara is a beautiful instrument. If you want to learn how to play it , you must first learn how to tune the string. Make it too loose and it will not sound desirable, make it too tight and it will break.”

He concluded by repeating “not too tight, not too loose”

Buddha left his meditation and jumped up to stand. It was almost like someone had told him something unbelievable.

He had realized the secret to happiness or ‘moksha’.

Like the string for the ektara, too much or too little of anything is the reason for most sorrow.

Be it money, love, knowledge or even life. This philosophy gave birth to the idea of ‘madhyama marga‘ or the middle path.

How many such opportunities have we missed, is anybody’s guess.

Source: Public Domain - Abridged and rewritten from Upanishands (Compiled by Abhinandan Chatterjee)

Progressive politics – India 2012


The Past 

It’s not vaguely under cover; how Indian politics shackles down progress. The budgets get weaker, the closer comes the elections. And a woman makes it her own right to change news and history to suit her taste.

I am a voter, but where is my choice? Or is it about living with a mistake? …One that I made last elections.

Questionably, is that what has become of what was meant to be a democracy – Of the people, By the people, For the people.

Somewhere in their hearts,people of India are burning of rage and are gripped by fear, a rage to change but in fear of the initial consequences. We have always had issues with the ‘Big Picture Perspective’ (Why else did the British manage to rule us?), haven’t we?

I know friends who did not vote – not because they were busy, but because they did not want to pick either of the nominees. With more than a billion people; that is how low we are on choice?

Frankly, it looked like dooms day for Indian politics about 3 years ago, misreported by the media(they need breaking news…), misinterpreted by the opposition (on purpose, just to slam), mismanaged by politicians (they only order in chaos is what makes to their bank accounts), misjudged by the voters (Fabricated facts can only create fabricated reality) and mislead by personal agendas (It is never about making India work, but about ‘Not’ upsetting a counted few).

The Present

Then a welcome change of wind came by, all of a sudden politicians were going to talk shows that were real and were asked the questions which the common man wanted to(E.g. The Big Fight). They were replying to e-mails and for the first time were answerable to the public. The public too was commendable and became assertive to a full. They asked questions now, not waited for the answers.

The RTI, Right to Information Act , 2005 – contributed tremendously in getting people to their own might. While it had been around for a while, people had now learnt to use it well.

That was the birth of progressive politics. A choice that all politicians are presented with in today’s world.

What is Progressive Politics?

In my view, the philosophy is about connecting with the real people even after the elections. Connecting for real issues and being responsible for solutions. It is about intention, a good one, for the country and it is very much visible.

The best I could define progressive politics would be: A state of politics were nominated members act as a medium of communication between the government and the common men and women of the constituency instead of being rulers, singular decision makers and power mongers.

How is Progressive Politics different from the regular politics?

The following factors should help you identify:

  • Priorities – The state of the nation, its growth and international sanctity is the more important than strategic development for coming into power the next term.
  • Decisions – Choices are created, shared and mutually decided on matters of importance between the nominated member and the voters with the overall benefit of the constituency in mind and not personal, regional or community based benefits.
  • Communication – The politicians make a genuine effort to communicate and connect with the people on a regular basis to sense their needs and expectations. They reach out to the people and people who reach out to them are answered well. Not the same as standing in a que for 8 hours just to get through to the peon or PA at a minister’s office. Social media certainly has helped.
  • Responsibility – ‘Under promise over deliver’ It is more like customer service than being in charge of your organization. Service is the key and the politicians understand that the public values sincere service, real and visible, more than the face value or the fact that they are in their centennial year in Indian politics. Work counts – age does not.
  • Support – Progressive politics both needs and drives, support. It is an interesting paradigm because it is self-sustaining. As long as the cause is potent and real to the masses, it will be driven through support from the masses. Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption was a good glimpse at this. Why have we never had a political movement to drive change at this level?
This is a welcome change in the way politics works in our country. I am certain, this is what the forefathers of democracy dreamt of.
Out of the politicians today in India, many have taken the route to progressive politics already.
The days of ‘we need change’ are gone and over. Now it is about supporting and standardizing this change. That is one area where I feel a lot work will be demanded.
But let me share with you why I feel this is the way forward – Change is constant. A lot of well established and repeatedly proved  management theories about change may give an insight to our situation. The situation of Progressive politics in India.
The figure on your left called the ‘Diffusion of innovation’ (Source:  Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations (1962).)
Let’s quickly understand the model in context to Indian progressive politics.
The  bottom terms represent the way Indian politicians will take up progressive politics and the curve represents the number of people in each category.
The height of the curve also represents the majority of public commitment  that a  particular groups’ effort will drive.
Just to add some more perspective in terms of progressive politics in India, here are some examples of the politicos who are into the muddle already –
Opinion Leaders – Sashi Tharoor,  Narendra Modi, Agatha Sangma
Early Adopters – Meera Sanyal, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Naveen Jindal, Jyotiraditya Scindia
The names are my personal views only and may differ from yours. Another aspect of Progressive Politics is empathy and listening. A world where different opinions may live peacefully and co-exist. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below.
We are at a stage where the early adopters are still building up. The key here to understand will be, that social networking may be a good medium but is not Progressive politics.Social responsibility is. 
The public is smart enough to spot who is here to play politics and get votes on twitter and who makes change happen – for real – even if it is through Facebook.
Mathematically there may be a few flaws in this alignment and it calls for a lot of research to find the real trends and do it justice. However, for me this analogy is just a lot of hope.And hope does not have to be mathematically correct. 🙂
The good news still is that CHANGE IS HERE. Knocking on the door. Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) Tweeted yesterday
  • “In reaction to the TOI column, Civil Aviation minister Ajit Singh called me. Commendable of him to reach out.’
  • “Had a long call with the minister. He shared his thoughts on making AI better, but reminded me of practical issues like unions/culture”
  • “Invited me to meet him. Will do. Must say good to know there are some politicians who listen and are keen to change things. Ray of hope.”
This was in response to an article by Chetan “Burning money in the sky,” in TOI 21 April 2012, , about the current state of  Air India.
While Chetan was heard from his article on the TOI, but a lot of us will not write articles or go out to protest. We could be next on the list of people who might be heard next.
Support progressive politics, politicians and processes. Support the change for those trying to be it!
– Abhinandan Chatterjee

The other side of business – The True Story of Ratan Tata


‘It is futile to mix business with emotions!’ A well established fact that fuels lay-offs, inhuman sell-off’s, stone hearted acquisitions and the ever diminishing regard for people in businesses driven by people.

