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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Control

Life, it seems, is a constant battle over what we cannot control. We battle our emotions and our tendencies. Judgment is often, at the losing end of the battle, at times. But, after that bitter defeat, you do come out with a little bit of gumption and a new found will. That's all what is needed to rule yourself, again. So, I believe.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Accountability

I have been living in the US for more than a year now. While I can be tempted to compare and rant about the development and infrastructure differences between the US and my home country, there were a few subtle experiences that really inspired me during my stay. The public utilities systems here show a remarkable level of accountability and transparency.

Recently, I received a letter from the water distribution board mentioning that tests indicated proof of bacteria in the public water supply. The letter insisted that the species of bacteria found were not really harmful in most cases. For instances where that could pose a health problem, remedies were provided. The letter ended mentioning that the system was committed to quality and would take adequate measures so that this wouldn’t happen again. It mentioned that the letter, which was communicated to all residents in the town, was to be transparent in their service and governance.

The utilities company responsible for electricity provides information about the sources of power in the state, provides a graph showing your consumption for the past 12 months, comparing that with the average household consumption and also mentions why the unit charge is more during certain months and less during others. To top it all, every bill provides valuable tips on saving power specific to the season you are in, information about go-green initiatives and how consumers could be a part of this as well.

These were two examples where organizations showed a great deal of transparency and accountability. These not only instill a sense of confidence in their customers, but also pride for many. If you look at it, these are not hard measures to undertake as an organization. In many ways, these principles are somewhat missing in the utilities system (run by the government) back home. I personally think these principles come before any major overhaul in the utilities system.

Accountability doesn’t stop with organizations. We have our own share of responsibility, and accountability. For instance, we must try our best to help recycling. Here, in the US, and in many other countries, people consciously separate out paper, plastics and other garbage. It is also important to separate out non-biodegradable stuff and materials that are bio-hazards (like battery cells etc). Unfortunately, this measures are not religiously taken in India, and garbage disposal is not given as much importance as it should be. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that we have more than a billion people living in the country, with really, really high population density. Recycling is just one of the many things we civilians should be accountable for. More importantly, we must be aware of the fact that we are accountable for many things – we simply seem to forget them by putting ourselves in a shell, blaming the government and organizations, instead of ourselves.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Elevating your game

A thought, one afternoon, took me back sixteen years in time.

I was in high school, and that time, cricket was my passion, my only one. I was the captain of a team of school kids from nearby villages. We weren’t that particularly good a team, partly because most of the team were just beginning to play real games. We were mostly fifth or sixth graders. Unlike in a town or a city, we didn’t really have many teams to chose from, as opposition. There was this team from our neighboring village who kept egging us for a match. We barely had six players in our team. The other problem was that the neighboring team were a bunch of high school and college going guys. Their average age was at least five years more than ours. Better yet, each player was good in a certain discipline – bowling, batting or both. Basically, we were minnows compared to them. And yeah, they were a full eleven member team.

The prospect of a match was uniquely exciting. There was a feeling of certainty that we would be thrashed. But yet, somewhere inside, I felt they could be beaten. It was an unreasonable, yet nagging thought. Perhaps, it was the kind of feeling the captain of the Bangladesh cricket team has before playing Australia.

My team had to be complete for the match. I requested a few friends and classmates from neighboring villages to join us. They agreed, and we were now eleven. Adequate head count was far from being ready though. When we got together to discuss and prepare, we all settled with the idea that we had to prepare enough to avoid an utterly humiliating defeat. The idea was to perform enough to give an impression that we went down fighting.

That evening, a couple of weeks before the big day, self and Guru, my cousin, and a good friend of mine, had a seeming boyish talk. There was no reason to, but we talked about winning. We went on, and on, and kept laughing about it. That Saturday, the sun had set and it was getting dark. We decided to have a good day of practice the next day and signed off.

That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of winning. I was pacing up and down in my front yard thinking about what it would really take to beat them. We really had only three players matching the level of each of the players in our opposition. I had a seemingly ludicrous thought that if each of us gave 200% and each member of the other team gave 50% or less, out of sheer complacency, we could win. Funny, you might chuckle off, but I was dead serious in thought then. I slept with the thought that we had to find some ways of elevating our game to a different level, to be able to realize my amazing theory.

The next day at practice, Guru mentioned that he had the same thought the night before. So, we began practice with that very goal - raising the level of game. How to achieve that, we didn’t have a clue. I believed it was all about practicing, and practicing hard. I firmed it up in my mind that I had to work on each of my skills – my fielding had be to sharper, my range of batting shots had to improve, and my bowling had to be darn accurate. Guru, for some reason, thought all this was not needed. He just believed in just being himself and going for it. When we practiced, I gave 200%. All of a sudden my game was so better. My bowling was particularly unplayable, and I had a great all-round performance. The extent of my determination and focus at that time were indescribable. I seemed to be all set and prepared. So, I thought. I was to be proved otherwise.

Guru, on the other hand was quite miserable in practice. He seemed to be tense, but believed that things would simply come together on the day of the match. Guru was our best player, and I had nothing but hope that he would deliver. Little did I know, what he would transform into.

The day of the match is something I cannot forget. There was tension as much as there was excitement. We were to play an away game. When we reached the playground, an improvised valley between hills, the confidence I exuded in practice was starting to diminish. I was nervous now, and my feet were trembling. Guru, on the other hand was quite the opposite. The jitteriness that he had during practice was non-existent. He was ready for war.

The first exchange of looks was intimidating for us. They were bigger than us, looked unforgiving, and seemed to be all set to make mincemeat of us.

We won the toss, elected to field and I took to the first over. I was darn nervous for the first ball, but the first ball happened to be a beauty. That took some tension off and gave me tremendous confidence. I knew those guys would be complacent and I cashed on it. I scalped four important wickets, and the they were bundled off for a reasonable small score. But still, that was a tall order for our team, because we had only three batsmen, effectively. We lost the one of them in the very first over – a shaky start. It was all up to me and Guru to take us all the way home.

What happened that day is something I can never forget. It was the day I saw Guru like never before. He single handedly destroyed the opposition. Though I didn't go all the way, I shared a good little partnership with Guru and we sailed home. Guru had just shown an example of how one could really elevate one’s game when required. Even to this day, every one of us (and our opposition) vividly remember that game.

Sixteen years have gone, and in the present day, I look back to glean some lessons. I am constantly faced with similar uphill tasks in work and personal life. Perhaps, even today, I do the mistake of focusing more on skills alone. For short periods of time, you will need to push the envelope of conventional thinking and situation handling. That is what makes you accomplish certain important victories and specific goals. Of course, this level cannot be sustained for long as you would burn out. But nonetheless, you need to help yourself elevate the game, when needed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Being in a Dream

The patch of time when you are transitioning from a dream to harsh reality is harsher than the reality itself. You are better off being in the state of blissful unawareness.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A random musing on 'Leadership'

I have come to an unexplainable conclusion that one cant really pen what true leadership is, or learn from literature or countless workshops. One's pursuit of what leadership is all about is, in my opinion, as arduous as an expedition to discover the human soul.

When you come across a true leader, you will know, and you will learn leadership without being taught. A few weeks, days or just minutes of being in the influence of one would condense reams of literature collected over centuries to a small speck of insight, and wonder that sits in the forefront of your mind.

You will realize then, that you are blessed.