School of experience

Let me begin with a confession :  I have learnt more from my mistakes than from my successes. And if I am considered a wise person today, it is because I have made many, many mistakes with gay abandon; nay, even pride!!!

I remember early in my career I transferred into the Siemens factory on Thane Belapur road: the veritable “holy grail” of rabid unionism of Dr Samant and RJ Mehtas of the 1980s. I took an operational decision which was wrong. Resultantly the entire Maintenance department stayed away from work. Being an engineering company, this was awkward: to say the least!! To complicate things, this happened on a weekend and was discovered only on Monday, by the top brass. I had tried to patch things up by burning some midnight oil over the weekend. But the union decided to teach this rookie personnel manager a lesson, and did not co-operate. Come Monday morning, I was summoned into the German Works’ Director cabin. But what he told me that day not only surprised me, but also gave me a life long learning!!

“Shirodkar, first wipe out that serious look on your face” he thundered. “what has happened? Is there a fire? Has anyone died? Has the factory totally shut down?” When I explained the productivity and mandays lost, his only counter was ” What did you learn from this incident? What will you do different next time?” Over the next 30+ years, I was to learn that taking a decision was more important than prevaricating and remaining indecisive. My mother’s kitchen’s teachings of not crying over spilt milk and being bold while experimenting with a new dish and presenting what you cooked with elan and flourish, have stayed with me since.

One major reason is exemplified by Johnny Cash, the best selling music artist of all times, who said “ There is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep wide gulf, a chasm” So make a call; learn your lesson and move on: falling down the chasm does not help. Take a stand. It is how you manage the implementation and aftermath of a decision that make it right or wrong for posterity.

As drivers we have all experienced this. When you are overtaking a vehicle, and there is oncoming traffic (so you must complete your maneuver quickly before the oncoming truck/car makes it difficult to overtake),  there comes a point when you are parallel to the speeding car ahead, and the moment of truth occurs: Do I press ahead and overtake? or better i reduce my speed and try again later? While it is good to be cautious and abort overtaking if the oncoming truck is too close, you cannot go on postponing the decision to overtake. At some point you must take the leap in your mind, increase speed further and overtake. Decisiveness and action;  over doubt and rethinking. No “fence to sit on”. Just make your move.

Like all Indians, am sure you too watch a lot of cricket. With the superior camera work today, one can actually sense the resolve of a Kohli or a Dhoni when they look at a ball and smash it for a sixer. In the same manner, the unforgiving camera catches the hesitation and the doubt, in the way the bat swings, when a ball is miscued and ends in a catch, or misses the line completely and the stumps rattle behind. The teaching is ingrained in the doing: which is why Dhoni has said in an interview ” I don’t study cricket. Whatever I have learnt is through cricket I’ve played on the field”. Experience itself is the teacher par excellence.

For meself, I must say although I am a good teacher, I am a much better student. I keep my eyes and ears open to new learnings that life affords me. And a la Papa Hemingway ” I like to listen. I have learnt a lot from listening carefully. Most people never listen”. Forget not that the Maker in his infinite experience has given us 2 ears and just 1 mouth. Listen double than what you speak. Enjoy all that is happening to you. Travel. Eat unfamiliar food. Meet new people. Open yourself to new experiences. You have to create and recreate yourself constantly.  My hoary 62 years have taught me : Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes. And thus, the learning continues ad infinitum!! So, Live each day as it comes. Be warned of Dorothy Dix’s caution, ” It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us” 

For action, I take inspiration from the most famous follower of Martin Luther King viz. Rosa Parks. She spearheaded the Montgomery Bus Boycott to protest the Bus Segregation and went on to be called “the first lady of civil rights” by the US Congress.. When questioned about her courage in refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger she said ” I have learnt that when  one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done, does away with fear”. What an prescription for facing up to life’s odds and experiences!!!

Life has a way of unfolding as it is meant to be. Remembering Papa Amrish Puri in DDLJ:   Ja Simran, jee le apni zindagi!

