What is YOUr Statement?

A number of you have been wondering about the purpose of your lives and whether you are doing the right thing?

It’s quite natural for these queries to crop up. Every once in a while, when you sit back and relax and you wonder what are you doing with your life, this question pops up? Am I doing the right thing? More importantly, and especially when, you seem to be leading a routine, dull, daily life – when life seems to be a rigmarole. Each day is “same-to-same”. Each day seems to be a repeat of the previous day, and the one previous to that. Fact is, if you slice off a week, from between, you’d not even realize which week has been sliced.

Sad, right? This is not what life is supposed to be, right? Each day should invigorate me. Each day should fill me up with energy, ready to bounce, ready to roll, ready to impact all those lives that come in touch with me, right?

What is the missing ingredient? Why is this NOT happening? Why does the day seem to be such a bore, dragging its feet? It’s neigh impossible to wake up in the morning and feel enthusiastic about the day ahead.

Seems familiar? Sounds familiar? Is this what YOUr life has turned out to be? After all the Engineering Degree/ Management Degree? And YOU thought you’d make a difference. It’ll be joyous, fun-filled journey.

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Welcome to Reality!!

But let me share some tips to make it a reality.

1. Give as much as you can and where ever you can. Helping other people is healthier and makes you feel good.

2. Relate to people. Truly connect. People with strong social relationships are healthier and find happiness. Keep the principle of family first foremost.

3. Exercise and take care of your body. Each morning get up and inject fresh oxygen into your system. Do anything, walk, run, yoga … definitely not in the gym!! Go out and let fresh oxygen in. It charges the billion cells of your body and you feel great.

4. Appreciate the good things of life. Have an Attitude of Gratitude. Be in the present. Look around and be thankful for the wonderful gift of life. Enjoy the present.

If you are depressed, YOU are living in the past, If you are anxious, YOU are living in the future. If you are at PEACE, you are living in the Present.

5. Be a Child and remember as a child you kept learning each day. Keep learning each day. Learning keeps you curious and engaged.

6. Attitude of  Positivity. There can only be good – just because you cannot see it now, doesn’t mean it’ll not happen. Good things are in store. Have patience and keep working. Do your duty with a pure intent, without looking to the rewards. It sounds tough, but its easy. Just do it!!

7. Accept the consequences of your action. Things will happen – but all in good time. So just have patience and continue to enjoy what you are doing.

But then these seven steps will make my mind positive but what about my office. The work environment, the crabby boss, the *** colleague and so forth.

Foremost, be clear as to what you want to do. The moment, you realize you are doing things which are ‘giving back’, you start enjoying the work. Some people call it passion. Just that, when you are doing it, you don’t look at your watch (or even your fb/whatsapp), and you kinda enjoy what you are doing.

Get to do those things. To find your purpose, therefore, ask yourself, “What is my Statement?” How will people describe you in one sentence?

He single-handedly, fought for the freedom of his nation non-violently and successfully ousted a 200 year old regime, to gain Independence for his Country.

What is YOUr Statement?

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Searching for Passion

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I dunno ’bout you, but very early in life, being from a boarding school, I got influenced with the uniformed people around us. The first competitive exam and shortly, I was donning the uniform. A number of YOU’ve asked me whether, I always wanted to be in the uniform? In hindsight, I would say, Y . E . S . I wouldn’t trade that for anything else.

Why do you all put off what you want to become?

You Already Know what YOU want to BE

A number of YOU do say, “I don’t know what to do with my life!” But deep down, you do know, ’cause with slight probing, the answer is out! YOU just don’t know it yet, OR are blind to it with excuses, rationalization, some ifs and more buts! So the problem isn’t you not knowing what to do, but something else.

Haunted by YOUr Parents’ Wishes for YOU

Your parents leave a huge imprint on your formative minds and project themselves onto you. At times, even fulfilling their unfulfilled dreams (aka Dangal). But, at times, their aspirations for YOU might not have anything to do with YOU. “I’m different!”

In “The Way of the Superior Man” (author David Deida) says “live like your father is dead.” Until you let go of your parents’ expectations for you and do what you want to do. There’s a huge difference between physically and psychologically leaving the nest. Once you accomplish both, you’re free to do what you want.

