Thursday, July 6, 2017

Welcome to the rat race !!

As much as I am an ambition driven, competitive, career driven individual, I am also a mother to an intelligent, observant seven year old son who has a great sense of humor. (I would like to believe, it’s my rational analytical mind that has penned these words about my son and not my emotional side!!)

I have unknowingly tried to treat motherhood akin to a project or assignment, and have asked myself the question, what I would do at work, had I faced a similar situation may times along the way. I do not know if the approach is right or wrong, but as it is commonly said, if it works for you, go ahead and do it.

I was faced with an unusual situation when I had a conversation with my son yesterday (an ongoing 360 degree feedback conversation which we do have quite regularly). He happened to mention that a close friend of his had been named “Star of the month “at school. I could sense something beyond a routine passing mention in his voice and so I probed him a little further. And it surprised me no end. I realized that while he was happy for his friend, he had mentally made a list of the reasons why his friend could have got the citation and what could he do to get it.

The mother in me faced a situation; I could not fathom how to take forward. Should I tell him, its ok and not bother about such stuff and enjoy being in school, participating in activities, or help him clearly chalk out all that he could do to be a recipient of the next “Star of the month”

Hey presto, I realize that, this is his first self-initiation into the famous “rat race”. Competition to reach a pre-determined goal, unhappy if you do not reach on time, ready for the next milestone as soon as you have completed one, the list goes on.
I am sure one “Star of the month” may not be enough. It will be time to work towards the next one, and countless others as you move on.

I believe that there are no black and white answers to this one. Both alternatives have their advantages. Getting on early, and learning how to form a game plan, prepares you for the competitive game called professional life ahead. Taking each day as it comes and enjoying at school, excelling in what you like makes life enjoyable, fun and less stressful for sure.
For the first time in this case, I gave a very diplomatic and guarded answer to my son , but it got me thinking , that I need to get a more appropriate and good answer for it very soon. I am sure this question will surface once again in a few days.

Those of us born in the 70s and 80s are classic examples of those, who got sucked into the “rat race” whether we liked it or not. Some reveled in it and some fell along the way. Is this generation different? Should we deal with them, or more importantly, will they deal with their personal or professional lives differently?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Indigo Jackal

A few days back, I was teaching (or should I say learning with) my seven year old son, English Prose or English II as it is popularly called.

One of the lessons to be read was a retelling of a Panchatantra tale called; The Indigo Jackal. I am sure most of us would have read the fable as a kid. The fable is about a jackal whoaccidently falls in a tub of indigo dye at the village weaver’s house, while trying to escape a pack of dogs. When the jackal goes back to the jungle in a royal indigo colour, all the animals are in awe of him. He plays along, tells them he is a messenger of God, and lives the royal life. However, when a pack of jackals come to the jungle, and start howling in the night, he does the same. The animals realize, he is just a common jackal and are furious they had been tricked.

Like all Panchatantra tales, this one ends with a very simple but important moral; don’t try to be what you are not.

So simple and yet so profound.

Reading and learning this story once again got me thinking.

In our professional life, many of us do behave like the Indigo Jackal.
A case in point is during interviews. We sometimes try to portray an image or persona that we clearly are not. It’s probably because we believe that it is this personality type that will get the top job. However, we forget that like the Indigo jackal, one cannot carry that forward for a long time. Suddenly you feel lost, don’t enjoy your job and your superior also feels shortchanged.

It sometimes may not be something as enormous as above, but rather insignificant. I once had a candidate come for an interview who had written French as one of the languages known in his curriculum vitae. I ended up asking the interviewee a few questions in French, and (s)he  admitted that (s)he just learnt it for a few years way back in school and does not remember any of it. Though, the candidate was good, I could not make myself select the person as my mind somewhere labelled the person deceitful. This jackal came with a French cloak to me.

Another arena where we sometimes become “Indigo Jackals” is how we sometimes conduct ourselves with our colleagues at work. One may probably be an approachable, full of life, friendly person. You suddenly decide to change to someone who is more reserved as part of a new role, promotion or assignment. While it may be an important aspect for the new role, one cannot probably be that way for long. You may feel stifled as it is not in your inherent nature to be that way. It makes sense , to be what you are , and allow your good work to speak for you and build goodwill

And I guess the learning for all of us is just that, be what you are. Don’t try to be what you are not. Because sooner or later,the truth emerges.

Success is all about being true to yourself and yet reaching your goal