Articles

When Teams Outperform – The Crucible Moments

SCENE 1 1996. Lahore. It was the night before the Cricket World Cup Final! The two contesting teams were dining together at a celebratory event.  Australia and Sri Lanka. Australia, the overwhelming favourites. Sri Lanka, the absolute underdogs. The World Cup Trophy was also at the scene. Naturally, the players could not take their eyes off. Their hands were twitching to get hold of it! The Australian players moved first and posed for pictures with the trophy. The Sri Lankans eagerly awaited their turn. Just as they were ambling towards it, a voice boomed out and asked them to stop! It was Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lankan Captain. All he said was, “No photos now. We are going to win it. You can click as many pictures as you want tomorrow.” A festive moment and a simple wish. Ranatunga made it a crucible moment – a time when aspiration was stoked and inflamed by desire.   SCENE 2 2006. Johannesberg. Australia vs South Africa in a 5 match One day series. The mighty Australians had in typical combative style clawed…

The Age of Samurai – Blood-soaked and Insight-rich

Japan in the Sengoku period (1457-1615) was a living hell. There was no central rule. The country was at the mercy of warlords, who were answerable to nobody. They waged battles for power and glory. This time was also called the Age of Warring States. A time of civil war, social turmoil, and political machinations. The Age of Samurai – Battle for Japan is a docuseries that covers this scramble for power and glory. The life and death of three warrior leaders – Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu – and their fluctuating fortunes forms the main narrative. All three warrior-leaders are ruthless on the battlefield, but this is not where their ultimate destiny is forged. It is the choices they make in unguarded moments – discretionary choices – that turn out to have a bigger impact. For Oda Nobunaga, it turns out to be how he treats his subordinates. For Toyotomi, it turns out to be the next thing to do after the war is won and the world is at his feet. Leaders,no matter what the field,…

2020 – A few insights to carry forward into 2021

The very idea of a New Year is a figment of human imagination. Having said that, 2020 has given the idea a new shine. The world so urgently wants the new year to make life better!  Perhaps, that is what all ideas ultimately are – containers and transmitters of human energies.. We are all invested in the idea and our collective belief is a powerful force in making things happen! So, are we going to leave all behind in 2020? What if, there is something to remember and carry forward into the new year? On asking this question, here are a few things that emerged from the shadows of this year. The real world and what it takes to stay alive We now know the real world. A mortal threat made us aware of it. The real world is where life persists. The real world is where decisions and actions that help us stay alive and well are made. The last year gifted us the context within which we recognized this real world. Without this context, we were leading self-absorbed…

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.