YOU Don’t Think YOU can pull it Off

If YOU were guaranteed to succeed in whatever you did, I bet you’d suddenly know what to do with your life. Our biggest problem isn’t a lack of knowledge about ourselves. It’s fear. You know what you want to do, but you’re afraid. And fear is no easy mess to untangle. It’s almost insane how much our minds control us as if they were separate entities. The moment you think about doing ‘that thing,’ the inner critic whispers right into your amygdala. The fear never goes; YOU can work on it though with practice and getting better in what you do. 

So what should I do?

The thing is YOU know; but YOU’re waiting for someone to tell YOU, “It’ll work and guarantee you success“. Thus YOU are unsure OR afraid!!  You already know what ‘THE thing’ is. You knew it when you were a YOUng boy/girl. Find the courage to live the life YOU want to live. Remember, you have everything you need already.

 

Independence Day

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Happy 72nd Independence Day

As we all celebrate our 72nd Independence Day and shout out ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and “Jai Hinds” let us think whether we are independent? Yes, it does invoke a sense of patriotism within us and somewhere deep down quite a few of us feel proud too.

But let me pose a question to each one of you here. Are you Independent? No, no … don’t be in a hurry to answer. Just sit back, think awhile and answer. Are you truly Independent?

Let me assist you answer that! Independence Day is a joyous occasion; think of 1947, when the nation united to celebrate the end of British reign and we got FREEDOM!!!

Freedom gives joy. The knowledge that we are free gives us that JOY!!! Think back of your first bike/car/job .. and the sense of independence; the joy. So if you are independent you should’ve been joyous, right? Are you? The answer by a majority of you is NO.

Fact is, you all are slaves. Slaves to your own habits. And these habits have become hardwired in your brains. Think of all the times you got angry/irritated. On query, invariably the answer is, he/she did this and I lost control (and got angry), his/her such and such actions irritate me so much … and at times we go to the extent to say .. he/she knows I get irritated with such an act and yet he/she did it on purpose to irritate me.

Now, let us analyze this a bit. His/her actions angered/irritated me. My peace, harmony, happiness; my very own stability was shaken and stirred by someone’s action/talk/ situation and so on. My peace/harmony/joy/happiness is dependent on his/her action. Where is the Independence? We have given the control of our stability to someone else who controls my buttons. The remote has been handed over.

Let me give you another example. So you were in a tight situation, facing your angry father and the easy way out was to lie your way through. You chose that option and were able to make a getaway. The next time the lie came easier and slowly and steadily, your brains get hard-wired. Soon, its your habit. And now the system has been short circuited. You don’t think (OR choose); your brain does it for you. YOUR FREEDOM to choose has been blanked out as the default mode now is to lie. Where is your FREEDOM?

This INDEPENDENCE DAY choose to be totally independent from your own habits. be In-dependent. IN dependent; here you are dependent on your own self; your feelings, emotions and stability. Thus you are INDEPENDENT and not dependent on others feelings/ actions/words/ situations.

Take a PLEDGE.

What STOPS YOU …

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“The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same” – Colin Davis

During my various interaction with the YOUth across the Country, I’m constantly asked this one question (in different versions); Why don’t I seem to be achieving my Goal? Why don’t I fulfill what I set out to do? Why am I not successful or words to that effect. A quick query to uncle Googs will throw up various pages with answer to the question .. 10 steps, 9 things, 7 ways to, 5 reasons why and so on. Our ancient books have spoken at length about goal setting and ways to achieve it. Arjun, and his quip about the ‘eye of the bird’ is an oft repeated story highlighting that without focus your goals are distant dreams.