There is story that presents the other side of this picture. To top it up, it happened right here in India.

Ratan Tata is the chairman of Indian Hotels who owns the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, which was the target of the terrorists on 26/11/08.

Hotel President a 5 star property also belongs to Indian Hotels.

Lets talk about what he did.

A. The Tata Gesture

1. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day as casual were treated on duty during the time the hotel was closed.

2. Relief and assistance to all those who were injured and killed

3. The relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station, surroundings including the “Pav- Bha ji” vendor and the pan shop owners.

4. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent by money order.

5. A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help.

6. The thoughts and anxieties going on people’s mind was constantly tracked and where needed psychological help provided.

7. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility.

8. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required.

9. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who in some manner – either through injury or getting killed – were affected.

10. The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to Mumbai and taken care off in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace. They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks.

11. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents – as to what they wanted him to do.

12. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tatas for the purpose of relief of employees.

13. What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees, the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tatas were covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance of Rs. 10K per month for all these people for 6 months.

14. A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital and several lacs were spent by the Tatas on her to fully recover her.

15. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts.

16. Tata will take responsibility of life education of 46 children of the victims of the terror.

17. This was the most trying period in the life of the organization. Senior managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3 days that were most horrible.

18. The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees tranlates to approx 2200 US $ ] in addition to the following benefits:

a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;

b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents – anywhere in the world.

c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their life.

d. All loans and advances were waived off – irrespective of the amount.

e. Counselor for life for each person

 

Epilogue

1. How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they behave the way they did?

2. The organization is clear that it is not something that someone can take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such behaviour. If someone suggests that – everyone laughs

3. It has to do with the DNA of the organization, with the way Tata culture exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The organization has always been telling that customers and guests are #1 priority

4. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.

5. He created several institutions which later became icons of progress, culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the same. He could afford fencing only 400 acres.

6. When the HR function hesitatingly made a very rich proposal to Ratan – he said – do you think we are doing enough?

7. The whole approach was that the organization would spend several hundred crore in re-building the property – why not spend equally on the employees who gave their life?

It is funny why was this not repeatedly on the news?

Moreover, it drives attention to a rather undervalued aspect of business in this competitive era. That side is Kindness.

Source: Facebook Post with personal commentary.
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Amazing Life # 5 – Going to School


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Going to school

‘What days were those!’ everyone out of school would gasp. No matter what the school was, big or small, urban or in a village or even whether you were the person who got picked the most upon.

Along with the fun, a school was still a lot more than a promise of future, a statistic, a job guarantee or a social obligation. For some it was life’s playground and for all it was hope.

Yet, what did we really learn?

Learning was about sharing and never about competition so sharp that could split a hair in two. It was hard to get up everyday and difficult to stay up before examinations. A lot would refer to that as hardship.

But, is that as hard as it gets?

I call myself fortunate to have been able to get education at a good school, though at a point in time I did not have money to pay the fees and believe it or not my teachers paid it from their pockets; it was a 30 km bicycle ride and a still a lot of upset relatives; but I would still call my self fortunate. This is still a lot better than a lot of others who had it worse.

Take APJ Abdul Kalam for instance; who had to walk miles to get to his school every morning or these girls who do even more to get to their school in Nepal which happens to be in a different, distant village .

What is it that drives so much effort to school?

What could it mean? What Does it stand for?

What does it lead to?

These questions have been with me since I was at school but  to my vain I haven’t been able to answer them yet.

The only thing I could figure is that I owe it to the school to give back to the world. I owe it to the school to get those to experience the joy of learning who do not get to.

Answer the above questions for yourself if you can. But answer one for me first – What have you given back to people, that you took from your school? Sounds too idealistic!

I genuinely acknowledge the people and organizations who have dedicated their existence to help this cause. However, lets face it … not all of us can and not most of us will!

Here are a few simple things that led to me believe that it is not as difficult as we may think of it to be!

1. Give it back – When ever you can, what ever you can, how much ever you can – I am no philanthropist, it did not take much to go to McDonalds ,spend 500 bucks on a few – well actually 25 – McVeggie burgers and drive around Gurgaon. Look for the kids, playing around and share it with them. What a weekend! I ate 5 of them burgers myself , over 3 hours of driving around but the shining eyes of those kids can make all the effort worth it. Here is ‘Appu’  with his sister ‘Rani’  and the little dude. Some of the kids i had lunch with. Try it if you can and see for yourself how fulfilling it is while being a lot more interesting than lunch with your colleagues!

2. Teaching is the best way to learn (Yes, even the small things) – I remember, about 14 years ago, we had a person who used to do the cleaning etc. for us in our Jabalpur home. Her name was Sashi and we called her Sashi didi, she wasn’t too old – about 23, mother of two. My brother was in kindergarten and I never sat to teach him anything… it was boring.

One day I did, and her elder daughter (5) walked up to the book, picked it up and kept looking at it. She had a big smile. It was majestic, so I decided to teach her and my brother,that is the day, with very little help for me ‘Pooja’ wrote her name in English for the first time. My brother took another year to do so 😛 all in good spirit but he was just 3.

Pooja had then become the most literate member of her family and it cost me nothing to share those three minutes of joy and see her mother proud. Would do that again in the next opportunity I get.

3. Donation is great – Charity is good, but does not always cost. At least a simple thing that I have tried a last couple of  months works just fine. When ever you go out to buy some thing for yourself, buy something for others. Even if it is just a pencil. I refrain from buying food because it just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather share some hope and if it costs 5 Rs. and can write, I sure don’t lose my savings over it.

All I am trying to say is that life isn’t the same for everyone and that is something I learnt at school. That is why it was such an amazing thing and now its my turn to return.

Just to get you started, here are some stats:

    • Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
    • A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.
    • At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school.
    • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
    • In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.
    • In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.
    • On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.
    • In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.
    • On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.
    • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
    • Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
    • 1 in 40, primary schools in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
    • In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none.
    • In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.
    • More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.
    • 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to schoolSource: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002

Going to school made me stop wanting help and taught me to take responsibility and stand up with dignity. That is exactly what these 8.1 million children need. The whole world can be a school if we choose to make it so.

After all, what does life have to offer if not a little hope?

For you to do, not just read ; Abhi

Rags to riches – How shortcuts work!


