Lessons from the Past 100: Values and the Manager Timeless Principles
It was Yogesh Sapkale of Moneylife who reminded me that I had finished 100 articles in this series and, at this point, I may want to say something special (or different?). Hence, this article, at a point of 60 years of my working life, where I feel the great need to go back to timeless principles which are forgotten in our corporate and political life and often even in our social life!
 
I have come across so much scepticism whenever I discuss executive life and basic values, that I am reminded of the story of the preacher who ended his sermon with: “Remember, my brothers and sisters, that there is no buying and selling in heaven.” A bored executive in one of the last pews got so fed up that he yelled back, “That’s not where business has gone anyway!”
 
‘Yes, business has gone to hell’ is the refrain heard from executives everywhere. But we cannot sit back and passively accept this state of affairs. We need to do something about it. And the best summary I have come across is the one put forward by Cyrus Vance in his book – Manager Today, Executive Tomorrow. The author gives four basic attitudes which have had a great effect on my own life. These are:
 
#1 From birth to death we are alone 
 
There is no one in this entire world who can help us or be with us all the time. One’s parents are there through infancy, childhood and perhaps a part of adulthood. One may have brothers and sisters and also many friends. They will all be with you some of the time, through the course of your life. And again, your spouse and children will be with you part of the time. But the permanent company you keep will be with yourself. Because from birth to death, you are alone, only interspersed by periods of togetherness. That is why you have to enjoy your own company- to convert the concept of loneliness into a concept of aloneness (dealt with extensively in my book Retirement: Plan Now for your Best Years). Loneliness is negative, depressing, sorrowful, stark. Aloneness is positive, enjoyable, rejuvenating. 
 
There seems to be a lot of sense in this guideline. It makes you less dependent on other people, on movies, TV programmes or video films. It is important to face up to the reality that from birth to death you are alone – and adopt a positive attitude towards this inescapable truth. 
 
The time is always right, to do the right thing – Martin Luther King Jr
 
# 2 No one in this entire world owes you anything 
 
This is a very difficult attitude to adopt because we are all brought up to believe that everyone should do things for us. We all have expectations, some very high, and some totally divorced from reality. This is because we do not understand and accept the positive success-generating attitude that ‘no one you meet in your entire life owes you anything’.
 
If anything is given to you, it should be graciously accepted. If it is denied to you, it is pointless being annoyed. There are no rights or favours being done for you. 
 
Much of the unhappiness in the world today is not because people have less than in the earlier generation. It is because expectations have changed and increased. When these expectations are not met, people get annoyed and revolt.
 
In my profession as a consultant and management recruiter, I have been guilty of having such expectations for many years. Companies who my company has helped to come back from the red; managers who have been recruited through us... they don’t even recognise me now – all very depressing! It is then you have to remember – No one in this entire world owes you anything!
 
The time is always right, to do the right thing – Martin Luther King Jr
 
#3 The word progress means different things to different people 
 
Most people measure their own progress based on where they stand in relation to those friends who have perhaps gone places and are apparently very successful. So, because my friend, who graduated with me 55 years ago, is now an assistant director in the World Bank in Washington (and I am still here in Mumbai), I am unhappy. Because another classmate of mine is now a successful cardiologist on Harley Street in London and lives in a large five-bedroom mansion in Hampstead, I feel unhappy. 
 
This is because I am measuring my own progress by the achievements of others. Vance suggests that we measure progress by the objectives we have set for ourselves in life, and how far we have achieved those objectives. It’s like the basic rule followed in athletics and racing: Always look forward. Keep your eyes on the finishing line. If you look back to see where the others are, you may slip up. In that brief moment, you may lose the race.
 
Never mind what other people are doing or have done. Let them do their own thing, as you are doing yours. Let them follow their own star, while you follow yours. Because progress means different things to different people.
 
The time is always right, to do the right thing – Martin Luther King Jr
 
#4 In life, you accept that you are going to win some, lose some
 
Some people get so spoilt as children because their parents give them everything that they ask for – from ice cream to clothes to expensive toys. Later, they cannot face a situation, where they cannot get everything they want. They do not realise that life is like a one-day cricket match, and only one side can win. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
 
The really complete person faces up to failure with some disappointment, but without the depression bordering on wanting to commit suicide. Because he knows that in life you win some and you lose some. You don’t win all the time.
 
Look at the way politicians change parties if they are not given a ticket. Look at the way brilliant students in Kota commit suicide because they failed once at the entrance exams. They cannot face the word ‘lose’.
The time is always right, to do the right thing – Martin Luther King Jr
 
This is adapted from The Winning Manager by Walter Vieira – Published by Sage; available on Amazon 
 
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are ‘Marketing in a Digital/Data World’ with Brian Almeida and ‘Customer Value Starvation Can Kill’ with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)
Comments
jeste.milind
3 months ago
Where are the rest 4 basic life attitudes????...incomplete knowledge is...!
pgodbole
3 months ago
Excellent article from Mr. Vieira, as always.
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