As far back as I can remember I always wanted to play by the rules and win. But as a young corporate executive I was losing.
So almost since I started my corporate career, about twenty five years ago, I wanted to develop a system which could make the good man win. Let me narrate five stories, which are like milestones, in this journey I have undertaken.
The Girl And Her Drawing: The Crafty corporate games were too much for me to handle. I was bruised and beaten and of course not succeeding. Not only was I sickened by those who played these games, I also found them inscrutable, unfathomable. I was disillusioned with the world and near despair.
Then one day I was sitting with my friend’s seven-year-old daughter who was taking me through her drawing book. We came to the picture below, pointing to which she said, “This is my future house”.
Looking at the picture seeing a chimney like structure rising from the roof, I asked, “Your house will have a chimney”? She said, “No uncle, this is a dish antenna”. Her words hit me like a thunderbolt & there was a sudden flash of realization. I had completely missed her as I was interacting with her from my schema, not understanding where she was coming from. I needed to stand in her shoes to understand her.
I also realized that I was making the same mistake with the mischief-makers. To comprehend them I needed to understand their psychological makeup. This interaction changed my perspective. And then I started seeing them clearly. Deep study of their behaviour over many years helped me first catalogue their evil moves and then develop antidotes to them.
I also realized that to be a winner I needed to be prosperous. And that I would do well if I make the organization I work for do well, financially. My chance encounters with two young boys drove home two of the most valuable lessons in marketing which I needed.
The Boy Selling Lottery Tickets: During a visit to the Kashivishwanath temple in Varanasi, as I walked up the stairs, an eleven-year-old boy approached me. He was selling lottery tickets. His spiel went something like this-. ‘Sahib, lottery ticket le lo. Bhagvan muradein puree karega, kismat chamkayega’ (Sir, buy a lottery ticket. God will grant your wishes. It will make Fortune smile on you.) Many bought lottery tickets from him. I was no exception.
The pitch was compelling. This young boy knew that the average Hindu has a contractual relationship with God. You give something, feed the brahmins, offer a chaddar, and you can ask God for things in return. The boy knew that most visitors to the temple ask God for things. The hopes of a Hindu are high when entering a temple. So he had chosen this strategic place to hawk his wares. Instead of harping on what attractive prizes could be won, the boy used a strategy that was different—he beckoned God. He astutely knew his customer. No wonder, then, that he turned out to be one of the largest sellers of lottery tickets in Varanasi. His psychological sensitivity was making him flourish.
The Boy Selling Balloons: Many years ago, while visiting a pediatric hospital in Kolkata, I saw a boy, about thirteen-year old, selling balloons at the gate. As I walked past him, I could not but silently admire his genius. Once inside, I met the doctor who owned this hospital and, during the course of our conversation, I told him I had seen a genius at the gate. He said, “If you are talking about the little boy who is selling balloons at the gate, you are damn right. This boy sensed that kids who are being brought to my hospital start crying at its very sight (fearing an injection or some bitter medicine) and the parents then need something to pacify them. They end up buying his balloons to mollify their kids. Sometimes, in case of an exceptionally stubborn wailer, the hospital staff also buys one from him. He is prospering”.
This young lad had gauged the social milieu of the hospital and spotted the commercial opportunity that this setting presented. His Sociological sensitivity was helping him prosper.
During the course of my journey I also realized that my principles weakened me at places. My values straight jacketed me. Wondering if there was a way that these very values could fortify me, I came across this Zen story.
The One-Armed-Boy: A boy’s right arm is amputated in his childhood. When he turns Fifteen, he wants to learn karate and win the championship. He goes to the karate master and requests him to enroll him in the class. The master agrees, but gives the boy only one trick to practice. The other boys, he can see, are learning a variety of other moves. When he asks his master why that is so, the master tells him to carry on with his practice and achieve perfection in that one trick. For almost one year, this boy continues his practice. On the day of the competition, he approaches the ring apprehensively because of his limited repertoire. But to his and others jaw-dropping surprise, he knocks out his first opponent, then the second, and then the third, till he hears a heartening applause and his name being announced as the champion.
With tears in his eyes, he falls at his master’s feet, and asks him how he was able to succeed with his limited knowledge, while his opponents had two hands and knew a greater variety of tricks.
The master replies, “Knowing your handicap, I taught you only one trick, which you did well to master. This trick does have an antidote but to execute it your opponent needs your right arm, which, my boy, you don’t have.”
This story told me even a weakness can help you win.
As my study started bearing fruit, so did my career. I started winning- wealth, status and even a bit of power.
The Boy Watching the Football Game: A student and a teacher are witnessing a football game. The student asks, “The poor ball gets kicked so badly. Who is at fault, the players or the ball?”
The teacher answers, “The ball. If it were not so full of air it would never get kicked.”
So be modest, as modesty will reduce the jealous vibes you attract, will help you collaborate with others like yourself and consolidate your power base.
The Young Man Who Didn’t Get Justice: Machiavelli gives a striking example as to why the ruler should stay just and should have the courage to punish serious offences no matter how powerful the offender. Alexander’s father, King Philip of Macedonia, had an escort, a beautiful and noble youth called Pausanias. In his court there was Attalus also, who was one of the powerful men close to Philip. Attalus was enamoured of Pausanias, but faced with strong resistance, he decided upon deceit and force. Pausanias was kidnapped and taken to an isolated place. Here, not only Attalus abused him sexually, but also motivated other men to use him in a like manner and humiliate him. After this humiliation Pausanias again and again beseeched King Philip for justice, who promised to avenge him. But rather than punishing Attalus, Philip promoted him as governor of the province of Greece. Now Pausanias’ wrath was not against Attalus, but against King Philip. On the morning King Philip’s daughter was tying her nuptial knot with Prince of Epirus, and the unjust king was on his way to the temple to participate in the ceremony, Pausanias assassinated him.
So when you reach the top of the pyramid, stay just. A leader is expected to show courage and dispense justice.