 

A long time age, lived a merchant named Manibhadra in  southern city of Pataliputra. He was a man of principles who had lost all his wealth. His poverty made him very sad and one night he reflected on his condition and thought:                           

“Neither character nor patience, Neither humility nor pedigree, Dispels a poor man’s gloom.”

Even if a man has merit, the pressures of earning a livelihood overshadow such merit. The need to look after the family wears out one’s brilliance. A poor man’s house is like a sky without stars, a lake without water.

“A poor man is shunned even if, He has character and pedigree. A wealthy man shines in society,Without merit and caste roots. What he does is never shameful, But to be poor is always a crime.”

After thinking a lot about his condition, Manibhadra decided that death alone could solve his problems. With these thoughts he fell asleep and saw a dream. In his dream, a Jain monk appeared and said, “O merchant, don’t give in to self-pity. I am Padmanidhi, the treasure collected by your ancestors. Tomorrow morning when I will visit you in this guise, you will hit my head with a stick and I will turn into gold. You can live happily ever after.”

When the merchant woke up next morning he wondered whether what he saw in the dream was real or unreal. “This may not be true. It could just be an illusion because I have been thinking about money all the time,” he thought and remembered the following poem:

“Their dreams never come true, Who are sick, grief stricken, Lovelorn and infatuated.”

Meanwhile, a barber came to the merchant’s house because his wife had called him for pedicure. Very soon came the Jain monk who appeared in the merchant’s dream. Manibhadra was happy to see him and at once reached for the stick and struck him on his head. The monk turned into a statue of gold. The merchant then gave clothes and money to the barber and told him not to pass this information to anyone.

The barber went home and thought, “If a monk turns into gold if I strike him, I will invite all the monks and kill them and I can have lots of money.” He passed the night with great difficulty. Next morning he went to the Jain monastery, went round its precincts three times and prostrated before the idol of Jinendra and sang the praise of the Jains as:

“Victory to the Jain monks who keep lust and love at bay, who turn the mind into a desert, where desire does not grow. Blessed are the hands that worship the enlightened Jinendra and blessed is the tongue that praises the great Saint.”

After this prayer, the barber met the chief monk and knelt before him seeking his blessings. The monk blessed him and asked the barber the reason that brought him to the monastery. The barber pleaded humbly that the chief monk and others should accept his hospitality.

The chief monk said, “O my son, we are not Brahmins who are invited home to be honoured. We are mendicants who visit Jain homes and accept what is necessary to keep us alive. Please go away and don’t embarrass me.”

Disappointed, the barber said, “O great seer, I have made all preparations to receive you. Yet I cannot press you. You will do what you think is best.”

The barber went home and kept a stick ready after checking the exits of the house. He went to the monastery again and stood there pleading with the monks to accept his offerings. Taking pity on the barber, the monks agreed to visit his home. The elders have rightly said:

“Man becomes old and infirm,loses his hair and teeth and cannot even hear and see properly. Everything in his body degenerates but not desire.”

When the poor monks trooped into his house, the barber closed all the exits and began assaulting them. Some of them died while some were crying with pain. The sheriff, passing by, heard this commotion and asked his men to immediately find out what was happening. The men saw what the barber had done and presented him before a magistrate. The barber admitted that he had killed some of the monks. The magistrate ordered that the barber be impaled.

The judges then said that no one should do like the barber without understanding the situation for the learned have said that he who does things without discretion or prudence regrets his actions.

Food for thought : I find this story so interesting because it says, what worked for him might not work for you! Choice indeed is the greatest gift we get as humans, to choose wisely – be it action or inactions is not a suggestion. It is responsibility.

Source: Unknown. While I have not written this story, I am unable to trace its source too. Please help if you can.

Amazing Life # 4 – Being Forgetful


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about  little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being Forgetful

Sonia, my boss, mentor and very good friend once asked me ‘How come you always keep forgetting things? When ever I ask you, you seem to have forgotten it for one reason or the other.’

I did not have an answer but as usual – I had to say something ! The last word was mine, I said and I quote “I don’t forget by chance, I forget by choice” That fact that I had watched James bond in Casino Royale the evening before had nothing to do with it.

She looked at me with a rather peculiar look and said.’That’s the weirdest thing I have ever heard’

It wasn’t the first time she said that, it sure was not the last.

The question is why is this a good feeling? Something that happened today strengthened my belief in the idea of forgetting.

I called up an old friend just to say hi (Got a friend request from her on FB.) ! She picked up the phone and we spoke for almost an hour… I just did not realize somehow that she dumped me when I was 14 and it sure did hurt back then. Life moved on and I forgot, and it was really okay when I remembered it today. Forgetting just takes the edge of things. Maybe it is the the little  bit of Emotional intelligence that we all need.

One secret to happiness is to be able to forget, forget what is not necessary or relevant to being constructive. Forget the regrets, grudges, opinions and mistakes if you can. Forget any superstition, rumor, allegation, frustration and worry and see, there will be so much more to remember.

A feminist friend of mine always says – ‘Women remember more! They are smarter’ …Sure they do ( I am not trying to be biased, if you take offence on this – get some humor hormones!), Its maybe because they remember more, they always have reasons to sound worried and men forget and see how happy they are:).

Of course it is easier said than done and it has massive disadvantages against people who remember… the conversation we had last year in summers about how bees fly and the conclusion of what makes the zzzzzzzzz sound. huh??? I don’t remember the conclusion, the conversation or even the weather – all i remember is that I met a buddy because that is what made me happy.

It is also a choice between being good and being happy. Memory is good, forgetfulness ( If that’s a word) is happier and that is just my personal opinion.

Look at it like a computer – What happens when too much of data is stored on the hard drive. Slows down the computer? and what happens when there are too many programs running together – Crash and burn?

All the information we collect, important and un-important is the data. Pick what you need and forget the rest ( Make notes if you like). The multiple processes are the emotions – the negative ones specially have a tendency of auto-start. They keep going on and on unless you forget about them.

So, how do you forget – Three things that I always do are :

  1. Get busy – Find something else that occupies you mentally and do it passionately enough to skip your lunch once because you did not realize the time.
  2. Get creative – Creating things from scratch is a great feeling and drives passion( Does not apply to creating babies) through the roof. It is this adrenalin that works as a pain killer.
  3. Get adventurous – Do something that you have never done before like Bunjee jumping. Personally,I feel it will be a great remedy for mid-life crisis.

These are just distractions, memory loses itself  and people forget what is on top of their head.

