Find below a long but very interesting article from the Director of Tata Sons –
Mr. R. Gopalakrishnan.
These are his personal views on managing one’s expectations in his/her career but applies to most of us.
is a Thai saying that experience is a comb which Nature gives to man
after he is bald. As I grow bald, I would like to share my comb with
your people, about their career ahead.
1. Seek out grassroots level experience:
I studied Physics and Engineering at University. A few months before
graduation, I appeared for an HLL interview for Computer Traineeship.
When asked whether I would consider Marketing instead of Computers, I
responded negatively. An engineer to visit grocery shops to sell Dalda
or Lifebuoy? Gosh, no way.
After I joined the Company and a couple of comfortable weeks in the swanky Head Office, I
given a train ticket to go to Nasik.Would I please meet Mr. Kelkar to
whom I would be attached for the next two months? He would teach me to
work as a salesman in his territory, which included staying in
Kopargaon and Pimpalgaon among other small towns. I was most upset. In
a town called Ozhar, I was moving around from shop to shop with a
bullock cart full
of products and a salesman’s folder in my hand. Imagine my embarrassment when an IIT
appeared in front of me in Ozhar, believe it or not! and exclaimed,
“Gopal, I thought you joined as a Management Trainee in Computers”. I
could have died a thousand deaths.
this leveling experience, I was less embarrassed to work as a Despatch
Clerk in the Company Depot and an Invoice Clerk in the Accounts
Department. Several years later, I realised the value of such
grassroots level experience. It is fantastic. I would advise young
people to seek out nail-dirtying, collar-soiling, shoe-wearing tasks.
That is how you learn about organizations, about the true nature of
work, and the dignity of the many, many tasks that go into building
2. Deserve before you desire:
At one stage, I was appointed as the Brand Manager for Lifebuoy and
Pears soap, the company’s most popular-priced and most premium soaps.
And what was a Brand Manager? “A mini-businessman, responsible for the
production, sales and profits of the brand, accountable for its
long-term growth,etc.,etc. I had read those statements, I believed them
and here I was, at 27,”in charge of everything”. But very soon, I
found I could not move a pin without checking with my seniors.
One evening, after turning the Facit machine handle through various calculations, I sat in
of the Marketing Director. I expressed my frustration and gently asked
whether I could not be given total charge. He smiled benignly and said,
“The perception and reality are both right. You will get total charge
when you know more about the brand than anyone else in this company;
about its formulation, the raw materials, the production costs, the
perception, the distribution and so on. How
long do you think that it will take?” “Maybe, ten years”, I replied,
“and I don’t expect to be the Lifebuoy and Pears Brand Manager for so
long”! And then suddenly, the lesson was clear.
was desiring total control, long before I deserved it. This happens to
us all the time – in terms of responsibilities, in terms of postings
and promotions, it happens all the time that there is a gap between our
perception of what we deserve and the reality of what we get.It helps
to deserve before we desire.
3. Play to win but win with fairness:
Life is competitive and of course, you play to win. But think about the
balance. Will you do anything, to win? Perhaps not. Think deeply about
how and where you draw the line. Each person draws it differently, and
in doing so, it helps to think about values. Winning without values
provides dubious fulfillment.
leaders who have contributed the most are the ones with a set of
universal values, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King for example.
Napoleon inspired a ragged, mutinous and half-starved army to fight and
seize power. This brought him name and fame for twenty years.
all the while, he was driven forward by a selfish and evil ambition,
and not in pursuit of a great ideal. He finally fell because of his
I am fond of
referring to the Pierre de Coubertin Fair Play Trophy. It was
instituted in 1964 by the founder of the modern Olympic Games and here
are two examples of winners. A Hungarian tennis player who pleaded with
the umpire to give his opponent some more time to recover from a cramp.
A British kayak team who were trailing the Danish kayak team. They then
stopped to help the Danish team whose boat was stuck. The Danes went on
to beat the British by one second in a three hour event! What wonderful
examples of sportsmanship! Play to Win, but with Fairness.
4. Enjoy whatever you do:
Sir Thomas Lipton is credited with the statement, “There is no greater
fun than hard work”. You usually excel in fields, which you truly
enjoy. Ask any person what it is that interferes with his enjoyment of
existence. He will say, “The struggle for life”. What he probably means
is the struggle for success. Unless a person has learnt what
to do with success after getting it, the very achievement of it must
lead him to unhappiness. Aristotle wrote, “Humans seek happiness as an
end in itself, not as a means to something else”. But if you think
about it, we should not work for happiness.
should work as happy people. In organisational life, people get busy
doing something to be happy. The more you try to be happy, the more
unhappy you can get. Your work and career is all about your reaching
your full potential. Working at one’s full potential, whether it is the
office boy or the Chairman, leads to enjoyment and fulfillment.
last point about enjoyment.. Keep a sense of humour about yourself. Too
many people are in danger of taking them selves far too seriously. As
General Joe Stilwell is reported to have said, “Keep smiling. The
higher the monkey climbs, the more you can see of his backside”.
5. Be Passionate about your health:
Of course, as you get older, you would have a slight paunch, greying of
hair or loss of it and so on. But it is in the first 5-7 years after
the working career begins that the greatest neglect of youthful health
occurs. Sportsmen stop playing sports, non drinkers drink alcohol,
light smokers smoke more, active people sit on chairs, starving inmates
of hostels eat rich food in good hotels and so on. These are the years
Do not, I repeat do not,
convince yourself that you are too busy, or that you do not have access
to facilities, or worst of all, that you do this to relieve the
stresses of a professional
career. A professional
career is indeed very stressful. There is only one person who can help
you to cope with the tension, avoid the doctor’s scalpel,and to feel
good each morning – and that is yourself. God has given us as good a
health as He has, a bit like a credit balance in the bank. Grow it,
maintain it, but do not allow its value destruction. The penalty is
very high in later years.
6. Direction is more important than distance:
Every golfer tries to drive the ball to a very long distance. In the
process, all sorts of mistakes occur because the game involves the
masterly co-ordination of several movements simultaneously. The golf
coach always advises that direction is more important than distance. So
it is with life. Despite one’s best attempts, there will be ups and
It is relationships and
friendships that enable a person to navigate the choppy waters that the
ship of life will encounter. When I was young, there was a memorable
film by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Dona Reed, and named
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. It is about a man who is about to commit suicide
because he thinks he is a failure. An angel is sent to rescue him. The
bottomline of the film is that “No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends”.
: My generation will never be twenty again, but when you are older, you
can and should be different from my generation. Ours is a great and
wonderful country, and realising her true potential in the global arena
depends ever so much on the quality and persistence of our young people.
Good luck in your journey, my young friends, and God be with you and our beloved Nation.