Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting a Licence Does Not Make You a Driver!

He is 58 years old, bespectacled with distinguished silver grey hair. He’s spent 25 years working for one of India’s most respected corporate houses. I have learnt a lot from him. But it is unlikely you would have ever heard of him. His name is Karunan. And he worked with me as my driver.

Sometimes, the biggest lessons in life come from very unlikely sources. And as Karunan spoke to me one morning about his life and times, I thought young people would benefit from listening to what he has to say. Since Karunan will probably never be invited to deliver a convocation speech or a commencement address at a college, I decided to share those lessons with you. Here goes:

1. Getting a driving licence does not make you a driver. “I was 18 when I got my licence. But it was only after several months of driving a car that I actually learnt to drive, and became a real driver.” Young people must remember that. A licence is only a permit – and not a stamp of authority. An MBA does not make you a manager. It is only after you spend several more years learning on the job that you truly qualify to call yourself a manager. Many young people confuse getting a degree as signifying the end of their learning. Wrong. It’s just the beginning. A degree or a diploma – the licence – simply marks you out as someone qualified to learn from real life experiences. It doesn’t make you an expert.

2. The real world is very different from a classroom. “I learnt to drive a car. But my first job required me to drive a little tempo. The steering wheel was different, and so were the gears. I thought I knew how to drive – but I couldn’t even get the tempo started.” The world outside the classroom is a very different place. That’s as true for engineers and MBAs and accountants as it is for drivers. Get ready to get surprised.

3. Slog. Get your hands dirty. “I spent nights working as a cleaner. That’s when I learnt all about the insides of an automobile. Knowing what’s under the bonnet has made me a better driver today.” Most of the brightest marketing professionals in the country will tell you that they learnt their biggest lessons in the days they spent slogging in small towns selling soaps or colas. There’s no other way. If you want to be successful, work hard, dirty your hands – and go beyond your specific role.

4. In the early years, what you learn is more important than what you earn. “In my first job, the pay was bad but the boss was good. He gave me opportunities to learn, to make mistakes. He trusted me. I banged his tempo quite a bit – and while the dents were quickly repaired and touched up, the lessons I learnt remain firmly etched in my mind.” In your first job – don’t worry about your pay packet or the size of the organization. Get a good boss. A good mentor. That’s priceless.

5. Don’t worry about which car you drive. Focus on being a good driver. “I always wanted to drive the best cars – but rather than complain about having to drive a tempo or a school van or the city transport bus, I focused on driving well. I told myself that if I do that, the good cars will come. And they did.” Now that’s a great lesson. It’s not about the company. It’s about you. Do the best with what you have, wherever you are. Karunan spent fifteen years struggling in odd jobs before landing a driver’s job in one of India’s largest companies. We could all benefit by staying focused on doing a great job – rather than worrying about the next job, or the next promotion. Do a good job. Success and happiness will follow. Inevitably.

Those then are five fabulous life lessons from an unlikely guru. Follow Karunan’s advice and I guarantee they’ll make a difference to your career. And to your life!

(This appeared in the January issue of Careers 360. For more, jump to http://careers360.com/news/5086--Prakash-Iyer-s-advice-Slog-Get-your-hands-dirty

21 comments:

SuNnY said...

Sir,

Brilliant!!...Best of learnings can come from the most unexpected quarters ..therfore we shuld keep our mind open at all times ....BTW i really appreciate ur humility.

Shishir.

CoolNukeAshok said...

stumbled upon when my pal buzzed this link. Precise and neat. Very true to the word and thanks for such a great blog.

sujithprathap said...

A really good read. Every word is true. The greatest lessons come from the most unlikely places.

Ananth Iyer said...

Great learning sir,how very true that we can learn from anybody in our life.It is only by keeping our mind open can we learn things.
It is said that schools are only stepping stones for your career and it should be understood by all of us that real learning is on the field.

Shashidhar Jayaraman said...

simple and true

Avijit said...

So very true....Learning can come from any source as long as you are ready to take it with an open mind. These learnings reminds me of one incidence which I would like to share.
It was one of those bad days in office which leaves you down. I took a cab from Tardeo and was travelling to Dadar. On the way I picked up a conversation with the Cabbie and asked him....Don't you get bored driving cab all day? .... I was expecting him to come up with something like What to do sir? How else do I run my family?
But what came out of him really shook me up. He said....I have got the best job in this world and I enjoy doing it everyday, and he went on....Imagine I go visiting all places in this city and others pay me for doing so.

What a lesson!!!

Sandeep said...

awesome post.....very precise and invaluable advise :)

John Galt said...

I guess point no.4 is the most telling.

If you really want to succeed in life and realise all those things mentioned here,

Remember not to remain stuck to your first job.

John Galt said...

I guess point no.4 is the most telling.

If you really want to succeed in life and realise all those things mentioned here,

Remember not to remain stuck to your first job.

John Galt said...

I guess point no.4 is the most telling.

If you really want to succeed in life and realise all those things mentioned here,

Remember not to remain stuck to your first job.

Sunder T said...

Just finished reading your book, Pre order delivered through Flipkart. Felt like talking to you, one on one as ever. The flow is great, thanks for thought kindling stories.It's a crash course for aspiring leaders. In your own words' And may a thousand leaders bloom'

Unknown said...

Sir,
I completely agree with what you have written, It is not my IIM Education which taught me how to manage, my employees, customers, wife, daughter helped me learn management. I also felt that youngsters are not to be blamed completely, it is also the institutions, which are raising the aspirations of youngsters beyond their abilities - so that they can charge a huge fees by misguiding them on placements etc, which never happens, but causes only frustration among youngsters. We need people like you correct the impressions that is created in youngsters.

Kaushik

VIJIGOPALI said...

Nobody is a BORN LEADER and any body can become a leader > when lead by a GOOD LEADER like Mr PRAKASH IYER
We come across lots of such stories in our life but are not able to find the potentials these stories have to inspire motivate> Mr IYER can connect these stories and unleash its potentials to the advantage of all.

VIJIGOPALI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VIJIGOPALI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ekta said...

Don't worry which car u drive..focus on being a good driver' > this is so true..makes you independant of the cars of life!

Ekta said...

'Doesn't matter which car you drive..focus on being a good driver> how true is this..makes u independant of cars of life!

Abhishek Kumar said...

a

sneha mintri said...

Uncle, thank you for writing such important lessons of life in such a beautiful way. We learn a lot.

sneha mintri said...

Uncle, thank you for writing such important lessons of life in such a beautiful way. We learn a lot.

Tanusree Podder said...

Such a beautiful messages.. With in 2-3 min anyone can get a beautiful explanation for many quarries about their career by this. Thank you so much.