Some things that feel really good once forgotten are;

  • Forgetting why you fought with your spouse and end up bursting out into laughter
  • Forgetting to  watch a match where the team you like lost anyway
  • Forgetting to lie where you had planned to and end up saying the right thing with benefits later
  • Forgetting to say bye or express your love to the one you love only remember later how much you love them!
  • Forgetting to eat when you are putting on weight
  • Forgetting to do something nice in the first place only not to regret it later
Comment on this thread about ‘What can you forget and feel happy about?’

Live well and go forget… Cheers. Abhi

Amazing Life # 3 – Being happy for strangers


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being happy for strangers

It is just amazing how a smile can be contagious. It is one thing I would love to be contaminated with.

This is an old story about a day that happened to be pretty gloomy and dead. It was the day when it didn’t go too well in the office. Friends didn’t have time. I did not want to spend time with family. It was hard to focus on anything and window shopping was the only shopping because it was free and affordable.

Even on that day, stuck between 5 people, hitching a ride in a bus, when I saw that little girl hitting her nose with her hand, almost with the expression ‘Where did this thing on my face come from?’ and her mother looking at her in aw and disbelief, redefining beautiful; that split second of magic made me smile for a night and even the next morning.

That is the power of happiness and it comes in strange packages – correction! – stranger packages.

I am sure you would have had those moments in life when you look at something really everyday, in a different way, connect with it and end up smiling ear to ear. A little hard to explain, but it’s not  laughter, not a humorous smile, neither sarcastic,  nor sadistic, its not bound by the axis of being real and artificial; I feel neither English nor any other language has an adjective for it – its just a smile.

They come by at traffic signals, at bus stops, on silent evenings, on really really early mornings and with good news – even when it has nothing to do with you, good or bad.

In times when winning a race about creating strategies that ensure others fall so that even if you are not the fastest – you can win, its funny that such a feeling can exist.

Today I read in the news about Mohammad Aamir – spent 14 years in Jail for being wrongfully accused and finally freed to a dead father and and paralyzed mother. At least he saw the world outside of brick and mortar before his sun set far east. A touching account of how truth triumphed finally – better late than never. That put a smile back on my face in the middle of thoughts about how to handle the very-ignorable  problems that I, just like rest of us, was crying over…I was happy for a stranger and it felt great.

So my tip is:

Find such moments when you can smile for others. Close your eyes and think about that moment because smiling for others is certainly better than smiling at them.

PS- You can read the full story about Mohammad Aamir here – Its motivating!

Story @ The Sunday Guardian

Cheers to that one smile; Abhi

Story Time – The Right is Wrong


A physics professor was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score.

Who was right? The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter (The Judge) , and a learned man was selected.

He read the examination question:

” Q 12: Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building using a barometer?”

The student had answered, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly!

On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this.

The judge suggested that the student have another try. He also gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. arbiter asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one.

The judge  excused himself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on.

In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read:

“Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, the judge  asked his colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit.

While leaving the colleague’s office, he recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem and asked him what they were.

“Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.

“Fine,” he  said, “and others?” “Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.” “A very direct method.” “Of course.

If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated.”

“On this same tact, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”.

“Finally,” he concluded, “there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: ‘Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.”

At this point, the judge asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

While there is no proven record, some say that this man CV Raman, Indian Nobel laureate. (Read updates below for clarity)

Food for thought:  There always are many answers to questions, ones wrong answer can be other persons right. This makes me question all the feedback I get and that is where the learning happens.

Are you open to the new? To think and to understand openly by introspection and listening are the two biggest missing pieces in the emotional evolution of humans.

This made me wonder about one current situation which I would dedicate this story to – The Indian Lokpal Fiasco – Apparently everybody has the same objective ( Eradicate corruption) but nobody open to understand each other. Who can be our arbiter?

Update 1: 8/02 7.23 PM IST – After a reader comment, another name who could have actually been in the heart of this story is Neils Bohr, Danish Nobel Laureate. Either ways, the LOKPAL team can learn from it!

Update 2: 9/02 6.12 AM IST – Another reader shared a link while appreciating the thought that puts more of this story into perspective. It wasn’t Raman, or Bohr it seems. It was more like a textbook problem. Read it for yourself: http://www.snopes.com/college/exam/barometer.asp

Source: Abridged from various sources including what my grandfather told me (by Abhinandan Chatterjee). Primary reference - Disha - ASJ magazine 2003

TedxGurgaon Talk – On Non Conformity


My talk at the TEDxGurgaon. 2011 10’Dec

Penguins, Lightbulb and a Beer belly! – A talk about non-conformity and us. Happy watching!

I would request you to share your perspective about the idea in it, or the presentation. Looking forward to your comments!

So what if the technology fails, you can still keep going as long as you believe in the message you share!

You can even read an article about this topic at https://abhinandanchatterjee.com/2012/01/04/dreamsfaith-a-beer-belly/

Cheers,

Abhinandan Chatterjee

Story-time: No Try No Foul


This is a real incident.

Houdini was a master magician as well as a fabulous locksmith.

He boasted that he could escape from any jail cell in the world in less than an hour, provided he could go into the cell dressed in his street clothes. A small town in the British Isles built a new jail they were extremely proud of. They issued Houdini a challenge.

“Come give us a try,?” they said.

Houdini loved the publicity and the money, so he accepted.

By the time he arrived, excitement was at a fever pitch. He rode triumphantly into town and walked into the cell. Confidence oozed from him as the door was closed. Houdini took off his coat and went to work.

Secreted in his belt was a flexible, tough and durable ten Inch piece of steel which he used to work on the lock. He got it out and started his magic.

At the end of 30 minutes his confident expression had disappeared. At the end of an hour he was drenched in perspiration. After two hours, Houdini literally collapsed against the door. The door just opened.

In aw and shock Houdini almost had tears in his eyes. ‘What just happened? it opened itself!’ he exclaimed.

You see it had never been locked – except in his own mind –which meant it was as firmly locked as if a thousand locksmiths had put their best locks on it. One little push and Houdini could have easily opened the door but thanks to his perception he never tried that.

Many times a little extra push is all you need to open your opportunity door. You don’t get opportunities, you need to make them.

Learning: There is no harm in trial, there is only learning.

Source: Based on excerpts from a newspaper article. Rewritten by Abhinandan Chatterjee.

I am doing a bit of research about goals. Please answer this poll, will be grateful.

Humility 101 – Taught by an auto-rickshaw driver


The mentioned auto rickshaw driverThis is not a  story. It is something that hapenned to Suvendu Roy who works with a renowned watchmaker and lives in Mumbai with his family.

