Questioning

One day, when I questioned the technical correctness of a particular inspection procedure being followed by my client, he replied that the procedure was definitely correct because it had been recommended by his customer, a world-famous automotive parts manufacturer. I replied that the world-famous automotive parts manufacturer could be wrong, and explained to him why I thought the procedure was not technically correct. He conceded that there was some merit in my line of reasoning, and said he would discuss the matter with his customer.

Later, he asked me why the fact that the inspection procedure had been recommended by the world-famous manufacturer had not prevented me from questioning its correctness. I replied that I always question any information that is presented to me, irrespective of the source.

“Would you question some information that is given to you by God?” he asked.

I replied, “I would definitely question any information even if I knew it had come directly from God.”

“How can you question God? By doing that, aren’t you dishonouring God?” he asked.

I replied, “Assuming God exists, and assuming that each one of us has been created by Him, it means each of us has been given his brain by God. That God expects us to use the brain given to us by Him. By using my brain to question information given by God, I honour God. If you don’t use your brain to question God, you dishonour God!”

My customer had no answer.

Dear reader, what do you think?

Principles

During an informal discussion, our Professor advised a few of us that one could not be truly happy unless one lived one’s life according to one’s principles. As an example, he said that he dabbled in the stock-market, but he never traded in shares of companies connected with the alcohol and tobacco industries since he was strongly opposed to the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

When one of us asked him why that was such a big deal, the Professor revealed that, six months earlier, his Investment Analyst had advised him to sell his shares in an engineering company and buy shares in a cigarette manufacturing company, but he had refused to do this as a matter of principle. Both company’s shares were trading at about Rs. 200 then. Now, the engineering company’s shares were trading at Rs. 210, while the cigarette company’s shares were trading at Rs. 240. If he had sold the engineering company’s shares and bought the cigarette company’s shares, he would have been richer by Rs. 30 per share! But he had absolutely no regrets.

In the process of adhering to his principles, our Professor had willingly given up the chance to earn a profit that was more than half his annual salary!

What a refreshing change from owners of alcohol businesses who remain teetotalers due to the ill-effects of alcohol, owners of tobacco product businesses who don’t consume their own products because they are carcinogenic, and religious leaders who gladly accept donations from alcohol and tobacco businesses despite preaching against alcohol and tobacco!

“Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.” – Abraham Lincoln

“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” – Stephen Covey

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” – Victor Hugo

Open-minded

“You are inheriting our company’s worst-performing Branch. Your sales guys are all quite good, but the team has been performing badly because of your two Assistant Managers. Not only do these old bandicoots create all kinds of trouble, they also demotivate their juniors. They are big liabilities on our company,” the General Manager told the newly appointed Branch Manager who was taking charge on the first working day of the year.

The Branch Manager asked, “If they are that bad, why haven’t they been told to either correct themselves or quit their jobs?”

The GM replied, “They’ve both worked with our company for over 20 years. They worked very well in the first 12 years or so, but after that, as our sales and our staff strength grew, they started misbehaving for some reason. If we take any strong action against either or both of them now, the other employees will feel that we exploited them in the early years and are now dumping them because they’ve slowed down with age. Anyway, I wish you good luck in handling them!”

The Branch Manager was an open-minded person. He decided that he would not allow himself to be prejudiced by the GM’s feedback. Within the first few days, he realized that both the AMs, who had no professional qualifications, were frustrated and insecure about the fact that their career growth had slowed down considerably since the company’s ‘professionalization’, resulting in their having to work under professionally qualified bosses who were younger than them. While he couldn’t immediately do anything about this situation, the Branch Manager decided he would try to reduce their frustration and insecurity. During personal and group interactions with them, he gave them implicit but unmistakable signals that he genuinely valued and respected their experience and seniority.

After initial skepticism, the AMs responded positively. They worked sincerely and did not “create all kinds of trouble” as they used to earlier. They started participating enthusiastically in the weekly review meetings instead of sulking silently as they used to in the past. This had a very positive impact on the other members of the team. For the first time, the team started working unitedly.

By the end of the year, not only had the Branch achieved the year’s sales target, they had surpassed it by 50% to become the company’s best-performing branch! All because the new Branch Manager had chosen to be open-minded, not prejudiced!

No

One day, I was visiting customers in another city with the Dealer for that city. After completing the meetings scheduled for the morning, we stopped for lunch. Just as we were about to enter the restaurant, my Dealer received a call on his mobile phone. He requested me to enter and be seated while he attended to the call.