Trust Life. Experience fully: vikas


25 Replies to “School of experience”

  1. Hello Uncle,
    Yet another thought evoking blog.
    As a C E O of my Company I follow a very simple rule, the staff who makes mistakes are my favourite s , my only answer to them is when there mistakes are brought in to my notice is first to congratulate them for atleast trying out something ( new ) and then to ask them to share what they have learned from their mistakes with all , I don’t care for people ( staff ) who are on the good side of the management and very hardly find them doing any mistakes ( that’s because they aren’t doing / trying to do anything different ) I myself have grown from the mistakes that I have made and still keeping making them everyday weather at work or personal front. Fence sitting is nice & safe but who want s to seat at the fence and see the Cows and others Grazing…..


  2. Nice article and wonderful thoughts! Thank you so much for sharing from your wealth of experience… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼
    Wonderful thoughts and examples about indecision, and the need as well as conviction for action in case of dilemmas, as also about learning/listening twice as much as speaking… 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼

    Like they say, experience is a great teacher; only thing is it gives the test first, and the lesson later. The same thought resonates in the famous interview of a successful entrepreneur known for his laconic speech, where he was asked the secret behind his success.
    The wise man replied, “Two words. Good decisions.”
    So the next question asked was how did he end up making such good decisions.
    Pat came the reply, “One word. Experience.”
    Naturally, the interviewer persisted with the line of questioning as to how he acquired this experience.
    The wise man looks the young fella in the eye, and after a thoughtful pause said, “Two words. Bad decisions.”
    He then looked and kept looking in a distance, indicating the interview was over.

    The value of experience cannot be overstated. It is no surprise that with the World Cup around the corner, a certain Suresh Raina starts finding himself a place in the national team again. Similar thing happened with Yuvraj Singh around the 2015 World Cup. It’s generally accepted that experienced players (usually) handle pressure better than newbies in such high-profile tournaments.
    On the other hand, an opposite example comes to mind of a young, energetic but inexperienced Zaheer Khan in the 2003 World Cup, who had bowled really well throughout the tournament, and had a key role in India making it to the final. But the unaccustomed atmosphere of a high-pressure World Cup final got to his inexperience; he lost his rhythm while “trying too hard”. The first over with 2 no-balls and 2 wides (one of them going to the boundary for 5 runs) went for 15, as also the momentum shifted Australia’s way who went on to pile a huge score. A famous cricket analyst later wrote that the match was lost in the very first over of each innings. (The wily, experienced McGrath getting rid of Tendulkar in first over of India’s innings later.)

    Tendulkar’s reference also brings to mind a very nice comment I read on this blog itself. “Experience is not what happens to you; but what you do with what happens to you.”
    It is said that during any series once he got out, Tendulkar would practice that particular delivery and that particular shot (to which he’d got out) for an extra one hour outside of the regular team practice.
    Learning from one’s mistakes, and more importantly, working hard on the lessons learnt seems to be the key to greatness.

    On the other hand, not learning from one’s mistakes, or at least not doing anything about it…
    … well, that brings to mind the joke where a Sardar on his way to the office spots a banana peel on the road, and exclaims, “धत्तेरेकी, आज फिरसे फिसलना पड़ेगा…” (Oh no, I’ll have to slip and fall again today)…
    The same thought finds voice in the Einstein quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” or another quote attributed to Randall Terry: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” or simply “Once bitten, twice shy.”

    Experience or wisdom is truly worth its weight in gold, and then some more. The only catch seems to be that it has to be earned the hard way, and it takes up a big whole chunk of life to get there. In George Bernard Shaw’s words “Youth is wasted on the young.”
    And even then, you’re never truly there, because there’s always “more to see than can ever be seen; more to do than can ever be done.” (Lion King song)

    I’d close with a favourite Picasso story which goes something like this:
    There was a show, in France, of Picasso’s paintings. They were exhibited chronologically. One day Picasso was looking at the exhibit and a woman was talking to him. She mentioned that the earlier pictures where organized and staid and all perfect and the later pictures were careless, wild, with bold strokes. She wondered if there was a mistake and they ought to go the other way around.
    And Piccaso said to her “Madam, but you don’t understand. It takes a long time to become young.”