He shares his inspirational encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai:

‘One Sunday, my wife, kid, and I had to travel to Andheri from Bandra. When I waved at a passing auto rickshaw, little did I expect that this ride would be any different…

I looked in front and there was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan channel.

My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, dettol and some medicines.

This was enough for me to realize that I was in a special vehicle.

Then I looked round again, and discovered more – there was a radio, fire extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of all faiths

– from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

There were also pictures of the heroes of 26/11 ( The terrorist attack in Mumbai) – Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare and Unnikrishnan.

I realized that not only my vehicle, but also my driver was special.

I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished.

I gathered that he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when his employer’s plastic company was shut down.

He had two school-going children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night.

No break unless he was unwell. “Sahab, ghar mein baith ke T.V dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega.”

We realized that we had come across a man who represents ‘India’ – the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life.

I asked him whether he does anything else as I figured that he did not have too much spare time. He listed a few things :

  • He said that he goes to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, where he donates tooth brushes, toothpastes, soap, hair oil, and other items of daily use.
  • He pointed out to a painted message below the meter that read: “25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped.
  • Free rides for blind passengers up to Rs. 50.

My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO. Someone who deserves our respect.

Our journey came to an end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness, and of a hero-worshiping his country and his people in whatever he can.

We disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.

I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr Sandeep Bachhe in his auto rickshaw: MH-02-Z-8508.’

This story really made me think about how sometimes I end up saying things to explain why I  can not do a lot for others. In essence, it is always about my life being at a critical juncture and being a priority. Who’s is not?

It inspired me to do something for free for the first time and I started www.storyfication.com. The online encyclopedia for stories. The project is called ‘the  story board project’

Moral – If we being humans do just a little for others as awe do for ourselves selflessly, over 80 % of the worlds crisis can me mitigated. Do your bit when ever, with whatever, and however you can.

Source: Suvendu Roy, first received this on a trail mail. Re-written and concluded by Abhinandan Chatterjee

How badly do you want to grow?


This is an old Greek fable about a scholar who went to Socrates.

He travelled the length of the world and learned about all the wisdom available, his name was Cicero and he went to Socrates in an attempt to learn what no one else could teach him.

Once Socrates found this out, he refused to teach Cicero. He begged, pleaded and finally managed to convince Socrates to at least hear his plea.

Walking by the seashore, Cicero was trying to convince Socrates to be his mentor when suddenly the wise Socrates walked chest-deep into the sea.

Cicero walked behind him and stopped. Socrates looked into his eyes and asked Cicero, ‘what do you want?’ To this Cicero replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled, pushed Cicero inside water and forcefully kept him there for a while.

Once he came out of water and had almost lost his breath, Socrates asked again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero realized it was a test of some kind and loudly replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’ only louder this time.

On hearing this, Socrates pushed him into water again and let him stay there longer. Once Cicero came out of water, he was panting heavily and had almost drowned; Socrates asked again, ‘What do you want?’ Cicero knew that it was a test of some kind and replied in even louder voice, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled again and pushed Cicero back into the water.

This time Socrates pushed him hard until Cicero fought his way out, panting and pale, unable to understand Socrates’ behaviour. Socrates asked him again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero arrogantly answered ‘I want to breathe’!

Socrates smiled and said, ‘the day you want to learn as bad as you wanted to breathe, come back to me and I will teach.’

Moral: It is important that you really want to learn, without that even joy is just a compulsion. When we want something badly and strive to get it with the whole of heart and mind – We do!

Your truth or my truth? What makes you right


Culture is a reaction to nature, and this understanding of our ancestors is transmitted generation from generation in the form of stories, symbols and rituals, which are always indifferent to rationality. And so, when you study it, you realizethat different people of the world have a different understanding of the world. Different people see things differently — There indeed are different viewpoints.

There is my world and there is your world, and my world is always better than your world, because my world, you see, is rational and yours is superstition. Yours is faith. Yours is illogical. This is the root of the clash of civilizations. It took place, once, in 326 B.C. on the banks of a river called the Indus, now in Pakistan. This river lends itself to India’s name. India. Indus.

Alexander, a young Macedonian, met there what he called a “gymnosophist,” which means “the naked, wise man.” We don’t know who he was. Perhaps he was a Jain monk, like Bahubali over here, the Gomateshwara Bahubali whose image is not far from Mysore. Or perhaps he was just a yogi who was sitting on a rock, staring at the sky and the sun and the moon.

Alexander asked, “What are you doing?” and the gymnosophist answered, “I’m experiencing nothingness.” Then the gymnosophist asked,”What are you doing?” and Alexander said, “I am conquering the world.” And they both laughed.Each one thought that the other was a fool. The gymnosophist said, “Why is he conquering the world? It’s pointless.” And Alexander thought, “Why is he sitting around, doing nothing? What a waste of a life.” They must have found each other ‘Stupid’

To understand this difference in viewpoints, we have to understand the subjective truth of Alexander — his myth, and the mythology that constructed it. Alexander’s mother, his parents, his teacher Aristotle told him the story of Homer’s “Iliad.” They told him of a great hero called Achilles,who, when he participated in battle, victory was assured, but when he withdrew from the battle,defeat was inevitable. “Achilles was a man who could shape history, a man of destiny, and this is what you should be, Alexander.” That’s what he heard.

“What should you not be? You should not be Sisyphus, who rolls a rock up a mountain all dayonly to find the boulder rolled down at night. Don’t live a life which is monotonous, mediocre, meaningless. Be spectacular! — like the Greek heroes, like Jason, who went across the sea with the Argonauts and fetched the Golden Fleece. Be spectacular like Theseus, who entered the labyrinth and killed the bull-headed Minotaur. When you play in a race, win! — because when you win, the exhilaration of victory is the closest you will come to the ambrosia of the gods.”

Because, you see, the Greeks believed you live only once, and when you die, you have to cross the River Styx. And if you have lived an extraordinary life,you will be welcomed to Elysium, or what the French call “Champs-Élysées” – the heaven of the heroes.

But these are not the stories that the gymnosophist heard. He heard a very different story. He heard of a man called Bharat, after whom India is called Bhārata. Bharat also conquered the world. And then he went to the top-most peak of the greatest mountain of the center of the world called Meru.And he wanted to hoist his flag to say, “I was here first.” But when he reached the mountain peak, he found the peak covered with countless flags of world-conquerors before him, each one claiming “‘I was here first’ … that’s what I thought until I came here.” And suddenly, in this canvas of infinity,Bharat felt insignificant. This was the mythology of the gymnosophist.

