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 brotherhoodhappy.  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 conveyin 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 youwith 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 enviousthe 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 dawnthe 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!”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dada J.P. Vaswani and Aamir Khan

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 happy! 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 happy.  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?

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Analytics, Skills, Original, Style


  1. The story of Dalai Lama was most inspiring of all because it illustrates why love is supreme sentiment as it is sensed not just by humans but mute birds also.

  2. From Lion story “One should focus on their ultimate goal and not to distracted by hurdles in life ” really motivating story for all of us.

    finally would like to say”One way to stay on your path is to stay focused, and believe in yourself, have faith in yourself that you can do whatever it is you set out to do, believe in what you are doing and the goals that you are trying to accomplish. Know exactly what it is that you want and devise the plan on how to achieve that goal. Stick to the plan no matter what it takes”.


    Rahul Sonawane

  3. Hi Sir,
    The post was really awesome. I wonder how did you managed to think beyond the word “beyond”? I really liked it a lot.
    I want to know which of these three stories inspired you the most and why?

    Also the point i wanted to bring your notice is that, there was an option for voting for the question but no where i found a text area to convey my thoughts for the rest question i.e “why?”.

    Will wait for your thoughts.


  4. The story which amir khan said makes you give up on competition which is good for the mankind but bad for the corporate world. The corporate world is based on the principle of maximizing profit by increasing productivity and that can be only attained if you instill competition among the employees which would drive them to do better than their contemporaries. The reward in the form of appraisal would be their motivation factor and amidst all these the company will be benefited coz it will generate more revenue as a consequence. I wouldn’t want to get more deeper into it coz this is where the human civilization and domestication of human beings comes into picture.

    The view of Dalai lama will again prove out to be counterproductive for the corporate world because envy is again a very big driving force which fuels competition.

    Mr. Vaswani’s voice speaks for the corporate world. It provokes competition. If somebody throws a stone at you, you shouldn’t forgive and forget. Instead charge at him with such fury and vigor that he wouldn’t dare to challenge you again. And you WIN 🙂

    But the bigger question is what if, the source who challenges you is another lion and the battle to satisfy one’s pride and ego results in collateral damage. Who would be held accountable for that.

    Its just a thought which came to me after reading this.


  5. Nicely written as usual, just one correction. “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.”
    -> Buddhists actually dont believe in (or deny) God or creation.

  6. Hi Sir,

    very nice stoires. i am inspired by Dada J.P. Vaswani’s story because in our corporate world we face these kind of situations so we need to make sure we have to behave like a Lion not like a Dog as per my openion offcoures.. 🙂


  7. If an organisation had a culture with all these three ingredients as part of the senior managements DNA, it would have an enormous impact.

    One of the comments –by Vivek–seeks to play down the Aamir Khan tennis incident as not relevant for the corporate world because the incident downplays the importance of competition( since his mother made Aamir think of how sad the loser of the tennis match would be feeling).. Let me give my own practical example. Years ago I was the plant CFO of a company in Chandigarh and I had 2 other colleagues also handling Finance of two other plants. ( This is before I moved out from Finance to Sales/Marketing/Profit centre head — and now running my own HR consultancy in Pune). All three of us became best of friends, shared info and best practices with each other…but were silently competitive –we did want the Group CFO to believe that our respective Finance deptts were the most impactful .

    Then came promotion time ..and we all aspired to become Sr mgrs from Managers. The HR function was an innovative one in that company. The HR head asked each of us who we would vote for as the two frontrunners for promotion telling us that this year only 2 out of the 3 would make the grade. It was said to us seemingly informally .but yet seriously. He spoke to us independently.

    I actually felt that the two others were a notch above me at that point of time and I knew that he knew. So I told him that I do feel they have an edge.

    I left it at that.

    Lo behold, we all got promoted and perhaps my attitude gave me those few extra marks which got the Hr head to get the company to accommodate me too. He would have also appreciated how fiercely we thought of next and best practices for our functions, wanting our ideas and contribution to be recognized…but at the same time ( once we got recognized), to also share with the other so that it can be well replicated.

    Competition can also be in a win win spirit is what I feel.

  8. Dear Arun-sir,

    Thanks for nice post as usual.
    I think key takeaweay from all 3 stories is to attend to the source itself.viz. Like who should have empathy?Who is jealous?Who is throwing stone?

    Regarding below:

    “Analytical skills are not merely about having a good IQ/EQ, rather their honing requires a continuous field practice.”
    Are you talking about developing 6th sense?I think in life and business we come across situations where our heart tells sometimes that something is just right or wrong.Our head may or may not agree with this assessment.I think person with good 6th sense would be most successful in long term.

  9. Though I voted for Aamir’s story, I feel all the three virtues are important for a human.
    As a mother, I would want to cultivate compassion and love in my children while as a person I would want to practise love and reaching for our ultimate goal.

  10. I voted for Dada’s story as it gives a beautiful lesson of sticking to one’s Goal and Focus not distracting from external environment.

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A bird, a beast and a tennis player - Arun Nathani Blog