Harsha Bhogle and the art of winning a battle without fighting

Fight only if you must. Sometimes, the best way to win a battle is not to fight at all.

harsha2Harsha Bhogle has been axed as commentator by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from the IPL 9 Season. As is the case with most BCCI decisions, no reasons are forthcoming. Meanwhile, the rumor mills are working overtime to suggest that any of these three – or all – reasons may be valid: BCCI being ‘deeply influenced’ by innocuous (per me) Tweets by Amitabh Bachchan and M.S.Dhoni conveying their personal opinions on how commentators must commentate; Harsha’s run-in with a Vidarbha Cricket Association official in Nagpur over a common-sensical suggestion and how Shashank Manohar, the current BCCI President, stepped in and stood up for this official; or how players have begun to influence the BCCI on who should be chosen as commentators. But when news broke out on Saturday evening, when the first match of IPL 9 was being played between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants, that Harsha will not commentate, the man in the spotlight was off to watch a movie with his wife Anita in Mumbai. All he did was he tweeted his surprise at the turn of events.

I think this is a phenomenal quality that Harsha’s got – to not fight everything and everyone that comes in your way!

Though not among my personal favorites (L.Sivaramakrishnan and Danny Morrison are), Harsha is clearly a world-class cricket commentator. He’s worked hard to follow his bliss and he, deservedly, is very, very admired. Just the outpouring of sentiment in his favor, over his axing, is evidence of how much he’s loved. Yet, the landscape in which he plies his trade is fraught with BCCI’s mafia-like ‘control’ of the game and infested with intra-organizational, political landmines. And Harsha perhaps knows this better than anyone else. Hence his choice to not lose his dignity or sanity trying to stir an already confounded situation is commendable. Undoubtedly, the public – his fans and followers of the game – is with him.

There’s a learning here for all of us. When someone queers your pitch, just walk away. You don’t have to respond to every provocation or pick up every gauntlet that’s hurled at you. Some battles are best left unfought. People react to situations based on their own insecurities, perversions or justifications. Things happen in Life because that’s the way Life is – it keeps on happening, endlessly, often mindlessly. So, if you get embroiled in trying to bulldoze your way every single time someone or something becomes an obstacle, you will only be fighting inconsequential battles all your Life. Precious personal positive energy will get drained this way. Sometimes it is better to be silent and work around a problem person or situation than wanting to decimate an obstruction. Be stingy about where your energies go. Choose the good fight – where there’s a cause, where more than just you will be benefited, where there’s an opportunity that your victory can make the world better. For any other battle, not fighting is perhaps the best way to win!

A Life lesson from Virat Kohli: Stay Humble, Stay Amazed!

Everything happens through you and never because of you!

Like his captain M.S.Dhoni said in the post-match presentation ceremony, I too am loving the “evolution” of Virat Kohli – not just as a cricketer but as a human being. There was a time, not too long ago, when he was considered brash, arrogant, foul-mouthed and tempestuous. But the Virat we have seen through this World Cup T20 is a different person altogether.

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Bowing to Sachin

First, after scoring a steely 50 against Pakistan at Kolkata on March 19th, he bowed to Sachin Tendular in the stands, dedicating his innings to the Master – “It is because of Sachin that I started playing cricket,” he later explained on TV. Next, last evening, when Dhoni hit the winning four against Australia, Virat, at the non-striker’s end, sank to the ground. On his knees, he bowed down in reverence, overwhelmed by the moment. Had it not been for his pyrotechnics in the previous two overs, India would not have made it past the line and into the semis of the WCT20 2016 – he knew that; yet, he felt humbled by his own brilliance. Then, he stood up, removed his helmet and raised his finger, pointing it at the skies and looked up with complete certainty that he was but an instrument; he was genuinely grateful for being the ‘chosen one’ for last night!

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‘Humbled!’

To me this quality in Virat will continue to take him onward. And higher! I am sure Dhoni’s sagacity and equanimity have had a huge influence on Virat’s temperament. Yet I want to credit this 27-year-old with coming forth and being willing to be humble. Bravo Son! Soldier on!

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‘Am merely an instrument!’

