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Five Great Movies

There is a language of cinema. I don’t quite understand it. Am not a movie buff, but I can go to great lengths to identify movies that I will savour. Critically acclaimed movies or underrated gems, that’s what I seek. Here are a few movies I saw recently, all foreign-language. Bicycle Thieves Can viewers experience cinematic purity? Be literally pulled into the movie because the movie-maker wants nothing to come in the way. Vittorio De Sica achieves this feat in Bicycle Thieves. Maria pawns the family bedsheets so that her husband Antonio can get back his pawned bicycle, the only requirement for securing the job of sticking posters across Rome. It is the first day of work. Antonio leaves his son, Bruno at school and starts his work. When he has climbed atop a ladder for pasting a poster, a thief steals his bicycle. Anotonio gives chase, but fails to catch the thief. Without the bicycle, Antonio has literally nothing to fall back on. He decides to comb the entire city along with Bruno in search of the stolen bicycle.…

Stalingrad – A battle like no other

‘Yes, life is tough, but this is nothing compared to Stalingrad’, I said this many times during the early months of the lockdown caused by the pandemic. But, what did I know about Stalingrad? I had just heard and read about Stalingrad being the deadliest battle in the Second World War. Never really got down to knowing more. This time though, the constant comparisons I made between lockdown living and Stalingrad made me reach tipping point. I read Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad. I also saw a documentary episode on Stalingrad. And I know I am not done with Stalingrad yet! War is the most savage cruelty we inflict on each other and yet, perversely, war also pushes us to confront who we are; what it means to be human. The facade of civilisation is blown apart and we are left sifting through the debris, salvaging something; anything that we hope to piece together; so that we can reconstruct our sense of being human again. What happened in Stalingrad is something well-nigh impossible to comprehend. If we did, we would not be…

What makes Jane Goodall’s story special

There is a dominant mainstream in any field and when its pioneers and trailblazers succeed, they are not a part of it! This astonishing fact should really upend all our thinking about what it takes to succeed. Instead, it is conveniently ignored! Why? The dominant mainstream enjoys an unparalleled hegemony over the hearts and minds of the numerous faithful. They have invested a lot into creating a collective faith about the field and its tenets for success. Breaking off from it is painful and entails a lot of hard work, struggle and resistance. What does this dominant mainstream do? It specifies the dos and don’t s of the field, the paradigm to use, the approach to take; all of which taken together, becomes an orthodoxy.  This orthodoxy prescribes how everything ought to happen. Its word is the last law and field-work follows it like a sacred ritual. When Jane Goodall,the primatologist and anthropologist, began her field work in studying chimpanzees, she had no scientific training! She had studied biology in school, that’s all. She was not aware of what the…

Jose Mourinho’s take on Coaching

In ‘The Playbook – A Coach’s Rules for Life’, Jose Mourinho straightaway flags down the warm-up questions. Asked about his formative influences, he says he doesn’t want to go there ( talk about it). Don’t want to talk about other people, he adds. You think the guy is so egotistical but soon he shows that if were were so, it did not stop him from realising and accepting perhaps the biggest truth about himself in relation to the game he is passionate about – He wasn’t good enough as a football player! What is best for the team, do that! For Jose, the team is one living, breathing creature. Team above self. The best decision is in the interest of the team. In Jose’s team, he once found two players telling each other – You are a better captain than me. You should captain the team. Mourinho heard this and knew this team is right on track. Rev yourself up for the biggest challenge  As a coach for FC Porto, Mourinho and his team are watching the live telecast for…

Embrace Mediocrity for Work-Life Balance & more advice from Gail Golden

The byline in Gail Golden’s book, ‘Curating your Life’ speaks about ending the struggle for work-life balance. In the Modern Wisdom podcast, Gail shares numerous ideas and insights to end that struggle. To me, the one that stood out was – embracing mediocrity. Our quest for excellence makes us indiscriminate in a way. We want to be fantastic in everything we do, put in a lot of effort. In our mind, it is a reflection of our commitment and sincerity. Gail invites us to accept a liberating truth : Most of what we do in our life is mediocre. We slog it out in the quest for perfection. Not content with good. In fact, we don’t even need to be good. Just well-enough is acceptable. Once you realize that you can be passable in multiple areas that are not core in your life, so much is unlocked for you! Free of the mediocre things by not doing it at all or doing just well-enough; you can now pour out your time and effort doing the few things you are truly…