Some of the reasons are pretty obvious, I suppose (or not quite obvious for those who are addicted, right?) The millennial kids were born with the ‘smart’ phone in their hands. Yes, they pretty well know how to find the location (google maps), order the food they want (swiggy), ask for the particular shade of lipstick (flipkart) but I’ve found them wanting when it comes to inter-personal communication. And yet, empirical evidence suggests that this is the same generation that is floundering … 😦

I Believe

  1. Instant Gratification. Prof Walter Mischel, Prof Stanford University in his seminal work on delaying gratification and its effect on mind control spells out the negative effect of giving in to all our cravings instantly. Think Whatsapp. One ‘ping’ and the hand moving to slide the screen to see who pinged! Instant gratification! This is one major cause of distraction and losing focus. Delay the gratification and get a grip of your life.
  2. Burning Desire. The need to achieve the goal should be so strong that it is the only thing that you think all day along. Your activities revolve around this one goal. Your preparations, your studies, your actions are all driven to towards achieving it. Say you want to join the defence forces as an officer. Morning physical activity is directed towards that. The day-long preparations are for the written exam. The net is for research of related subject. Any interaction with other people must be this goal related. Parties, picnics and photo ops will happen post success. Now focus.
  3. Role Model. Have a role model. Speak to him (if possible). Emulate him. Read up about him. Find similar stories of success and realize that this is achievable. Go for it! Never give up. If thousands have walked the path earlier, so be it. Remember, that if they could do it, YOU too can. Have a clear road map. It should chalk out step-wise action plan. This followed by this and so on.
  4.  Give up. A number of you give up too soon, too fast. One failure/ rejection puts the brakes on. Remember, failure is part of the process. Without failure you’ll not grow, not learn. Fail, and learn. Then be back on track. Sir Alex Ferguson (Man U coach) used to tell his team – win or lose, you get 24 hours! Celebrate or mourn … but after 24 hours be back on the training ground. Re-calibrate and be back with greater vigour.
  5. Feedback loop. The system of feedback has either not put in place or is faulty. Some of us deliberately, don’t set up this mechanism, as we are not comfortable with negative comments. We don’t realize that without feedback your achieving goals are tougher. Feedback help you in affecting mid-course corrections and to bash on!
  6. Focus. Earlier when I mentioned Arjun, it was focus that I wanted to highlight. There is too much clutter in your mind. This clutter clutters your mind. It does not quite help you to prioritize or focus. De-clutter. Delete unwanted stuff. Meditate and get your focus back.
  7. Check your Belief Systems. At times it is our belief systems that hold us back. We believe in talented people thus preventing us from putting in hard work. We believe in child prodigy and thus want to believe success is hereditary. We believe in a number of such ideas which prevent us putting our best foot forward. This lack of Belief hinders our growth. Prevents us from achieving our true potential.

Over the years, I’ve personally realized that, when I focus and put in the hard work, the results are there for all to see. Success is bound to happen. Things are bound to fall in place. Goals are a given. You’ll stand tall with Victory at your feet.

Wishing YOU all the success.

 

Instant Gratification …

Or why don’t I seem to Achieve all that I’ve set myself to achieve.

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The ‘Monkey’ controls my Actions.

In my last post I penned about “Am I losing Focus?” and signed off mentioning about Instant Gratification.

A number of readers came back to me with: YOLO (you only live once)/ Lyf is to be enjoyed/ why delay instant gratification and live a lyf of no limits, no restraints. Well, well …

Prof Walter Mischel (American-Austrian Psychologist) of Standford University came out with his seminal work; The Marshmallow Experiment. The students who could delay instant gratification were psychologically better adjusted, more dependable, motivated and scored better grades. It improves your will power and helps reach your long term goals fasterThe exact same participants in 2011 reflected that the basic characteristics of the individuals remained for life.

And yet, we succumb to ‘Instant Gratification’. While in most cases we think we are in control. Dan Ariely in his book ‘Predictably Irrational’ highlights how your mind can be easily manipulated, so much so that, you’re predictably irrational. Remember, the ice cream you craved and gave into, despite dieting promises.

While the YOLO brigade shout from rooftops of ‘Carpe Diem‘ – Seize the Day and how you need to do whatever you feel like. Well, they also need to hear about ‘Carpent tua poma nepotes‘ – Good things come to those who wait or as we say in vernacular; ‘sabr ka phal mithaa’.

The question is why do we give in, when we know that giving in/ succumbing to instant gratification is harmful in the long run, it diminishes focus and prevents us from our long term goals. Why do we, despite making promises, falter on coming to crossroads and make a wrong choice? Do we lose control of our minds? Or is the Monkey controlling us, making decisions for us?

