Thursday, September 26, 2013
Here’s a question for you. Who is your hero?
There is tremendous value in having a hero. Heroes can inspire us to dream big, and do the impossible. Heroes can lift us in moments of depression and give us hope. And heroes blaze a trail which tells us that if we did similar things, we could achieve our dreams too. Our heroes can change over time – and that’s probably an indication of our own changing situations in life. And yes, don’t expect your heroes to be perfect in all respects. You will be disappointed and might get put off heroes forever – which would be a pity!
A question I often get asked is who my hero was. I have had several heroes in my life. And I thought it might be useful to share some of those stories. So here goes…
One of my earliest heroes in life was my father. Now that’s probably true for many of us! As a little kid, I was hugely inspired by the things he did. A self-made man – he left home in a village in Kerala to come to Mumbai to make a living, went on to study engineering, and forged a successful career. He even mastered the Hindi language enough to be able to teach it. Incredible! And I got my first lessons in writing and speaking from him. I also got my first lessons in people management – as a six year old kid. Here are two simple lessons I haven’t forgotten: One, always call the driver by his name. So it was always Nathu-bhaiyya – not ‘driver’! And lesson two: Carry your own school bag – don’t have someone else to do it for you!
As a cricket-crazy kid in school, I got a new hero when Sunil Gavaskar burst on the scene. He was short, opened the innings, and took on the fastest bowlers in the world without a helmet. He was also articulate, and wrote a fabulous book! In an interview at that time, Gavaskar said how he used his height (or lack of it) to his advantage – it helped him avoid the bouncers! And he talked of how playing cricket in the balcony of his little Mumbai home taught him to hit the ball straight – in the ‘V’. For me they were huge lessons: make the most of what you have. And don’t complain about what you may have missed out on!
And then came the angry young man. Amitabh Bachchan was a hero not just because he managed to beat up all the bad guys even while ensuring he was the son every mom wished she had! For me, the Amitabh story was all about having the courage to give up a steady job to chase your dreams, about being rejected, seeing repeated failure (and even being turned down by All India Radio because they felt he didn’t have a great voice!) And through it all, fighting, persevering, and never, never giving up.
A huge influence at work was one of my early bosses – Suman Sinha! He taught me that a leader at work was like an alchemist. Just as an alchemist turns metal to gold, a true leader turns men and women into managers. And he taught me the importance of values, of integrity, and the habit of doing the right thing – at all times.
There have been several other heroes too. Rahul Dravid, the ultimate team man. And Steve Jobs. And of course, my driver Karunan, who shared pearls of wisdom from his own life (sample this: Early in your career, what you learn is more important than what you earn. And don’t worry about which car you are driving. Focus on being a good driver!). Karunan is also a good reminder that heroes are everywhere. They don’t have to be famous people! And the important bit is not who the hero is, but about what you learn from him and how he inspires you.
So that’s it about me. But tell me, who is your hero? I am keen to hear! And in case you don’t have a hero, find one. Today!