When he joined me a few minutes later, he complained, “This mobile phone has made my life miserable! With around 15 customers having called me in the last four hours, I’ve not been able to concentrate on my work. I think I should switch off my mobile phone. Don’t you agree?”

I replied, “You and I have been meeting customers since yesterday morning. In some of your telephonic conversations yesterday, the callers requested you to send them quotations yesterday itself. You knew that you would be busy visiting customers with me yesterday and today. This means you can start sending quotations only tomorrow. You should have told yesterday’s callers this. Instead, you agreed to send them quotations yesterday itself.

Today, the same customers called, expressed unhappiness about the fact that they have not yet received the promised quotations, and demanded that you send the quotation today. Again, instead of telling them that you will send the quotations tomorrow, you agreed to send them quotations today.

Tomorrow, the same customers will call you and blast you even more for not sending them the quotations today despite promising to do so.

My friend, your misery has not been caused by your mobile phone. With all due respect, your inability or unwillingness to say “No” is the only cause of your misery.”

The word No is a negative word, but the ability to say No when one means No is one of the keys to happiness.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. – Mahatma Gandhi

Matrudevo bhava (Mother is God)

My colleague was scheduled to visit a factory in an industrial town about 300 km away on Friday to discuss the customer’s requirement of equipment for their expansion project. He was to leave by an early morning train and return by an evening train.

Three days before the meeting, the customer’s General Manager telephoned me and cancelled the meeting. He told me that their team would meet us in our office the next Friday since they would be in our city for some other work. I informed my colleague and requested him to cancel his tickets.

The next day, my colleague applied for a day’s leave on Friday, stating he had to attend to some personal work.

At the meeting the following Friday, the customer’s Purchase Manager told my colleague that he had seen him in a taxi near their factory the previous Friday. He enquired whether the elderly woman with my colleague was his mother.

My colleague clarified that the woman was not his mother, but his neighbour, who had a brother living in that town. When she had heard that my colleague was travelling to that town on work, she had told him that she wanted to visit her brother for a few weeks, and hesitatingly asked my colleague whether she could travel with him to that town. She was extremely apprehensive about travelling alone because, till her husband’s death a couple of years earlier, she had always travelled only with her husband, never on her own. My colleague had readily agreed, had booked her onward ticket along with his, and had offered to drop her at her brother’s residence, which was located quite close to our customer’s factory.

When the meeting at the customer’s factory was cancelled, my colleague realized that his neighbour would be disappointed about her visit being cancelled and would feel extremely miserable about her inability to travel alone. Since he didn’t want that to happen, he didn’t tell her about the cancellation of the meeting, but only changed his return booking. They travelled that morning as scheduled. After dropping her at her brother’s house, he returned to the railway station and returned to our city by the afternoon train. His neighbour was blissfully unaware of this. In fact, if the Purchase Manager had not seen him that day, nobody else would have known.

My colleague explained, “Most people think ‘Matrudevo bhava Pitrudevo bhava’ means ‘My parent is God’. So, while they have a lot of respect, love and concern for their own parents, they are indifferent to other elderly people or are sometimes disrespectful towards them. I believe ‘Matrudevo bhava Pitrudevo bhava’ means ‘Every parent is God’.”

The Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.20 says: “matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, atithidevo bhava.” It literally means “be one for whom the Mother is God, be one for whom the Father is God, be one for whom the Teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God.”: Wikipedia

Please also read Paid in Full (With High Interest), a truly touching post written by a mother.

Leadership

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter

Speaking to The Hindu about Lal Bahadur Shastri, India’s second Prime Minister, his son Sunil Shastri said, “Once he called all the family members for dinner and said, `Kal se ek hafte tak sham ko chulha nahin jalega. (From tomorrow, no food will be cooked in the evenings.) Kids will get milk and fruits only, others will fast.’ After a week he called us again and explained, `I just wanted to see if my family can sacrifice one meal every day, my larger family (the nation) can definitely stay hungry at least once a week.’ It was in response to the U.S.’s PL-480 pressure. He refused to pay for PL-480 saying we can stay hungry but will not compromise with our self-respect. After this incident he appealed to the public on All India Radio not to cook one meal at least once a week. All dhabas, restaurants and families followed it religiously.”

Lal Bahadur Shastri is fondly remembered as a great leader who preached only what he practised.

Separating the personal from the political

On June 23, 1980, a young man entered the local office of an opposition party, where the local MLA was meeting with some party workers. With a jubilant look on his face, the young man announced that Sanjay Gandhi, son of then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, had died that morning when an aircraft flown by him crashed near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. Hearing this, some of the party workers started cheering.