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it’s when you want it; and you want it now. When we don’t get fulfillment, our psychological response is anxiety or tension and often manifests as procrastination. It’s a form of self-sabotage where you get caught up indulging in the temptations of life at the cost of your long-term goals. Indulging in instant gratification is a clear sign that you lack self-discipline and highlights that you are unable to control your emotional urges. This subsequently has significant consequences on your life resulting in narrow-minded thinking, poor decision making, and planning habits.

Delayed gratification is a habit where you forgo short-term pleasure (comfort) in order to gain significant long-term pleasure and future rewards. In other words, you ward off short-term temptations that might distract you from your long-term goals and instead focus on what you need to do to achieve your desired long-term outcomes. Why doesn’t the mind obey your orders? fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) observed increased activity in anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC), thinking about the future. This image is fuzzy and hence NOT appealing. How do we make this tempting?

The aim is to get the impulsive people to produce activity in their brain that shows they’re thinking about future in a CONCRETE way, making them look and act more patiently. Because the future is fuzzy and impulsive people have an especially hard time imagining it, clinical treatments involve de-emphasizing the present, making it more abstract, building a concrete image of future.

Some Strategies for Delayed Gratification and not succumbing are:

+ Neuroscience hints at power of imagining the future. The issue with future is its vagueness and hence its important to imagine in graphic details of your Goals/ Visualize the outcome (power of visualization!). Remember ‘Self-Control‘ isn’t necessarily an inborn trait that you either have or you don’t. It can be developed!

+ Know what you want, what are the values that you stand for and thereof create a plan to achieve them. This will lead to priorities and you reward yourself for each small success. It helps you build your self-esteem too!

+ Shift your mental focus from the short term temptation to finding something else you like. Take a moment to drift off (day-dream!) and take mental breaks. Consider what you’re thankful for – an attitude of gratitude.

+ Watch your urges, and make conscious decisions and with time you’ll learn to avoid situations/persons/circumstances which tend to lead on to temptations. Push yourself to do the hard things and avoid distractions which divert your focus from your goals.

+ Build a strong support network, while you identify your potential obstruction. Set clear boundaries, which help you distinguish between ‘black-and-white’. Create visual reminders and invest in your future gains.

+ Last but NOT the least. Be mindful. Be reflective (of your actions/ choices). Be meditative.

Breathe!!!

May your day be lovely and mindful.

Am I Losing Focus?

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A lot has been written and said about ‘Instant Gratification’ and the famed marshmallow test (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ). A number of studies have gone ahead to prove why and how ‘instant gratification‘ affects/ impacts our focus and in turn our performance and productivity. This one habit is life changing.

Instant gratification is a habit where you forgo short-term pain, and instead, indulge in fleeting pleasures that ultimately result in long-term pain. In other words, you find reasons/ excuses/ crutches not to do something because of the pain it creates at the moment (now) even though you know that this action is necessary to help you attain your long-term goals and objectives. It manifests in procrastination and is a form of self-sabotage; you get caught up indulging in the temptations of life at the cost of your long-term goals. And this is precisely why instant gratification rarely gets us what we want in the long-run.

Think of your whatsapp ‘ping’ that comes while you’d finally decided to open your course-book (the exams looming large around the corner). Resisting the ping and continuing studies is the short-term pain. To succumb and look at the screen, answer, smile, and forward (besides the 10 mins and loss of concentration) leads to losing focus.

Getting caught up in the instant gratification trap can make you very susceptible, and often leads to addictions, jealousy, anger, stress, anxiety and impulsive behavior. It is a direct reflection of your lack of self-discipline and highlights that you are unable to control your emotional urges. This subsequently has significant consequences on your life resulting in  narrow minded thinking, poor decision making and planning habits.

What it Means to Delay Gratification

Delayed gratification is a habit where you forgo short-term pleasure/ comfort in order to gain significant long-term pleasure and future rewards. In other words, you ward off short-term temptations that might distract you from your long-term goals and instead focus on what you need to do to achieve your desired long-term outcomes. It helps focus and thus achieving your goals.

