A tip for Inner Peace: Always see the good in others

However improbable and impractical it may seem in today’s world, there’s a lot of good in everyone around us. The world is not made up of cynics, scamsters, cheats, rapists, murderers and terrorists alone. In fact, there’s a good side to everyone __ irrespective of who they are and what they do. We don’t see this goodness in people because we are carrying the burden of our past experiences within us. Our vision is impaired by a certain ‘worldliness’ which comes from years of growing up in a world that appears to be full of violence, deceit and falsehoods. At least that’s what the media would want us to see.

It’s tragic if we base our view of the world by what the media reports of the actions of a minority among us. Just because the media has such phenomenal reach__thanks to technology’s hold on our lives__bad news travels instantaneously. And bad news sells faster than good. People always love to hear of horror stories of loot, plunder, rape, corruption, calamity more than news of compassion, love, giving and understanding. So the media feeds what people love to read, watch and hear. And people lap it up all the more, ending up becoming more and more untrusting of the world around them and, resultantly, cynical.

But look around you. Everyone’s got a good side and everyone’s trying to make your Life better.

Consider these:

  • In the oppressive Summer heat of India, you see a traffic policeman struggling to regulate traffic on the road that insensitive road-citizens insist on vitiating. Sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of your car you look at the cop and the word CORRUPT pops up in your mind. Possibly he accepts bribes as most of his ilk do. But are you sure this cop, this particular one, is dishonest? Do you know him well enough to hold this judgment of him? For a moment, think of the further mayhem that would ensue, in an already regulated yet chaotic situation, if this cop was not at his post. Think of how your commute would have been affected adversely.
  • At the airport, who you think of as an insensitive security officer, insists that you cannot carry a bottle of liquid on the plane. You explain that it is only bottled water. You demonstrate it’s safe by drinking it in front of her. She remains non-plussed and requests you firmly to hand the bottle back to her. You grumble. You think she’s an idiot. But have you considered thinking of the ingenious ways in which terrorists and hijackers operate? Have you considered the diligence in her non-negotiable stance aimed at your personal security and that of other passengers? Haven’t you realized that it is this lack of process compliance that leads to loopholes that sinister operatives cash in on? Don’t you now agree that you should perhaps celebrate the security officer than begrudge her?
  • You see a couple of sweepers from your city’s civic body labor over keeping your street clean. You think of them as INEFFICIENT. Easily, given the amount of garbage that accumulates in our cities, not in designated areas, but as litter on the streets, this definition seems only appropriate. But who generates this amount of waste? The sweepers? Or is it citizens like you and me? Who refuses to segregate waste as decomposable and non-decomposable when we have been educated on the need for this through various channels a zillion times over? The sweepers? A large Indian city generates 4500 metric tons of solid waste daily, of which 2500 metric tons is non-biodegradeable plastic and an additional 700 metric tons is construction debris. Who generates this waste? The sweepers. Now, look at the sweepers toiling on your street again. Think of their meagre earnings (often less than USD 50 per month), think of their families, think of their children’s education__will they end up as sweepers too? Yet think of how patiently, how diligently they go about their menial, back-breaking work, daily, rain or shine __ clearing up waste that you and I generate!

These are just examples of common, unsung, faceless folks that we, urban, city-bred, facebookers and hashtag activists are dismissive about daily. Because of opinions we have formed about them. There are hundreds, thousands perhaps, in our immediate circles of influence, in our homes, in our families, on our streets, in our offices, in our cities, who do their bit to make each day count for us. They don’t need your praise or even your attention or understanding. Not seeing the good in others does not affect them as much as it does affect your inner core, your inner peace. So, just see the good in people around you and wish them well silently __ whoever they are. Trust me, you will be more at peace with yourself and the people you cohabit this world with!

When Life comes knocking, always answer the door

Opportunity doesn’t always come in seductive, unputdownable packaging. It simply shows up. It is up to you to pick it up and allow it to make something out of you. Now, whether or not you immediately make something material out of that opportunity, you can be sure of growing and learning from the experience.

Earlier this week, while clearing some 20-year-old files, I stumbled upon papers related to an aborted project I had led in the early 90s. They brought back a rash of memories and learnings!

I used to be a business journalist (working for Living Media – the publishers of India Today and Business Today) then. Meeting CEOs was part of my daily drill. One such CEO was a much sought-after yet redoubtable takeover tycoon. At the end of our interview, he offered me a job that I couldn’t refuse – to head his proposed Direct-to-Home television venture. At that time, even cable TV was new in India. Most people did not know of a TV channel beyond the state-run Doordarshan. Zee TV and ABN were the only two private channels available via cable – their presence too was restricted to the metros and mini-metros. I was hardly 27. It was unheard of in Indian media circles then for someone that young to be offered the job of the President of a company. And more important for someone to actually accept it! I remember that on the eve of my taking over my new role, a few journalist friends of mine, sat me down at the Bengaluru Press Club – a famous watering hole for journos then and now – and advised me how ‘risky’ it was take such an “insecure” job with a man/organization, whose background and intention were questionable. But I pressed on. I must confess I was blinded by ambition. My business card that read ‘President’ and the corporate American Express Credit Card were my most prized possessions then! Of course, I was also lured into the job for the sheer ‘adventure’ in exploring two areas about which I had no clue – television as a medium/business and the building a team/organization. I simply dared and took the plunge. I cobbled together a passionate but unsung team and we achieved our first target of preparing a project report in a record 100 days on setting up a DTH service in India – complete with a business plan, a slew of memoranda of understanding with global satellite companies and software (content) production houses and with a guide on how to work the labyrinth of broadcast regulation then prevalent in India. DTH in India in the 90s was unthinkable. It, in fact, eventually arrived only in the mid 2000s and is the only broadcast medium in India today! Much to the shock and surprise of me and my team, even as were ready to present our project report to our principals, the tycoon went bust __ and missing! Media reported that he had vanished after ripping off the assets of all the companies he had acquired. Several cases and investigations were launched against him. Crucially me and my team were not paid our salary dues! My honeymoon with corporate stardom lasted barely 100 days! In a flash, I was out of job. And my media friends, both offline and in print, opined on the ‘pitfalls of ambition and greed’. I remember sulking and refusing to even come out of my bedroom for over three months after this ‘debacle’  __ unable to face either my family or friends or the world! It wasn’t until my former employer from Business Today called me back that I found the courage to emerge from hibernation! When I reached his office in New Delhi, to rejoin my position on his team, I saw a poster on the wall behind his desk. It had a picture of a turtle and read: “Behold the turtle: He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” That poster and its message did not make as much sense then as it does now!

When I look back at my rather eventful, yet tumultuous at times career, I feel the learnings from those 100 days have been crucial in molding me as a business leader. I gained nothing materially from that misadventure. But I gained a wholesome experience and key learnings which no B-school or no straight-jacketed job could have ever taught me. The ability to travel internationally without even pausing to get over jet lag, the daring to cold call on global industry leaders, the nuances involved in documenting joint-venture agreements, the art of business planning, the intricacies involved in building and leading a team, and, of course, of inspiring them to share a vision and destiny __ all these learnings came from that aborted project. In the immediate aftermath of the project’s demise, none of this was apparent to me. But over the years, when I look back at various events and opportunities that followed, I am certain that without that DTH project’s sharp, and incorrigibly condensed, learning curve, I would not have been able to deal with many of them.

Life’s essence is not in its predictability as I have discovered. Its essence is always in the learning that follows each test that she gives us first. And no test, even if you fail at it, is a wasted effort. Each one is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve! Life may not always make you rich, but each experience in Life will, undoubtedly, leave you enriched!