Sunday, May 28, 2017

I am better than you

The dangers of creating a space devoid of hierarchy of any sort is an unfathomable idea today. People are in the constant quest and race to prove their mettle to themselves and others. I need to dress better than others, I need to know more than the others, I am a far superior leader than you, I can get this job done better than you. People are in a perpetual challenge-winning mode. Challenges range from "do you want to see how much I can accomplish" to "do you want to see how you can't accomplish anything?". This reminds me of the concepts I learnt in Economics classes. When there are two competitors although the combined benefit is maximum by cooperating, every player has strong temptations to cheat in the short run and bring down the optimal benefit payoff in the long run. Contrary to what religions, philosophers and sociologists have conveyed through tons of collective human wisdom, people think that showing compassion and uplifting each other is a lose-win situation. 

When one is compassionate to another fellow traveler, there is only compassion that one can get in return. It is effortless to get flown away in the negative spiral of self-centered behavior and non-compassionate interactions. But once the wheel of compassion sets in, the true meaning of seamless, effortless meaning of life starts to unfold. In this extremely competitive capitalistic world of today, at the outset being self-centered and aggressive might denote strength and happiness. But on introspection one realizes that aggression and competition to put oneself ahead of others is taxing and unnerving. This is only because aggression is an implicit cry for attention and stems from a deep need for love. Instead, acts of compassion draw from inner reserves of abundance where one has love to shower inwards and outwards. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sore loser or learner!

To absolutely know dimensions of your personality and using them to your strength is one  thing and to go way beyond your comfort zone to try new things is yet another level of zen. When I think of words of describe myself the ideas that pop up in my head are non-conformist, socialist, pacifist, peace lover etc., I choose to end the list here because the terms that I just listed make me a person who doesn't enjoy conflict ridden zones. Essentially that implies that I can absolutely not compete and be aggressive. 

By spending inordinate amount of my last 5 years with the marginalized communities of urban and rural India I have seen enough to believe in the fabricated complexity and competition of daily life. I have been fortunate to witness talent flourish in ghettos and open fields amidst acute poverty, crime and abuse. As a teacher and a social worker if there is one thing I believe in it is collaboration and mutual support in hardships. This experience has instilled in me a mental block that competition with others is detrimental to growth. While some may argue that competition is inevitable for a person's growth, I ask again "is competition with others good or with oneself better? If it is with self then is it competition or self development?". 

The past one week has been really interesting in terms of being someone I am absolutely new to! I competed in an election. At my Post Graduation Program in Management at Indian School of Business, I contested for the post of Net Impact Club presidency. This is a professional club that provides invaluable exposure to using business skills to attain sustainability in society and environment. Given my professional bent towards all things social, I couldn't keep away from this club. It was natural for me to want to contribute to this club. Without thinking much I desired to work on the causes represented by this club. But all hell started breaking loose when a dear friend of mine with similar social sentiments too decided to contest for the post. Since the day he announced his candidature it always irked me whether I had to continue with mine. 

Here was a guy who was absolutely capable of taking up this position and who was skilled enough to formulate a great campaign before elections. My basic nature of being competition averse and the desire to work in collaborative conflict-free environments compelled me to reconsider my candidacy. However, since elections was something new and outside my comfort zone I decided to contest nonetheless. That meant 20 more hours of extra work in addition to the thousand commitments I already had at ISB. But I made a small bargain with myself. I decided to stay very much in my own skin. I shunned heavily campaigning for this post and I stuck to the forms of communication that I was most comfortable with. The day before soapbox presentation I had almost pulled out of competition since going up on stage and talking about myself and how I would contribute to the club was a bit too much for me. But I braved ahead and stood in front of people and cameras to give my election pitch. 

This experience played out to prove that 

  • My leadership style is influential personal relationship rather than public coercion. 
  • I can't market myself to save my life. 
  • I would rather put in the same amount of work without a title than with one. 
All this internal struggle finally ended with my friend winning the elections deservingly so.  I am at a place where marketing oneself is seen as a strength. However mentally I am at a place where I believe endless collaboration is the best option for progress more than competition.