Get into the habit of delaying gratification as it gives you more control over your life, decisions, and actions. It is basically your control over your mind. Either your brain works for you (listening to your orders/ command) or you are the slave. You give it orders OR HE gives you orders. Furthermore, it helps you value and appreciate hard work and effort. Yes, things are tough right now, but the pain you experience is a necessary part of the process to help you achieve your long-term goals.

The act of delaying gratification helps to strengthen your mind and shape your character. It builds self control and willpower, reinforces self discipline, and teaches you about the patience. It’s the one habit that determines how successful you will become and how much you will ultimately achieve in your life.

“Arjun what do you see?” asks Dronacharya. “I can only see the eye of the bird”. While others failed to separate their goal from distractions in their path, Arjuna was able to ignore every distraction and he eyes only the prize. In life, there are so many irrelevant things that consume our energy on a day-to-day basis. Those who can put aside the chaos and concentrate/ focus on goals succeed in life.

In the next post get to know how to handle ‘instant gratification’. Interested? Await the post.

One Step towards Changing the World

happy Yes I_can_FlyRecently, interacting with a fresh lot of IAS probationers, one of them queried, “Sir, do you think YOU can impact the YOUth with your sessions? It’s not a straight answer .. but then what drives me, what guides me, what motivates me … are small little indicators, a sign here, a flag there.
This was the missive in my inbox this morning … (names have been changed for ‘privacy settings set up by ;);))
Sir ,

You probably won’t recognize me now.
Back in 2016 , you came to *****, S****** (a autonomous public institute of higher education, governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 and lists twenty-three institutes), and gave your pre-placement talk with the main aim of motivating and help people gear up for the placements.

The way it happens in Engineering Colleges a lot of students skipped your session but a lot of them did attend, and even though I (an Electrical Engineer) was already placed at ****, I still attended both out of curiosity and somehow felt that these sessions are important. And hence, I think, I keep receiving your mails.
Its been 2 years since then. I joined **** but always felt like I could do better. At times felt the kind of work I was doing would not help me grow. Appeared for GATE twice but missed the interview calls by as narrow a margin as 0.5 marks.

Through these periods of downfalls and de-motivation your mails kept arriving regularly and they motivated me and your case studies provided insight (used the ideas, helped a lot in my professional life too). I always saw a light in the end of the tunnel.

Even though studying at an *** was always my dream, failing to do so has given me an equivalent opportunity instead. I am currently enrolled at  the M.Tech in Computer Science course at **Institute! Half way through my M.Tech, and on my way to ******* Research Labs, Bangalore for my Summer Internship! I’m super excited and life is looking great!

Sir, YOU’re doing a great job. Perhaps the most important thing that people require in these tough times is motivation and self belief , students and professionals alike, in their monotonic lives.

I just wanted to extend my gratitude to you for your wonderful work.
Tra la la la la … super super day! The sun is shining bright and the breeze is just a bit cooler! The birds are chirping louder and my round of golf was so much better.
Thank You.
To come back to the question asked by the IAS probationer, YES, YES and YES!!! I see myself doing what I’m doing, as even if one, just one student can benefit, it’s worth it.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the beach.  Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The man called out, “Hey! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” and this one!!!.

Shukriya

Mere Soch ko nayi raah dikhaane ke liye shukriya
Mujhe khud ko khud se pehchanwaane ke liye shukriya!

Ab tak toh bas, raaste ka patthar tha mein
Mujhe anmol banane k liye shukriya!

Mein ye ehsaan kabhi bhool nahi sakta
Mere zameer ko jagane ke liye shukriya!

Ab na padegi kisi par buri nazar, kasam se
Meri nazroon ko jhukaane ke liye shukriya!

Baant rahe the aap, hum samet rahe the
Duno hantho se gyaan lutane ke liye sukriya!

Mein haar bhi jau toh koi gum nahi ab
Mujhe sacchi ladayi sikhane ke liye shukriya!

Mein mutthi band kar, ek hunkaar bharunga
Mujhe jeet ka ahsaas dilaane ke liye shukriya!

