A bird, a beast and a tennis player
Going beyond the punch lines…
A few weeks ago, a spiritual mission in Pune organized week-long activities to mark the ninety-fifth birthday of one of the more remarkable personalities decorating our planet today—Dada J.P. Vaswani. I attended only one function, on July 28 The event involved an interactive session between Dada Vaswani, Aamir Khan, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama—all together on stage at the same time! Three symbolic gifts to mankind from three mainstream faiths: Hinduism, Islam & Buddhism. Of course, my story here has nothing to do with any religious brotherhood. In a mature corporate world, where merits and performance rule the roster, any partisan mindset has an inconsequential discussion value.
Rather, the theme of my blog here is inspired by three one-minute excerpts from the three-hour long session that I was privileged to sit through. Most of us love to hear stories that have stirred inspiring leaders. At least I do. And after hearing the following three stories from the above cream of the crop, I am unable to resist the temptation of sharing the treat with my readers here…
Speaker 1: I was very good at tennis in my growing years. I would often play it at a competitive level and would regularly win local tournaments. On reaching home, my mother would proudly hug, congratulate, feed me a mithai and then make a subtle observation, ‘I wonder how the mother of the boy you defeated must be feeling right now after seeing her son return home all dejected and low? She probably must be feeling very sad and consoling her son at this time.’ Gradually over a period, I began to realize what my mother was trying to convey—in life, our wins are often at the cost of some unknown person’s defeat. The other person is not a mere competitor; he is as much of a flesh & blood human being as you—with his own family, his own aspirations and dreams. Of course, I still didn’t give up my winning attitude once on the tennis court, but now I had greater empathy for those I was playing against.
Speaker 2: When I was young, I had a pet parrot in a big cage. One of my friends was very fond of my parrot. Every time he came to our house, he chatted with the parrot in an affectionate tone, played with it for hours, and fed him yummy snacks. Over a period, the parrot became extremely fond of my friend, and would get very excited by the mere sound of his approaching footsteps. Gradually, I started feeling envious—the parrot was my pet, not my friend’s! I wanted my parrot to get equally excited when he interacted with me as well. So I started to adopt a sweet tone while chatting and feeding him nice leftovers. But, unfortunately, the parrot just did not reciprocate with the same affection. I even tried tapping his beak in a playful manner, but he almost bit my finger off! It took a while for the realization to dawn—the parrot was not reciprocating because he could sense that my feelings for him did not arise out of love, rather envy!
Speaker 3: Once I met a saint and asked him how to get the right focus in life. He said, “Be like a lion, not like a dog.” Perplexed, I urged the saint to elaborate.“Say, there is a dog sitting in the bushes, and someone throws a stone towards it. The dog will run behind the rustling sound in the bush to figure out what was thrown towards him. A lion on the other hand, will not care to search for the stone. Instead, he will look past the noise in the bush, and come charging towards the person who threw the stone. So we need to pursue life’s ultimate goal like the lion, and not get distracted by the noises along the way!”
I have shrouded the names of the speakers for a reason. When we get to the end of the blog, you will discover their identities. Meanwhile, those of you who are analytically inclined may want to play a little mix and match game before scrolling down. Here are a few clues that may help you with the riddle.
The first speaker is inspired by the value of empathy for fellow humans. The second one elevates the goal beyond empathy to the power of love, and that too not just for humans but divinity’s all living creatures. The third one targets the divinity itself, an even higher goal where all souls need to evolve as we journey through life’s distractions. All three, in their own way, are teaching us valuable lessons on the art of living.
But this is a corporate blog, so the primary objective has to be an extraction of a business takeaway ! The glue lies in an unspoken expression that ties the three stories together. And that expression is “beyond”—an interesting word that throws up an unlikely alliance between the parrot, the lion, and the tennis player, and then goes on to present a unified management lesson…
The story of the lion tells us to ponder beyond what is heard; go after the source that has triggered the noise.
The story of the parrot tells us to think beyond what is spoken; contemplate on the intention behind the spoken words.
The story of the tennis player tells us to reflect beyond what is seen; imagine what might be happening behind the scenes.
In short, when it comes to the matters of perception, professionals need to dig deeper by exercising their analytical abilities for better understanding of the business decision points. Analytical skills are not merely about having a good IQ/EQ, rather their honing requires a continuous field practice. And where do we find these practice grounds? Fortunately, all around us! For instance, some of you practiced your basic analytical skills right in this blog itself, when you chose to play the mix and match puzzle to map the identity of the above three speakers with their respective stories . And here are the results of the game:
The story of tennis player was shared by Aamir Khan; after all, who better than a Bollywood actor to appreciate the meaning of empathy in a world where stars rise and fall daily like a pack of cards. The story of the parrot was shared by the Dalai Lama, a representative of the ‘ahimsa’ faith that teaches about loving all living things created by God. And finally, the story of the lion was shared by Dada Vaswani, who has forever lived by the belief that the ultimate objective of life is the divine salvation of our souls. So, which of these three stories inspired the readers of this blog the most and why?