Maria Konnikova – Mixing Poker and Psychology

Ever heard of John H Watson? Dr. Watson?..Yes, of course! The world knows him as the person closest at hand to marvel at the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes. Maria Konnikova looks at Dr.Watson in a different way. She has written a book on Sherlock Holmes called Mastermind – How to think like Sherlock Holmes. And that makes her realise that between the two – Holmes and Watson – it is Watson who plays the role of the coach by continually asking questions. Watson’s relentless questioning improves Sherlock’s thinking by forcing him to verbalise his thought-process. Isn’t that a brilliant appreciation of Watson and his role in creating the legend of Sherlock Holmes?! Maria’s conversation with Shane Parrish ( The Knowledge Project) has multiple subjects all interlinked to each other. Thought-process, decision-making, the role of luck and chance and emotions. All of them interesting, made even more so by Maria’s own story. A PhD in Psychology, Maria experienced an inexplicable bout of illness. She recovered from it, but this incident and a few personal adversities made her reflect on the role…

A Man for All Seasons

Leadership is a foul-weather job, said Peter Drucker. Indeed it is. As a global pandemic demands the best leadership calls to be made, we find that the unheralded few have done an exceptional job. Mongolia as a country is one of them. Jacinda Ardern as a leader is another. The vast majority of countries and leaders have middling results so far. Watching ‘A Man for All Seasons’, the meaning of the words integrity and conscience glow like a dying ember. Thomas More, like Socrates before him chose to die. For integrity. To heed the call of conscience.  What are such people driven by? What impact do they have in the Human story? As most present-day leaders flounder, is it a coincidence that we don’t hear words like integrity and conscience being used? Are they beyond the reach of most people? Not really. It’s just a matter of couple of hours.  A Man for All Seasons won 4 awards at the 1967 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor. Beautiful movie.                

Non-Being in the Pandemic

Individuals and organisations are hunkering down to brave this pandemic. Those on the margins of a secure life are clinging on for sheer survival. This is not an easy time to live in. Are we making it more difficult for ourselves? Why is it that we are sheltering in our homes, but feel locked out of Life – its vitality and energy? A sliver of wisdom from Tao te Ching entered my awareness to engage with these questions. We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space  that makes it livable. We work with being,  but non-being is what we use. The pandemic has forced the world into an arrested state of being. The outwardly movement of joining spokes (connecting), of shaping clay ( storing), of hammering wood ( building) is no longer completely available for us. And because we work with…

Organisations in Crisis – The Danger and the Opportunity

In times of grave uncertainty, organisations find themselves in a situation that spells both danger and opportunity. It is dangerous to go into a binary mode- fight or flight, do or not do, decide or not decide, now or never. Gripped by survival anxiety, organisational leaders want to stamp their presence on the proceedings. There is comfort in poring over spreadsheets and calculations and being able to make changes with a few keyboard clicks. They are making changes on the map and the map is not the territory. Where is the opportunity? The opportunity lies in reimagining things anew because you are forced by the turn of circumstances to return to the basics, the fundamentals. When the blueprint is taken off the dusty shelf and revisited on the decision-making table, you find yourself more willing and able to make changes in the very design and workflow of the organisation.  A water reservoir in times of severe drought year can go through a complete overhaul because the water levels are so low. A dilapidated bridge on a busy national highway can…

Organisations – Resisting the pull of going back to Normal

Business Organisations love predictability and control. The COVID-19 pandemic has left them without both. After gaining a modicum of breathing space, they are mulling over their options. What do we do next? After a disruptive & disorienting shock, a natural comfort move is for organisations to fall back into familiar routine and feel in control. If resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back to the normal state, the going back to routine does seem like going back to normal. However, being insistent on routines may be a less than optimal response. When we have no faith in the future we incline to arrange our lives so that we can predict the future. We either make of our existence a rigid routine or pile up all manner of defences to make it secure. The craving for security stems from a need for predicatibility, and its intensity is in inverse proportion to our faith in the future. -Eric Hoffer The strategies and plans these organisations had made before COVID-19 and the systems and processes that have been instituted for execution,…