This was a poem composed by Mirza Zeeshan, a student of mine, after a session at their institution. I feel humbled to share this and pray to the Lord Almighty to give me the Courage to continue on the path that I’ve ventured.

Dedicated to the YOUth of Our Amazing Country 🙂

The Ten Commandments for YOUth

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“The WORD is INTEGRITY

A number of students wanted to know the ‘elixir’ of life and how could one be ‘successful‘. I discovered that ‘happiness (or for that matter life) is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it’. Twenty five years in the uniform and another ten out of it, I’ve witnessed it all: the honesty, the integrity, the loyalty, the cheats, the selfishness, the back-stabbing colleague and your office politics.

For those of you, who are honest of the heart, the life’s real winners, changing times and changing values are like just passing another test. The temptation to cut corners is strong and persuasive. The lure to bend rules, hoard possessions and dismiss decency is being lost.

Doing things the ‘right way’ seldom cushions the let-downs, which leaves you confused and angry; but these are the times you need your moral compass and display your fibre. A man’s doubt and fears are his worst enemy. Keep in mind two things:

a. The situation is hardly ever as bad as it seems. This too shall pass.

b. Your stick to our fixed code of ethics whether the times are up or down, regardless of the consequence.

There cannot be separate sets of ethics for home, for work and for play. Ethics is ethics. YOUr core values should and must remain rock solid. I understand that material success is viewed to be more virtuous than how one obtains success but cutting corners is the antithesis of our lineage. Achieving YOUr dream requires, sweat, courage, commitment, talent, integrity, vision, faith and consistent hard work. But remember financial ends never justify unethical means. Gray is NOT a substitute for Black and White.

Decent, honest people finish races and their lives,  in grand style and with Respect. So, students asked me The Commandments of Success.  Well, each successful person will come out with his own set of commandments. What I share is Ten Commandments of Failure. You do any of these, YOU are bound to fail. Here goes.

  1. Quit taking risks.
  2. Be inflexible.
  3. Isolate yourself.
  4. Assume infallibility.
  5. Play the game close to the foul line.
  6. Don’t take time to think.
  7. Put faith on consultants.
  8. Love bureaucracy.
  9. Send mixed messages.
  10. Be afraid of future.

A detailed elaboration of these, with live examples in the next set of interactions.

At the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, we had ‘Honour Code“. A defaulter owned up his mistake and invariably he was let off the hook. It changed our perception and thinking towards Honesty. Work out the worst case scenario and go ahead, Own UP!

Do What is Right, NOT what is Easy. And to quote Oprah Winfrey, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not”.

JOSH Talks: Lessons on Team Building from the Army

I was invited to speak in the maiden JOSH talks event held in Kolkata on Jan 14th, 2018. With and audience over 500+, it was electrifying, energetic and enthusiastic. It was a wonderful experience to feel the ‘YOUth’ bubbling with energy!!!

A number of them walked up and wanted the talk for ‘keepsake’. It’ll be uploaded on FB and YouTube. Here goes the Script.

LESSONS ON TEAM BUILDING FROM THE ARMY

Tough times don’t last. Tough People do”.

Imagine the temperatures have further fallen and is presently hovering around 0°. Cold and shivering, you are sitting in a pitch-dark night waiting, waiting and waiting some more, where a minute seems like an hour. You are soldiers sitting in an ambush waiting for the terrorist to show up. Night after night hundreds of such teams of soldiers spend, such nights in the mountainous terrain of J&K. How do these teams operate and come out winners? Let me share some Lessons from the Army on Team Building.

After 20 years of service, The Selection Board approved me to Command ‘my’ infantry unit; roughly consisting of 1,000+ men. And shortly thereafter, we were deployed to combat terrorists in J&K sector.

Let me elaborate a little, for the uninitiated, what I meant by ‘my’ infantry unit. Infantry is the foot soldiers of the Army who capture ground, something, you would have seen in the Kargil war. I was commissioned and I commanded the same unit. The men of my unit are drawn from the Seven Sister States; which we club as the North East. These men have spent their early childhood in the jungles of Arunachal, Assam Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

These battle-hardened soldiers unflinchingly took me under their wings. My first fledgling steps in the uniform, in Lucknow, were spent with these men and they taught me lessons of life and warfare.

