Monday, April 1, 2024

Worthy Success?

Whatever it is that you want out of life, the philosophers will tie it right back to your character. Irritating though it is to discover that they have no convenient instruction manual that helps you achieve success, say, in six easy steps, it is difficult to fault them for it. I mean, even if you DID have those six easy steps to success, it IS your character that will help you DO what is needed in those six steps. So, yeah, sad though it is to acknowledge, character sort of matters.

Tiru has his own list of characteristics that are required. In this Kural, it is not so much about what is needed to get success but what is needed to make it worthy.

Serukkunj Sinamum sirumaiyum illaar perukkam perumidha neertthu - Tirukkural

The success of only he, who lacks arrogance, anger and low desire, is considered of great worth - Loose Translation.

Well, well, well! I mean, really, what is the use of success then? Do you not chase success so that you can lord it over others? So that you have no need to rein in your temper now that the other guy cannot cause you harm? Because you can satisfy your every desire? Or does Tiru define success like these sages do...the only worthwhile success is in realizing the Almighty or some such?

Or, perhaps, it is just that he is worried about whether other people will consider you are worthy of respect. If you throw your weight around and indulge in all your desires, you will lose the respect of those around you and, thus, your success will be hollow. THAT, perhaps, though it is also a fact that the very fact of your being successful will cause people to start questioning your worth. Which is why, from the day after someone is declared an idol, people start hunting for clay in his feet.

All that, really, is twisting and turning to avoid the need to change your character! Yes, it is true that there WILL be people who will hate your success...but it is not for them that you need to not let success go to your head. It is for those who you care for and those who care for you...it is THEY who you can alienate, lose and never find again if you allow your success to make you arrogant, intemperate and hedonistic.

AND then, there IS this problem. For, as long as you keep throwing your weight around, you are also aware that, given a chance, those around you would want to turn the tables on you. Success, then, seems more like riding a tiger. You live in fear of being thrown off and getting mauled. Does that seem of great worth, then?

You know, these guys like Tiru...they make everything seem so difficult. Difficult to succeed, difficult to keep your success, need to control behavior no matter what your status...yuck! Hardly worth being alive, I tell you!

Monday, March 25, 2024

Finance and Leadership?

It is funny how money always insinuates itself into any facet of life. Think of it as sordid, think of it as a useful tool, think of it as the holy grail of life...it doesn't matter. No matter what you think of it, no matter how you decide to lead your life, you will find yourself running into the need of dealing with money...or, perhaps, the absence of it.

So, when Tiru talks of leadership (yeah, yeah, of Kings, yes, but if you think that it does not apply to you as a leader, you really do not belong there), money rears its head there as well.

Iyatralum, eettalum, kaatthalum kaattha vagutthalum valladharasu - Tirukkural

A good leader creates avenues for wealth creation, earn wealth, safeguards the wealth and spends it appropriately - Loose Translation

Actually, this one by Tiru covers the gamut of leadership in a way, since money pervades every activity of Society.

One may think of it as crass but, be it governance or corporate leadership, all facets of leadership are related to money. I mean, when you speak of governance these days it IS the economists who hold sway, right? True, you can keep screaming of social justice but, comes elections, one cry of employment- generation or lack thereof is worth a thousand communal or caste slurs. So, there you are. The chap who gets Foreign Direct Investment, who manages to provide the infrastructure and economic environment so that wealth gets generated, who ensures that the wealth so generated stays in the country and who distributes it in such a way that he mitigates poverty...THAT's the great leader. In other words, he has ensured avenues for creating wealth by way of fresh investments, he has ensured the generation of wealth by conducive environment, he has safeguarded the wealth by ensuring that it does not flee the country and he has ensured that it gets spent appropriately for socially relevant purposes.

Talk corporate world and you get to roughly the same needs. To find new products/markets; to ensure that you invest and produce efficiently and effectively; to ensure that your wastage is minimal; and to ensure that you spend wisely on employees, shareholders, reinvestment, statutory needs and community...is that not what management is all about?

So, is Tiru leaving out NGOs? Not really, he is not. NGOs also needs to ensure that they find new donors including tapping foundations for their project; ensure that the donations not only keep flowing in but are also appropriately invested till they are required to be spent; ensure that their money is safe and not frivolously spent; and, finally, that they are spent most effectively for the needs of those who deserve help.

Comes to leadership and management, there are a thousand pieces of advice floating around the world. But if you have space to hold on to just one I think THIS one probably should get first place.

A good leader?

The problem with all advisers is that they very seldom tell me what I want to hear. Why is it that, whenever it comes to the sort of person I want to be in Society, it always gets bundled in with the qualities that I do not possess? And, what is more, these advisers very seldom offer me work-arounds. All that they can say is 'Tch, Tch! If you do not have them, why do you even dream of succeeding?' Which, you will agree, is not precisely a paean of praise.

So what else can I expect of Tiru? But this...

Anjaamai eegai arivu ookkam innaangum enjaamai vendarku iyalbu - Tirukkural

Courage, compassion, wisdom and the motivation to persevere are the four qualities of a leader - Loose Translation

Tiru, of course, talks of kings in this context but, then, a king IS a stand-in for anyone in a leadership position. After all, Tiru knew not of CXOs in his time. And look at what he expects of a leader. I mean, ONE virtue is difficult enough to have, and he expects not one but four virtues in a leader. Talk about expecting the impossible.