If there’s one quality that we all need to nurture in us as we go – and grow – through Life, it is humility. We must realize that success and failure are mere labels. Virat, for instance, who is the toast of 1.2 billion cricket-crazy fans in India this morning may well be rubbished even before the season is out if he fails to deliver the goods. In India, especially with respect to cricket, every fan is a better analyst and judge of your potential and playing conditions than you are. So, it is very, very important to understand that everything happens through you and not because of you. This is not just applicable to a game, as in to cricket, but to Life itself. We are mere messengers, instruments for a higher energy (some call this energy, God; I am comfortable just recognizing the presence of an inscrutable, magical energy that is beyond my understanding!) to work through us. Each event, happening in our Life, is a learning. If we do something miraculous, be amazed, be humbled, like Virat was last night. If you do something stupid and botch it all up, again be amazed, be humbled, and learn from it. Don’t gloat, don’t exult! And don’t despair or give in to depression either. Victory or defeat, success or failure – all are mere imposters. Treat them with dignity. Let them come. Let them go. And you simply journey on, letting your music play – through you!

PS: All pictures are courtesy Internet and copyright/ownership rests with original creators.

Let people and their opinions just be – you carry on living the Life that you love living

Don’t measure your Life in terms of success or defeat, asset value and brand value or on what people – including the media – have to say. Nothing matters in the end; except whether you lived each of the moments you were alive and except the lives you touched!    

This morning’s Economic Times had a story on Indian cricket’s most successful captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Written by Ratna Bhushan and Ravi Teja Sharma, the story (“Is Brand Dhoni on the wane?”) seeks to analyze if Dhoni’s appeal as a brand endorser is under threat and if it is worth betting on post the ban on Chennai Super Kings’ from the IPL. Nothing wrong with the story per se given that ET is a business paper and they have the need to comment on subjects such as brand value and asset value. But there’s a naïve perspective, in fact an avoidable opinion, that the story plays up. It reads: Dhoni was listed by Forbes in 2014 as the world’s fifth most valuable sportsperson brand, valued at $ 20 million. And only last week, he was named as the world’s ninth most marketable in a study by London School of Marketing. But can this change? It can.”  I infer the statement to mean that if you thought Dhoni was invincible, infallible, indispensable, think again; because his brand aura is waning with his poor ODI performance as captain, with CSK in trouble and with his retirement from Test cricket. My point is – whether any of the reasons Bhushan and Sharma attribute to Dhoni’s dropping brand value are relevant or not, the irrefutable truth about Life is that what goes up has to come down. Such is the nature of Life. The question whether someone’s position in a given context (in Dhoni’s case it is his supremacy in the game) can change or not is both irrelevant and naïve at the same time. Of course, all Life is about change. And nothing lasts forever – including the social definitions of success or failure.
Mercifully, the Dhoni we know is the man he is. He is unlikely to be bothered by the ETanalysis. 

Yet, I find so many people grieving over what other people have to say about their lives. They put on a mask and pretend to be living a Life to contend with social and peer expectations than to live fuller, wholesome lives. They work overtime on how they are perceived than how they simply are. So people suffer bad marriages because they have to protect their social identities. They get stuck in lousy careers because the money is more important than the quality of work they do. They work overtime, often vainly, to look presentable and appear good on Page 3 or on TV, while within them they are rotting – feeling empty, lost and unwanted by their immediate circle of friends and family. All of this is wasted, misplaced effort that only accentuates personal suffering.

Remember this: your Life will mean nothing to you when you are gone. You can’t take anything with you when your time here runs out – not your money, not your assets, not your memories, not your family and definitely not your rewards, recognitions, media stories and public opinion. What really matters are two things – First, how did you live your Life? Did you live it fully or did you merely exist? And second, did you do work that touched people’s lives and made a difference? When you believe you lived all the moments of your Life fully, when you believe you touched even one Life in your lifetime, then, you can say your stay here has been meaningful. Only then you can say your lifetime mattered. Else, it was all fluff. Before you know it, it’s gone with the wind! Pooh!  

So, drop all pretentions. Get real. Let people say what they want to and let their opinions be where they are. You simply carry on living – being who you are and living the Life you love living! 

Don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached!

Stay detached from the outcome of your efforts and you will be at peace. Detachment really means to be unmoved in any situation – success or failure, victory or defeat.

Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express/Internet
Team India’s Captain Cool, M.S.Dhoni, reminded us yesterday, yet again, why he is such a rare human being, player and leader. After India’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of the Aussies in Sydney in the 2015 ICC World Cup semi-final on Thursday night, Dhoni said: “Of course we are disappointed not to be in the final, but then only one team can win. Australia played better cricket today (Thursday). The Cup did not belong to us. We took it from someone and someone else will take it from us. If we had played better cricket on this particular day, we would have won.” This is the simplest, most logical explanation anyone can give in any situation like the one India finds itself in – they played a great World Cup campaign, winning seven out of seven games until losing in the semi-final. Also, when you do badly and lose a game, there are only learnings, never justifications. And finally, staying detached – as Dhoni is and has always been – from the outcome is the best way to preserve and nurture your inner peace.
Indeed, like sports, Life too is competitive. But no matter how hard you work, and how ethical you are, there will be times when you will not get what you want or perhaps even deserve. And there will be other times when you will be successful. In either situation, stay detached. Remember this: Life happens through us, never because of us. So, when we succeed at what we are trying to achieve, stay unaffected by the accolades. And when you fail at something, or rather when someone else succeeds in your place, choose again to remain unruffled. In the game of Life, someone will necessarily have to win. And it need not always have to be you!
To be sure, however, on the spiritual plane, success and failure, victory and defeat, mean nothing. Everything is transient, everything is a mere experience, and if you pause to reflect deeply, everything is an impermanent illusionary experience! So, don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached. In any situation, you have only your efforts to focus on and count on. Here’s how you deal with your efforts:
       Good efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Good efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
Take it easy every which way. Learn every single time. Remember this too: as Dhoni recounted and the Bhagavad Gita says, “Nothing belongs to you. And nothing will be with you forever. What is yours belonged to someone else yesterday and will belong to yet another tomorrow!” So, stay detached. Stay in peace.

Let go and simply walk away when you must

When you can’t create value anymore or when you are not enjoying what you are doing anymore, simply walk away!
Graphic Courtesy: PTI/Internet
M.S.Dhoni surprised the cricketing world yesterday by retiring from Test Cricket. As India’s most successful Test Captain ever, everyone believes Dhoni has a lot of cricket still left in him. But the man himself thinks that he’s played enough of that format, having won 27 Tests for India and having led his team to be the # 1 Test side in the world, a slot the team retained for 21 months. Dhoni has always been remarkable – for being able to deal with victory and defeat with equanimity. His ability to stay unmoved in the middle, amidst all the action and chaos, has earned him the title of “Captain Cool”. But with his decision to retire from the oldest form of the game, Dhoni teaches us something far more valuable – he’s telling us that we must learn to let go and simply walk away when we must.
If you examine your Life closely, you will discover that much of your grief comes from clinging on to stuff – people, opinions, positions, things, money and such. The more you hold on to something, the more you will suffer. Such is the nature of Life. Life is in a perpetual, never-ending flow. To imagine that your Life should or will remain unchanged is downright foolishness. Trying to control Life is like holding on to water in your palm – it will simply flow away!
Each of us has a season in the sun just as we have our dark spells in Life. In our chosen vocation or in a field of interest, or in Life in general, we will have our own triumphs and travails. Yet we must never see any of this as permanent. We must learn to move on with time. We must also be willing to accept and appreciate that the generations that follow us will be smarter at doing whatever we believe we are currently best at. So, the intelligent way to live is to make way for others and for Life itself. Coming in the way of Life, by holding on to anything that you imagine is your own, is sure to cause inner strife and suffering. A simple rule of thumb can help here. In any situation, in any context, ask yourself if you are able to make a difference and create value? If the answer is no, walk away. Ask yourself if you are enjoying what you are doing or saying or whether you are enjoying being with someone? If the answer is no, walk away. It is that simple. Really!

Life often opens newer avenues when you let go of something or someone or some situation. Even if it immediately doesn’t, the very act of letting go is liberating. Clinging on is always about being under pressure, about wanting to prove a point – sometimes even to yourself.  But when you let go, there is no proving anything to anyone. When you let go, when you walk away, you are actually telling Life that you are open for new possibilities and opportunities. You are setting yourself free. And only when you are totally free can you be in bliss!