We’ve a tradition in our unit. The newly commissioned officer spends his initial two months with his troops in their barracks. Spending time dining with them, wining with them, playing with them, bathing with them, staying in the barracks. I had the opportunity to know these men from very close quarters. I was into all the ‘troop’ games; football, hockey, basketball, volleyball and even handball. Being from a boarding school helped.

After a month, the first pay parade. Those days the monthly pay of the soldiers, had to be physically distributed. In walks Sep Charliwan, a wonderful center half of our football team. I proudly announce, ‘Sir, Sep Charliwan. My Company Commander, my immediate boss, asks me, “And what is his Army Number?” Huh!!!! “Sir, I don’t know?” You better know. The next month pay parade, I announce, ‘Sir, Army Number 431000539 Sep Charliwan, reporting for his pay’. And what is his shoe size? KO!!!

Know your men. Know your men better than their mothers do; and love them as much, said Fd Marshal Slim addressing his officers in the Burma Campaign. I learnt my first lesson. If you don’t know your men, you are unfit to command them. You will not earn their respect. 500 years BC Sun Tzu wrote:

‘If you know the enemy, and know yourself, You will not fear the results of a hundred battle.

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat.

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

When dealing with people remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. None of us work in a silo. We have teams to work with. As a leader or even as a team member it is imperative that you know the team very well. Their strengths and their weaknesses. Strong camaraderie builds strong teams.

When I assumed Command, Sep Charliwan had risen in ranks and was a JCO (Junior Commissioned Officer) now. And in one of our first operations, his sub unit, was tasked to go after some reported terrorists sighted. We sat down for planning, and Sub Charliwan, very politely tells me, “Saab iska planning hum karlega, aap sirf fire support dena from ‘X’ location”. Sub Charliwan and his team move up the treacherous mountain top. He splits his team, deploys a support team to cover their move and leads from the front, to hunt the reported terrorists. Chasing terrorists in the thick of jungles, may be slightly difficult to comprehend sitting in the confines of this auditorium. Rugged mountainous terrain with thick undergrowth. The visibility is restricted to 5-10 meters. It requires extreme physical fitness, mental robustness and stamina.

They reach a small opening and find the remains of a bonfire. The ember tells them that the terrorists have a lead of an hour odd. Trained in jungle craft, they start following the trail. After a while they are hot in pursuit. The terrorists see the soldiers and start fleeing. A downhill running terrorist, with his AK 47 on his shoulder, finger pressing the trigger and spraying bullets all around. Facing these oncoming bullets. Major challenge.

Sub Charliwan comes on air and tells me, “Saab one-two”. Those of you familiar with soccer will understand the term. The fleeing terrorist hit my ambush, we exchange fire, they change their direction and run right into the waiting arms of Sub Charliwan. Three terrorists neutralized with no casualties to self. A clean operation. Thanks to the planning and of course team work. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Lord Wellesley quipped, that The Battle of Waterloo was won in the playfields of Eton.

Well, The Battle of J&K jungles were surely won in the playfields of Lucknow.

Beware of entrance to a battle, but being in Bear’t the enemy beware of thee’. No soldier, wants to be a runners’ up in the battlefield. There are no runners up in War. I assure you, to face oncoming bullets is not a comfortable feeling at all. How do you train for that? How do you control your nerves?

Let me share some secrets.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” On hearing a shot, your muscle memory takes over. You have trained so hard, you have trained so much that without thinking you ‘Dash – Down – Crawl – Observe – Fire’. We Just Do it! The harder you train, the better you get. This training is like meditation. You train and train and then you train some more. You train hard, because you know that some day it is this training that will save your life. It is the difference between life and death. People call it ‘Deliberate Practice’. Geoff Colvin/ Anders Ericsson/ Malcolm Gladwell all spoke about it in their books. It’s an old Army Saying: ‘The more you sweat in Peace, the less you bleed in War’. Training is the difference between amateurs and professionals.