You see, he had heroes, like Ram — Raghupati Ram and Krishna, Govinda Hari. But they were not two characters on two different adventures. They were two lifetimes of the same hero. When the Ramayana ends the Mahabharata begins. When Ram dies, Krishna is born. When Krishna dies, eventually he will be back as Ram.

You see, the Indians also had a river that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. But you don’t cross it once. You go to and fro endlessly. It was called the Vaitarani. You go again and again and again. Because, you see, nothing lasts forever in India, not even death. And so, you have these grand rituals where great images of mother goddesses are built and worshiped for 10 days … And what do you do at the end of 10 days?You dunk it in the river. Because it has to end. And next year, she will come back. What goes around always comes around, and this rule applies not just to man, but also the gods. You see, the gods have to come back again and again and again as Ram, as Krishna. Not only do they live infinite lives,but the same life is lived infinite times till you get to the point of it all. Call it Christmas if you will.

Two different mythologies. Which is right? Two different mythologies, two different ways of looking at the world. One linear, one cyclical. One believes this is the one and only life. The other believes this is one of many lives. And so, the denominator of Alexander’s life was one. So, the value of his life was the sum total of his achievements. The denominator of the gymnosophist’s life was infinity.So, no matter what he did, it was always zero. And there are people who believe, it is this mythological paradigm that inspired Indian mathematicians to discover the number zero. Who knows?

And that brings us to the mythology of business. If Alexander’s belief influenced his behavior, if the gymnosophist’s belief influences his behavior,then it was bound to influence the business they were in. You see, what is business but the result of how the market behaves and how the organization behaves? And if you look at cultures around the world, all you have to do is understand the mythology and you will see how they behave and how they do business.

Take a look. If you live only once, in one-life cultures around the world, you will see an obsession with binary logic, absolute truth, standardization, absoluteness, linear patterns in design. But if you look at cultures which have cyclical and based on infinite lives, you will see a comfort with fuzzy logic, with opinion, with contextual thinking, with everything is relative, sort of – mostly.

You look at art. Look at the ballerina, how linear she is in her performance. And then look at the Indian classical dancer, the Kuchipudi dancer, the Bharatanatyam dancer, curvaceous.

And then look at business. Standard business model: vision, mission, values, processes.Sounds very much like the journey through the wilderness to the promised land, with the commandments held by the leader. And if you comply, you will go to heaven.

But in India there is no “the” promised land. There are many promised lands, depending on your station in society, depending on your stage of life.You see, businesses are not run as institutions, by the idiosyncrasies of individuals. It’s always about taste. It’s always about my taste.

So pick your poison for truth, but do so wisely.

Source: Ted Talk by DD Patnaik. Based on the mythological and historical evidence. Rewritten by Abhinandan Chatterjee

Let others speak first!


A sales rep, an administration clerk and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out in a puff of smoke.

The Genie says, “I usually only grant three wishes, so I’ll give each of you just one.”

“Me first! Me first!” says the admin clerk “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Poof! She’s gone.

In astonishment, “Me next! Me next!” says the sales rep. “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of pina coladas and the love of my life.” Poof! He’s gone.

“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”

Management Lesson: Always let your boss have the first say.

Source: Original source unknown, however you will find many versions of this story floating around over the WWW.

Find your own story


Read this story slowly, preferably while you are alone.

‘A man was once walking alone down a road that looked never-ending. He was walking to forget about the pain his heart-break had caused. All that love looked relentlessly over-rated. He felt for his loss but was happy that it was not as bad as it could have been, in case this was to happen. 2 more years into the relationship.

He had forgotten the joy of life and everything else because of her – she meant everything to him. He could almost see her smile and tease him. ‘Why?’ He asked himself, ‘What did I not do for her?’ He exhaled, and still.

He was wandering directionless like a toddler and yet he was 40. He was feeling lonely like an orphan but he had friends who cared. He was behaving as if he was homeless, although he had a house to live in, he looked at strangers as if he wanted to beg death out of them while he was healthy, wealthy and well to do.

What happened? I asked.

And he looked at me as if he was the judge and I was guilty. Anger on his face was evident but in no time it turned into resentment, then regret and finally fear. I asked again, since he looked quite disturbed but it almost looked like his words were stuck in the lump on his throat.

He came through and murmured slowly, ‘ It was Lucy, she died – She was only 6 months old, a beautiful bitch.’ No pun intended and no disrespect meant but think about all the different emotions you experienced in snippets while you read this story. Specially the restlessness to conclude at the end.

That is the power of a story. While words reach your mind and music reaches your heart; Stories seem to have the ability to reach into the soul.

This is what led me to believe that maybe there is an answer to the eternal question, ‘What is your purpose in life?‘. A lot of great people, religions and even books have answered this very question over and over again. There are tonnes of different explanations, suggestions and perspectives hidden in them but there is one thing common – Every answer is about you being able to find your story.

Let’s take look at Gita – A religious hindu text which quotes :

“Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani”

Meaning: Do your duty and be detached from its outcome, do not be driven by the end product, enjoy the process of getting there. – 2:47 SRIMAD BHAGVAD GITA.

Who knows if it actually ever happened, but surprisingly every religion encourages its followers to find their own cause for existence. Some do it blatantly and others are subtle, it is suggestive and at times even prescriptive. Some call it baptism and some call it moksha. Different means to the same end – Finding a story to live in.

Even the non-believer believes it, because the fact that he disagrees with the idea of religion was born after a thought entered his mind and altered his belief. That thought could have been an incident, could have been an emotion, could have been a discussion or even a tragedy, whatever it was, it would have been a story to tell.

Stories are everything but fiction.  They are a reflection of life, feelings and even freedom.  They are learning and wisdom. They grow and they breathe. They have vision and emotions. There is not a single soul that doesn’t share one or hear one. Stories are life because life, is a story. And the funny bit is, stories are more human than humans will ever be. Coming back to the eternal question, ‘ What is your purpose in life? ‘ My answer is: ‘Finding my own story’ 

People do  it all the time but only a few realize it. When they attempt to change the way the look, the place they work or the thoughts they have, it just about becoming the right character. Different twists and turns and sometimes even the unexplained behavior is just the outcome of the way they see their story to be.