    Cheers to life… and to the spirit of “Jee le apnee zindagi”… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼


    1. Ameya
      thanks for writing in
      a la Prof Harrison in My Fair Lady ” I have grown accustomed to her face; her smile; … she actually makes the day begin”
      In a similar fashion unless I have seen and read your comment on my blog I feel aadha adhura
      Thanks for caring so much and making my life and my blogging complete

      In fact as I told you off line: you have acquired a fan following on your own and many people have asked me about Ameya Mundhekar
      and they are equally pleased to read your comments and feel that it adds great value
      Thanks bro

      This time’s comment is a classic example why you are followed so much
      The range of examples and quotes you have used speak volumes about your mind and your thinking
      thanks for using some of my personal favorites like Einstein and GBS
      the cricketing examples were great and gave me new news and a fresh prerspective
      Truly we can learn a lot from our national obsession with cricket
      if only we are ready to learn

      The bad decisions giving the experience which leads to good decisions was something that I lived through out my life
      Only thing going for me was the readiness to experiement and be bold to try and fail
      In fact one major insight during my J&J Global HR Transformation work was what IDEO (The world’s foremost Design company) what they called “Rapid Protyping”
      They taught us to rapidly come up with a solution; however half baked
      and iteratively improve as you implement it
      and find the challenges and solve them as you go along
      From that time I always was eager to jump in rather than observe from the sidelines
      and that made all the difference

      So to change the “Go forth and multiply” advice of Noah I think I can say Go forth and make mistakes; try new things; take risks; fail and thus multiply!!!!

      so the Sardar was right
      Roz hi girna padega

      Majju ni life


      1. Thank you again for your kind words and appreciation… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼
        It’s always a pleasure, the thoughts and discussions your blogs generate. They make one think, rather than be a one-way sermon, and hence they bring out variety of thoughts from various readers.
        Thanks again for inspiring, and sharing… 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼


  3. Excellent blog as always. Yes the school of experience is the biggest learning platform! Keep writing…. Keep inspiring Vikas Boss!


  4. Wah saheb! Complex lesson, simplified. Depicts some insights of most of us who really listened carefully & spoke less. 2 ears &1 mouth.


    1. Thanks Maitrey
      Yes it is not by accident that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth
      all things in life have a message and a learning
      only if we keep our eyes and ears open and learn enrute
      Life will be fulfilling n fun
      Seekhne ki tamanna chahiye
      best always


  5. That’s True . Simmens experience was again dialogue from DDLG “Badi badi company me Choti Choti Baatein hoti rahti hai 👍


  6. Great, sometimes to get a good boss is also luck. We always learn everything by experience and observations.
    All the best


    1. So true little sister.
      Challenge is to keep the curious side alive and never reach a stage where we proclaim “I know it all”.
      That would be death
      Remember Tennyson?
      ” Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
      Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
      For ever and forever when I move. ”
      Keep Moving. Keep Learning. Keep Rocking


    1. Thanks Ramu: 1) for your maiden comment on my site. Reflection of your acceptance of my “visual learner” proclivity?? he he
      2) For reminding me of Richard Bach’s famous insight: ” There is nothing which our heart does not know. Teaching is reminding others of what they already know”
      Come April I would have been bogging for an year now. Revealed a new side of me : and I am enjoying myself.
      Thanks for your encouragement


  7. Superb article and couldn’t agree more! Loved the parallel drawn between overtaking while driving and decision making.
    I remember one of my mentors telling me: there are no good or bad experiences- Just Learning Experiences!!! Hence, its important not to regret anything. After all, we are what we are because of our mistakes/successes/decisions etc….
    And I quote Aldous Huxley “Experience is not what happens to you; its what you do with what happens to you”.
    I like to remind myself to look out of the open window each day so as to experience everything that enters- rain, wind, dust, sunshine or darkness…….


    1. Deepa thanks for your comments. Such open dialogue helps me stay the curse and know whether what I am saying is reaching across. Keep writing in.
      Dorothy Dix was the original Agony Aunt who doled out advise through her columns.Am sure she would have agreed with Huxley’s comment about doing something about what happens to you.
      Finally you seem to have had a good Mentor- god bless his soul- who helped you understand the joy of seeking new and varied experiences and going beyond the obvious and the patented. True joy and truth itself lies beyond the pale and needs to be actively sought. Keep taking risks. keep expanding the boundaries. Go beyond limits. Life will follow….Cheers


  8. Excellent as usual.👍👏
    Shall I put in other way also as below,
    Trust experience and live life fully.


  9. Awesome! And totally agree. Nothing ventured; nothing gained. Decision making is the single most critical skill required for success. Listen more than you speak ; after all God gave us 2 ears and only 1 voice box 🙂


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