The MLA immediately said in a raised voice, “Stop this! How can you people even think of cheering about somebody’s death? You should be ashamed of yourselves!”

After a few seconds of pin-drop silence, one party worker asked, “Sir, we all know about the atrocities that Sanjay Gandhi committed during the Emergency, which had been declared by his mother Indira Gandhi to protect her political interests. What is wrong in celebrating the death of such a person?”

The MLA, who had spent 18 months in jail in 1975-77 as a political prisoner during the Emergency, replied, “A young man has lost his life. An infant has lost his father. A young woman has lost her husband. An elderly mother has lost her son. This is a sad moment for everybody. As members of our party, we will continue to oppose Indira Gandhi politically. But, as human beings we must sympathise with her and her family.”

I remembered this incident when I read about Narendra Modi’s political opponents and others making all kinds of negative statements about his recent declaration about his marital status.

Narendra Modi’s political opponents and critics should continue to oppose him on political grounds. But it is not correct on their part to use his personal life as a stick to beat him with.

In my opinion, Narendra Modi is not to be blamed in this matter. His marriage was fixed and conducted by his parents when he was 17 years old. Hence, he has been the victim of the social ill called child marriage. We always sympathise with the victim of any social ill. So, why should we criticize this victim of a social ill?

Read more about this subject on Firstpost and Rediff.

Keep Knocking

Early in my career, I worked with a marketing company founded and headed by a gentleman who was an unending source of wisdom gained in a highly successful career that had spanned over 40 years.
He once gave us this wonderful explanation of persistence and its benefits:

You know there is an opportunity of getting business from a customer.

You go to his house to meet him, but his door is locked from inside.

You knock on the door, but it doesn’t open.

You knock again, but the door still doesn’t open.

You think he is inside, so you keep knocking.

If he is inside and you keep knocking, the door will eventually open.
If you had knocked on the correct door, you have the chance to convert your opportunity into business.
If you had knocked on the wrong door, he may guide you to the correct door.

If he is not inside and you keep knocking, the sound of your knocking will reach his neighbours, and some of them will open their doors.
If you had been knocking on the wrong door, one of these neighbours might be the person you were actually looking for. You may also have an opportunity of getting business from one or more of the other neighbours.
Even if you had been knocking on the correct door, you may have an opportunity of getting business from one or more of these neighbours.

To convert opportunity into business, you have to knock on as many doors as possible, and keep knocking until those doors open or until some other doors open.

One way or other, Persistence pays!

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan

Please read this truly heartwarming report in The Hindu about Priya Semwal, “who lost her husband in a counter-insurgency operation two years back, (and) was inducted into the technical wing of the Armed Force as a young officer” around 4 weeks back.

It is heartwarming that Priya, who was a first-year undergraduate student when she got married, completed her graduation and post-graduation, acquired a degree in teaching, and took up a job, all after marriage, and that her husband, Amit Sharma had encouraged her to do this.

However, what is most heartwarming is the fact that, not only did Col. Arun Agarwal, her late husband’s Commanding Officer take the initiative of suggesting to Priya that she should become an officer in the Army, he also put in the effort to enable her and her family to overcome their apprehensions. The icing on the cake was his gesture of travelling from the northern border to the southern part of India to attend her passing out parade.

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan (‘Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer’ in Hindi) was a slogan coined by Lal Bahadur Shastri, India’s second Prime Minister in 1965. Among the many slogans coined by political leaders in India, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan is probably the only slogan that has continued to inspire all Indians from the time it was created till today, almost 50 years later.

However, while we are genuinely enthusiastic about Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, I personally think we hail our soldiers and farmers much more in word, much less in deed.

Col. Arun Agarwal’s concern for his soldier’s family, and his support to them after the soldier’s death, is an inspiration to all of us to hail our soldiers and farmers not only in word, but also in deed.

If

If each grain of sand were to say:
One grain does not make a mountain,
There would be no land.

If each drop of water were to say:
One drop does not make an ocean,
There would be no sea.

If each note of music were to say:
Each note does not make a symphony,
There would be no melody.

If each word were to say:
One word does not make a library,
There would be no book.

If each brick were to say:
One brick does not make a wall,
There would be no house.

If each seed were to say:
One seed does not make a field,
There would be no harvest.

If each of us were to say:
One person does not make the difference,
There would never be love and peace on earth.

You and I do make the difference.
Begin today and make the difference.

(Author Uknown; Source: https://www.saint-mike.org/library/inspiration/every_drops_dream.html)