The only thing big enough  to summarize life, is a story because we are the stories we tell.  The only question is ‘How can you find your story?’ 

Here are some things I would do, they are yours to try, I am convinced to use it as a management concept and maybe to assist people in the long run too, I call it ‘Story-Boarding’

  • Choose your character:Who are you?
    • It’s not personality development, it’s about comfort. It is about being able to be in your skin with ease and away from the constant ruffle of trying to become like some one else.
    • Just like in a movie, the director can decide which elements would he want in a hero in what quantity, we too can choose what our character needs to be – You can be a creator, an enabler, a catalyst, a thinker, a dreamer and even a monk if you choose to (Don’t sell your Ferrari). It doesn’t even have to be all rosy and goody (We know that even Batman can be Jealous). The key word is real and the objective is to be comfortable.
  • Find your plot:What do you want to do?
    • Every great story has a great plot. It is important that you are inspired to do what you intend to. Inspiration is the only things that is not on sale. So, trying out different things until something appeals to you enough for you to spend your life with it, is a good idea.
    • Another was that may work out is looking back at your childhood and finding your happiest moment – see what were you doing at that precise instance and maybe that is a career option. You can even make a career in things that you don’t like to talk about much. Pun intended.
    • The only factor is, it should be something that drives you crazy enough to not give it up.
  • Set your climax:How will you reach fulfillment?
    • Draw a picture for how the climax of your story will look like. Pay attention to detail and explain the picture in words using crisp bullet points. See it everyday, twice, without fail. Once you achieve it, draw another one and move on. There is no time limit, age limit or any limit on possibility. It is just a story after all.
    • Arguably, your list of things to do can be endless and fulfillment hard to stay forever but thankfully life is not endless, and that is why the the journey is the story. The story is the purpose of life as all of what one can leave behind is a story to be shared and heard. Because there is not a single soul that doesn’t share one or hear one.

Even if these steps can’t freeze your story, it will at least bring you a tad bit closer to realizing it. No story can be told the same way twice, your story is and will be your story, others can be similar but never the same. And if you can not find it yet, here is a little story that might help.

This is an old Greek fable about a scholar who went to Socrates.

He travelled the length of the world and learned about all the wisdom available, his name was Cicero and he went to Socrates in an attempt to learn what no one else could teach him.

Once Socrates found this out, he refused to teach Cicero. He begged, pleaded and finally managed to convince Socrates to at least hear his plea.

Walking by the seashore, Cicero was trying to convince Socrates to be his mentor when suddenly the wise Socrates walked chest-deep into the sea.

Cicero walked behind him and stopped. Socrates looked into his eyes and asked Cicero, ‘what do you want?’ To this Cicero replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled, pushed Cicero inside water and forcefully kept him there for a while.

Once he came out of water and had almost lost his breath, Socrates asked again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero realized it was a test of some kind and loudly replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’ only louder this time.

On hearing this, Socrates pushed him into water again and let him stay there longer. Once Cicero came out of water, he was panting heavily and had almost drowned; Socrates asked again, ‘What do you want?’ Cicero knew that it was a test of some kind and replied in even louder voice, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled again and pushed Cicero back into the water.

This time Socrates pushed him hard until Cicero fought his way out, panting and pale, unable to understand Socrates’ behavior. Socrates asked him again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero arrogantly answered ‘I want to breathe’!

Socrates smiled and said, ‘the day you want to learn as bad as you wanted to breathe, come back to me and I will teach.’

Moral: When you really want to find your story – you will! Until then Keep looking.

– Abhinandan Chatterjee © 2012

Story Time: The Fisherman & the Consultant


A management consultant, on holiday by the beach in Thiruvananthapuram, watched a little fishing boat dock at the shore.

As usual he started calculating the ‘pro’s and con’s of the visible outcome’. Noting the quality of the fish, the consultant finally  asked the fisherman ‘How long did it take to catch them?’

“Not very long.” answered the fisherman.

“Then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the consultant.

The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The consultant asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have an afternoon’s rest under a coconut tree. In the evenings, I go into the community hall to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the Mridangam, and sing a few songs….. I have a full and happy life.” replied the fisherman.

The consultant ventured, “I have an MBA from IIM and I can help you…… ” He said.

And continued by enumerating the a series of events

  1. ‘You should start by fishing longer every day for extra fish.
  2. You can then sell the extra fish you catch.
  3. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
  4. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have a large fleet.
  5. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants
  6. Depending on ROI and market conditions, Maybe even open your own plant.
  7. You can then leave this little village and move to a city or maybe even out of India.
  8. From there you can direct your huge enterprise.’
Quite a business plan it was, hearing which the fisherman asked, “How long would all that take?”

“Oh, ten, maybe twenty years.” replied the consultant.

“And after that?” asked the fisherman.

“After that? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the consultant, laughing, “When your business gets really big, you can start selling shares in your company and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” pressed the fisherman.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, move out to a small village by the sea, sleep in late every day, spend time with your family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under a coconut tree, and spend relaxing evenings having drinks with friends… A beautiful life”

” That’s what I’m doing right now”, said the fisherman and went his way.

Moral: Wisdom is not free but patience is priceless and one does not work without the other.

End-note: I was reminded of this story because of something that happened at work today. As usual, I jumped the gun! That’s my biggest AOI now.

Source: Abridged version - Rewritten by : Abhinandan Chatterjee P.S. I have read and heard this story at a few places earlier; the original source is untraceable. A similar story is available on cite hr posted by vrajeev.

 


			
			

When Elephants Fall ! Failures to learn from.


Who does not fail? Either one who is out-worldly talented or one who is insanely lucky. Surprisingly, most people who the world swears by today have had their share of failures. Each one of their autobiographies will tell you how miserable their life was at a point in time yet its was only a matter of choice – To Outgrow or To Succumb.

We regular folks are on the other hand unhappy for the lesser heart burns and make it a purpose of life to mourn while they, in the very same daylights, decided to fly.

Here below is a compilation of how these elephants failed and fell, we all know how they got up and ran so I will leave it for another day. This information comes from multiple sources like websites (Wikipedia, knowledgebase-script, e zine articles, about.com etc.) autobiographies of various thought and business leaders and a couple of HBR and other management journals.

Great Failures

Bill Gates

Founder and chairman of Microsoft, has literally changed the work culture of the world in the 21st century, by simplifying the way computer is being used. He was the world’s richest man for more than one decade. However, in the 1970’s before starting out, he was a Harvard University dropout. The most ironic part is that, he started a software company (that was soon to become Microsoft) by purchasing the software technology from “someone” for only $US50 back then.