Now, courage I can understand. Not necessarily, I suppose, the sort of courage that are so lauded in films...the taking on of a hundred machete-wielding goons and coming out victorious. But if you are not merely the sort of leader who judges which way the crowd is going and runs ahead of the mob...where was I? Ah, if you are not that sort of leader but one who decides himself about the direction he wants to take his people in, THEN you need to have the courage of your convictions; to take decisions under uncertainty despite the risk of being proved wrong. Now THAT I suppose one has to admit as necessary even though one does not possess it.

Compassion (literally, eegai is being charitable. I use compassion here as the generic character trait which leads to charity)? Now THAT is something that the corporate world will find difficult to understand as a necessity. After all, the history of the corporate world as it is today starts off with robber barons and exploitative leaders who sent in young children into mines for the most part of the day. Perhaps, by around now, the corporate world has come to recognize that a semblance of compassion is necessary but...actually being compassionate? THAT's possibly a hard-sell but I will say this - when the corporate culture is known to be compassionate, it earns loyalty. Now whether loyalty, employee loyalty in particular, is a sought-after thing in these gig-economy days is something that you have to decide for yourself. Maybe in this Tiru is dated since in his days life-time employment in the same place was probably THE rule.

Wisdom is another of those things that people may well think is a dated idea. I mean, come on, even in the old days one could lean on consultants; NOW you can always google.

In this context, I must tell the tale of a open-book design examination in chemical engineering. You walk in to the exam hall, get a question on designing a reactor but, where you were expecting to be given the volume of the reactor that piece of datum is conspicuous by its absence. Instead, you have all sorts of esoteric data AND a huge 1200 page Chemical Engineer's Handbook which obviously has all the necessary information if only you knew where to look for it. Once you identify that the esoteric data given can be used to CALCULATE the volume of the reactor and that formula is likely there in the reaction kinetics portion of the Handbook...well, the rest is a breeze.

What was that story for, you ask? The point IS that wisdom may not lie in KNOWING all the formulae but in knowing that such a formula exists at all and where to look for it. In other words, to know where to look for a solution IS wisdom in and of itself. Whether it is in a book or in the right adviser is immaterial. Which is why they say that to know that you do not know IS the beginning of wisdom because THAT is when you know to look for it.

AND then that ookkam thingy. I have translated as 'motivation to persevere'; it could well be translated as 'enthusiasm'. The point is that Tiru does mean that you need to have the energy and the enthusiasm to stick to your task and not give way at the first difficulty. Leaders carry along people to the completion of the goals that they set, keep encouraging them when their spirits flag and carry through to completion. Enthusiasm, these days, seems to be a thing of the moment in most people's minds as in it is all too easy for them to say, "I have lost enthu," and drop a project. Which is why I preferred that 'motivation to persevere' as the closer phrase to Tiru's meaning.

But, yeah, it is nice and easy to list, elaborate and even nitpick on all these qualities that Tiru prescribes. I look into the mirror and it looks back at me incredulously. Nope, not ONE!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Good and Wealthy?

One sort of assumes that philosophers tend to be down on the wealthy. You know 'Easier for the camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the wealthy to enter Heaven' and all that. It is, therefore, surprising that ANY philosopher can be in favor of wealth, more especially from India where anything to do with the world at large is supposed to be considered illusory. (AND, yes, I have differed with the identification of 'Maya' with 'Illusion' in the past, if you really want to know. In 'Theory of Maya - Is it all illusion?')

Tiru flies in the face of all philosophers when he says this:

Payanmaram ullur pazhuthattraal selvam nayanudaiyaan kan padin - Tirukkural

Wealth in the hands of the benevolent is akin to a fruitful tree in the middle of a town - Loose Translation

Tiru, here, means that such wealth shall be useful to everyone in society much like the fruits of such a tree are available to everyone in town. Of course, his were more benevolent times. So much so that the idea of a powerful man building a wall around such a tree and claiming it as his own never even crossed his mind while THAT is the first thing that crosses ours. (IF, of course, there is no intent of cutting down the tree and building a shopping complex there!)

The truth, though, is that most people in the world do not really understand the meaning of wealth. I mean, you talk of wealth and people immediately think in terms of yachts, private jets, million-dollar mansions and the like. True, all those ARE possible uses of wealth, but do you stop to think a step further?

The wealthy also have need to invest their surpluses, right? Now where exactly they invest those surpluses would depend on their morality, no? I mean, you could have people who invest in exploitative companies chasing huge returns or, on the opposite end, in what are social impact investing. (Yes, they could also put their money into charity but, at the moment, I was discussing INVESTING the money, meaning that they intend to earn a return from that money.)

AND, you see, ownership of shares or land etc. is also wealth. IF you have a company owner who takes good care of all stakeholders - employees, shareholders, lenders, customers and community - you would say that wealth in HIS hands is better than the same company's ownership being transferred to a less responsible consortium.

Benevolence, as in Tiru's words, need not necessarily mean that the person distributes largesse from out of his wealth. Even a responsible handling of wealth could well count as benevolence and wealth in such hands is of more use to society than otherwise. (One needs mention that if those benevolent hands are also capable hands, which create more value addition THEN the case for such wealth is inviolable.)

Of course, it would be icing on the cake if that person exhibits true benevolence by way of also doing charity.

Tiru, thus, does not seem like he is a blind votary of Communism! Before you start redistributing wealth in Society, he would have you check on whether the wealth is doing more good where it is!