Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Slice of Work #9 — Running up a Lesson in Motivation

It was a cold winter morning of the 26th Jan very many years ago. I had woken up at 4.30 and was at the factory grounds, all excited to participate in the mini Marathon of some 15 km or so of undulating lands. We were to run to a spot and then return, and the finish line was at the factory gates. I was a Management Trainee and was fond of long distance running. For over 20 years, there has been only one winner – Viktor Lakra, a seasoned runner, a well- built local. I was all scrawny and a kid by comparison to Lakra.

The race started and Lakra was off like a rabbit and with over 50 people in tow. It was a long race. The roads were undulating and the climb was tortuous, and the downs pleasant. Ahead of me by a few meters was Lakra, and he was pounding the asphalt in a rhythmic fashion. There was no way I could over-take this hulk. I kept at it and make sure that I was somewhere near him. And then came the climb, one of the steepest, the one where you wanted to give up and just hobble. Lakra was lapping it up. And I was almost giving up.

Just then I heard a booming voice, a voice that goaded me into some action with some pleasantries of the morning in words that I dare not print. He was on a Chetak scooter, this man called Daljit Singh, who at 5.30 am was coaxing me to run and not give up. He did not care about the winter, or the fact that I was not even in his function. All he wanted was for me to run. Something got into me.I seized the moment and started to run and my strides were getting better. Daljit provided the much needed words of support to a kid he cared for.

It was the home run of some 50 meters. Lakra was ahead and I was tiring. Daljit was screaming. I put some zing into the final kick and ran like never before, past Lakra in the final 20 mts and into the ribbon and collapsed in a heap. All worn out and tired with the sweet sweat of success streaming down my face. Lakra patted me on my head and vanished. Daljit came up and instead of shaking my hand gave me an affectionate slap. His brimming smile, mustachioed face and twinkling eyes said it all. I had won.

What does it take for someone to goad another in their hour of need? What motivates the motivator? Daljit was one who everyone would give their right arm to work for. He left an indelible mark on me. As he said once to me – Puttar, just cheer others and help them find their zone, and you will find yours. Motivation is more about giving than receiving. More about getting another find their edge. A selfless act that can be only returned by paying it forward. That race is still etched in my memory of a man who taught me the foundation of motivation- Daljit Singh.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Slice of Work #8 — Driving a Lesson in Humility

I was a freshly minted graduate of a leading B School and wore its stripes proudly on my shoulders. I was to join an MNC in one of their plants in Gomia, Bihar as a Management Trainee. They chose only the best. And I was full of it, all puffed up. The night train from Calcutta would reach Gomia in the morning. I had a letter that said that there would be a car to pick me up from the station and take me to the guest house.

The coal fired engine creaked up to the station and I alighted with my canvas hold-all, yes we had such things in those days. There was not a soul in sight to receive me. I felt let down. I heaved the luggage on my shoulder and came to the exit. There I saw a nice car the driver in a khaki shorts and a white colored tee shirt was walking towards the car. Aah, my driver, there he was!

I went up to him and rudely asked him to open the trunk and keep my luggage. He asked me in Hindi who I was and I introduced myself. All this in a condescending way, and asked him to take me to the Guest House. He said he would be happy to drop me. He heaved the luggage in and opened the rear door and had me seated and asked me if I was comfortable. This was getting better.

All through the ride he asked me questions about my family etc in a kind sort of way. I was getting irritated with a driver who spoke too much. At the guest house a couple of the staff ran up to the car and saluted me.They respectfully carried my luggage. I waved out to the driver who wished me the best in my new job. The next day was a big day. I was to meet the big daddy of the place- the Chief Executive – Dr. S.K.Varma. And I was nervous.

At the appointed time, I knocked on the door and walked in.The big man in his factory overalls, had his back to me and as he turned, I burst out – 'Hey what are you doing in this office?' He gave me a broad smile and in chaste English said he was Dr. Varma, and asked me to take a seat. I choked and could have died in that instant. I apologized profusely for my behavior and was at a loss for words. He said that he had come to the station to see off a friend. And he had seen me and wanted to be of assistance. And played along for he knew I had mistaken him to be a driver.

He offered me tea. Said that outside of work one should not wear their education, only use them. As I waked away I learnt the greatest lesson in humility. So, the guest house staff were actually saluting him, not me!!. My ego came crashing down, my stripes i lost. Shoulders hunched, weighing heavily with lessons learnt, I exited his office.

Humility is playing a role, any role, sans ego, whatever the role be. Even if this were that of a driver. In so doing, Dr. Varma drove home a lesson in humility.