Abraham Lincoln

He received no more than 5 years of formal education throughout his lifetime. When he grew up, he joined politics and had 12 major failures before he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.

Isaac Newton

Newton was the greatest English mathematician of his generation. His work on optics and gravitation made him one of the greatest scientists the world has even known. Many thought that Isaac was born a genius, but he wasn’t! When he was young, he did very poorly in grade school, so poor that his teachers became clueless in improving his grades. He even failed in mathematics, was thrown out of his fellowship and was home tutored to conclude.

Ludwig van Beethoven

A German composer of classical music, is widely regarded as one of history’s supreme composers. His reputation has inspired ? and in many cases intimidated ? composers, musicians and audiences who were to come after him. Before the start of his career, Beethoven’s music teacher once said of him “as a composer, he is hopeless”. And during his career, he lost his hearing yet he managed to
produce great music ? a deaf man composing music, ironic isn’t!

Thomas Edison

He was the one who developed many devices that greatly influenced life in the 20th century. Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 U.S patents to his name. When he was a boy his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. When he set out on his own, he tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.

Frank Winfield, The Woolworth Company

It was a retail company that was one of the original five-and-ten- cent stores. The first Woolworth’s store was founded in 1878 by Frank Winfield Woolworth and soon grew to become one of the largest retail chains in the world in the 20th century. Before starting his own business, Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21. But his employer would not let him serve any customer because he
concluded that Frank “didn’t have enough common sense to serve the customers”.

Michael Jordon

By acclamation, Michael Jordon is the greatest basketball player of all time. A phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire. Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar. Before joining NBA, Jordan was just an ordinary person, so ordinary that was he was removed from the high school basketball team because of his “lack of skills’

Walter Disney

This man was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor and animator. One of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world, Disney founded a production company. The corporation, now known as The Walt Disney Company, makes average revenue of US $30 billion annually. Disney started his own business from his home garage and his very first cartoon production went bankrupt. During his first press conference, a newspaper editor ridiculed Walt Disney because he had no good ideas in film production.

Winston Churchill

He failed the 6th grade. However, that never stopped him to work harder! He strived and eventually became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Churchill is generally regarded as one of the most important leaders in Britain and world history. In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2002 to identify the “100 Greatest Britons”, participants voted Churchill as the most important of all.

Steven Spielberg

He is an American film director. He has won 3 Academy Awards and ranks among the most successful filmmakers in history. Most of all, Steven was recognized as the financially most successful motion picture director of all time. During his childhood, Spielberg dropped out of junior high school. He was persuaded to come back and was placed in a learning-disabled class. He only lasted a month and then dropped out of school forever.

Albert Einstein

This man was a theoretical physicist widely regarded as the most important scientist of the 20th century. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and “for his services to Theoretical Physics”. However, when Einstein was young, his parents thought he was mentally retarded. His grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, “Einstein, you will never amount to anything!”

Marilyn Monroe

In 1947, one year into her contract, Marilyn Monroe was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because her producer thought she was unattractive and could not act. That didn’t deter her at all! She kept on going and eventually she was recognized by the public as the 20th century’s most famous movie star, sex symbol and pop icon.

John Grisham

John Grisham’s first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses. He went on writing and writing until he became best known as a novelist and author for his works of modern legal drama. The media has coined him as one of the best novel authors even alive in the 21st century.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed. That did not stop him from incorporating Ford Motor Company and being the first to apply assembly line manufacturing to the production of affordable automobiles in the world. He not only revolutionized industrial production in the United States and Europe, but also had such influence over the 20th century economy and society. His combination of mass production, high wages and low prices to consumers has initiated a management school known as “Fordism”. He became one of the three most famous and richest men in the world during his time. To top it all, he never had a driving license.

Soichiro Honda

He was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation during a job interview as “engineer” after World War 2. He continued to be jobless until his neighbours starting buying his “home-made scooters”. Subsequently, he set out on his own to start his own company. Honda. Today, the Company has grown to become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer and one of the most profitable automakers – beating giant automaker such as GM and Chrysler. With a global network of 437 subsidiaries, Honda develops, manufactures and markets a wide variety of products ranging from small general-purpose engines and scooters to specialty sports cars.

Akio Morita

The founder of giant electric household products firm, Sony Corporation, had his first product as an electric rice cooker. They only sold 100 cookers (because it burned rice rather than cooking). Today, Sony generates US$66 billion in revenue and ranked as the world’s 6th largest electronic and electrical company.

I am certain that you have had your failures in life too. I am absolutely nobody to comment on it or say some thing as cheesy as ‘So What?’. It is you who needs to say ‘So What?’ and move on; because it is only a matter of choice – To Outgrow or To Succumb.

Source: As mentioned above. Disclaimer: I have only written the start and the end note of this article. It has been collated from open source and publicly available material as mentioned above. I case of any copyright objections, you can contact me directly at abhilearning@aol.com  

Story Time: What determines the strength of a wheel?


An ancient Chinese story, retold by Phil Jackson, coach of the phenomenally successful Chicago Bulls basketball team, makes this point rather more emphatically.

In the 3rd century BC, the Chinese emperor Liu Bang celebrated his consolidation of China with a banquet, where he sat surrounded by his nobles and military and political experts. Since Liu Bang was neither noble by birth nor an expert in military or political affairs, some of the guests asked one of the military experts, Chen Cen, why Liu Bang was the emperor. In a contemporary setting, the question would probably have been: “What added value does Liu Bang bring to the party?”

Chen Cen’s response was to ask the questioner a question in return:

“What determines the strength of a wheel?”

One guest suggested that the strength of the wheel was in its spokes, but Chen Cen countered that two sets of spokes of identical strength did not necessarily make wheels of identical strength. On the contrary, the strength was also affected by the spaces between the spokes, and determining the spaces was the true art of the wheelwright.

Thus, while the spokes represent the collective resources necessary to an organization’s success-and the resources that the leader lacks-the spaces represent the autonomy for followers to grow into leaders themselves.

In sum, holding together the diversity of talents necessary for organizational success is what distinguishes a successful leader from an unsuccessful one: Leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they do have to recognize that their own limitations will ultimately doom them to failure unless they rely upon their subordinate leaders and followers to fill in the gaps.

Source: Leadership Ltd: White Elephant to Wheelwright by Keith Grint | Ivey Business Journal, January/February 2005

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