After every two and half years in field, the unit moves to a peace location. The major part of this tenure is dedicated to training. Be it firing in the field firing ranges, to other operations of war. We train and train. The competitions are designed to support this training. Best Mortar platoon, MMG detachment, best firer, and so on. The sports competitions are held to build and improve camaraderie among each other. Training as a team lies at the crux of our success.

But then Murphy’s law says, ‘Anything that can go wrong, will’. I am sure, that no one in this gathering here believes that everything could be hunky dory and all the planning and training will avert any mishap/ disaster from happening. Always remember, ‘You plan for three options and the enemy will adopt the fourth’. No plan survives contact. So, while planning, do make contingency plans but avoid over planning. We had our fair share of accidents and failures. The ability to turn a failure on its head is an acme of a leader.

In one of our operations, we suffered a fatal casualty. This was my lowest moment of my command. We were in the thick of jungles and the road head was two hours. Transporting the martyr to the road head and then to our base was a challenge. I had to make a decision. The regulations state that the ‘Last Post’ of a martyr in operational area can be sounded in situ. In that location itself. While the ‘father’ in me said, I would like to see my son.

I took a decision to fly him home, some 3,000 kms. Remember, the martyr has to be embalmed lest decay sets in. Transferring him to Delhi, and another flight to Guwahati. And move 500 kms by road from Guwahati to Aizawl. It was an administrative nightmare but worth it. As the martyr entered Aizawl, the entire town had lined up to pay homage to the soldier. The local administration, the media and the local representatives. A huge procession reached his village and the soldier was laid to rest in the church and a memorial constructed.

The accompanying JCO brought back a letter from the father of the martyr. “Sir, I thank you profusely for sending across my son. I’ll remain ever grateful to you for this act. In his letters, my son has been writing about the unit a lot. My younger son is thirteen years old, please tell me when can he enrol and join the unit to continue the half-finished task of his brother?” On receiving the letter, I sobbed.

Recently, our unit was celebrating its Golden Jubilee and I was attending the momentous occasion. To my surprise, I meet the parents of the martyr, who had traveled all the way from Mizoram. They were profuse in their gratitude and proudly introduced me to their younger son, now a soldier in the unit.

Regard your soldier’s as your children and they’ll follow you in the deepest valley. Look on them as your own beloved son and they’ll stand by you even unto death. Failure will happen. Face them and turn it around. Every adversity provides an opportunity.

The soldiers goes to Battle for ‘Naam, Namak and Nishan’.

Naam, the name of the unit, the izzat of the unit. We build a culture within our organizations where the individuals have a stake. You all have heard of the terrorist attack on Taj Mumbai on Nov 26, 2008 and read about the acts of bravery of its employees. When the chips are down, when we are facing bullets the one thing that constantly reminds us to do the right thing and why we are doing what we are doing is Naam. The izzat of the unit that you are serving.

Namak, the salt of the country they have had. A soldier cannot even think that he could do anything, anything at all that will belittle his country or countrymen. We are conditioned to think ‘Country First’. The Arthur Andersons, Enron and Satyam are issues which reflect poorly on the Country. What is the image we would like to portray of our Country? You all are the brand ambassadors of our Country. Each one of you sitting here is a soldier out of uniform. Protect your motherland. Nurture it. Nourish it. Love it and be proud of it.

Remember: ‘Koi desh perfect nahi hota, use perfect banana padta hai’.

Nishaan, the standard or the colours of the regiment. The colours goes to battle with the unit. It rallies troops around it and raises their morale. It gives each one of us an identity. To keep the ‘nishan’ flying high, always and every time. Build a legacy for others to follow. Great institutions are made with legacies. What is the legacy you are leaving behind?

Zindagi mein ek aisa junoon rakho, jiske lie apni jaan dene ke lie taiyaar ho!

You will have a rallying point and this will motivate and guide you of your actions always and every time. People call it passion. Some call it purpose. Find your purpose and you’ll find meaning and will be self-motivated to achieve it.

A soldier knows that he is the last bastion to protect his motherland. This is the ethos drilled in the rank and file, right from the officer down to the soldier. Each one of them ready to shout, ‘Yeh Dil Mange More’!

Jai Hind. Jai Hind.