A Hero’s Journey

theme

Every journey involves change… letting go of the past experiences, opening yourself up for new ones, a restless quest for moving on. If you look at all the mythology and history, take the Greek gods or our Indian pantheon, all Heroes have embarked on a successful journey, reached their avowed goals, and then set new targets and moved on!! Sports, Politics, Business, Athletics….every form of human endeavour essentially follows the same circle… dissatisfaction with status quo, stretching out, leaving your comfort zone behind, venturing into the unknown, going through fear uncertainty, conquering new horizons. The journey from the Known to the Unknown.

hero journey

And a true hero does not rest there. The cycle continues and that is how you breach new frontiers like Alexander the Great, or keep breaking your own record again and again like Sergei Bubka. Is the crown a hero wears too heavy? The relentless pursuit of the next goal, conquering the new territory, putting your flag on a higher mark, breaching the new pedestal is what keeps the Hero going. Edmund Hillary who was the first to climb the Everest did not succeed in his first attempt. Apparently, after one unsuccessful attempt, he was resting in his tent at the Base Camp. He could not sleep in the night…the image of the towering Everest kept him awake. Finally, he got up and came out of the tent, looked the mountainstratight in the eye, and uttered the words which became famous , ” Yes I failed in my climbing attempt. But you are a mountain. And you cannot grow. I am a man, and I can. I will come back again and conquer you!!”. Onward Ho! Herman Melville catches the fervour right in his iconic Moby Dick when he expresses Captain Ahab’s innermost thoughts, ” “I leave a white and turbid wake;
pale waters, paler cheeks, where’er I sail. The envious billows sidelong
swell to whelm my track; let them; but first I pass. Yonder…

moby dick

I differ from the conventional thinking that Opportunity Knocks! No, it does not wait at every doorstep and invite you. It continues on its path and you must show your heroism and your readiness to catch it, before it passes you by.  The world is replete with stories of people who “almost” made it, but did not, as they did not see the call to adventure and did not leave their comfort zone and did not risk taking the fight into the open seas of competition. Being a Hero is about being ready to change. Achievements are made up of sheer daring, risk taking backed up appropriately by competent plans. Finally ends illuminate the means. As you relentlessly pursue your goals and follow the paths that open, even as you travel, new horizons open up.

rasta

Trust the Universe. मंझिले और भी है. Take heart,  astronomers say there are 300 to 500 billion galaxies out there. Hence it is up to the Hero to pursue and to follow through, taking heart from Ulysses’s famous words, ” T’is not too late to seek a newer world…that which we are, we are,/ One equal temper of heroic hearts/ Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will,/ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” (Lord Tennyson)

ask

Whether you study the Indian folklore Heroes like Ram or Arjuna or Krishna or the Greek Heroes like Heracles or Achilles or the modern day James Bond or Rajnikant the thread that joins all these stories together is the cry of the battle. All Heroes are warriors in their own unique way. They challenge status quo and change the situation for the better. They battle the evil forces whether circumstantial or human to create a better world. Modernistic warriors like Alexander Fleming or Madame Curie did the same. Hargovind Khurana or Stephen Hawking illuminated spaces and questions which looked like Mount Everest in the way of progress. Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Mandela brought a better life for fellow humans. Scientists and Technologists who are working on a diverse palette of problems that face mankind are warriors in their own right. In the modern trade and business contributions of Bill Gates & Microsoft; Larry Page & Google; Jeff Bezos & Amazon and our own Azim Premji  and Narayana Murthy have fought their own battles and changed the world for the better for their fellow humans.

Societal change is never easy. The Warrior has to have faith, self confidence and a vision to take up cudgels on behalf of the hoi polloi and bring about a change. These modern day heroes have to set new directions and go in and light up the road for their co-travellers. What matters is their effort. Their commitment. Their dedication and devotion. Their willingness to do what needs to be done. All progress begins with dissatisfaction with the way things are. And it ends in finding a better, easier, more efficient way to do the things. So change readiness is the new success mantra. Don’t wait till it is broken. Fix it, improve it, change it even while it is working so that discontinuous change takes us into progressively expanding orbits opening the gates to a much better and brighter new world.

true places

Children spend many years of their childhood being afraid of darkness. I think, correspondingly, Adults are afraid of light! Around us we find many examples : Adult  just do not want to see! The task of the new Hero is to show a mirror to his fellow beings. If required the Hero will have to turn the mirror 180 degrees around and help others face reality. He will have to shake us all out of our inertia.  And take us on the road of change. History has proven that the times and the need of the times throw up leaders and heroes. Let us await the coming of the Wise Kings who will lead and deliver us.

My hope for 2020, LET THE NEW YEAR BRING US GIANTS!!! vikas

 

45 Replies to “A Hero’s Journey”

  1. This was a brilliant take on the entire idea of human progress! The examples were very relevant and I found it not only enlightening, but also inspiring. Each one of us have gone through our own cycle of heroism and our own struggles to move out of our comfort zones. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Dear Abhijit
      thanks for your kind words
      the high spot for a writer is to strike a chord with the reader….whether of agreement or disagreement….because both show application of mind and taking a position
      I respect this and always told my team members also and even Sunil Lalbhai once…..”If I always agree with you, one of us is not necessary”

      Agree that each and everyone of us is Hero in our life story
      Taking the storms and strains and moving FW is in indeed progress

      Keep writing in
      keeps me motivated….and on my toes

      Like

  2. After a long, long time, it was sheer pleasure to once again listen to your year-end speech loaded with very interesting, deep thoughts. Yes, I could virtually listen to your voice through the blog!

    As I “listened”, I felt that your contents were deeply influenced by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, by Joseph Campbell. While Campbell’s work uncovered the underlying common structure of all successful storytellers and myths (which he called “monomyth”), I wondered how it was relevant in a leadership scenario. A thousand successful storytellers and stories – like “The Star Wars”, “The Matrix”, “Lion King”, “Bahubali” and “Harry Potter” series – bear testimony to Campbell’s monomyth principles. But applying the principles of mythology and storytelling is very dangerous in real-world situations.

    The concept of a hero assumes the existence of a villain who should be vanquished. I think real world has no heroes and no zeroes. Real world is not a zero-sum game. Real world has people who are both heroes and zeroes simultaneously – a state of superposition like Schrödinger’s Cat which is simultaneously dead and alive. Hitler thought that he was a hero and assumed Jews were villains in his quest to “make Germany great”. Jack Welch thought that the villains of GE were the low performers (“lopers”) and forced managers to separate heroes, that is, “hypers” (high performers) from “lopers” to “make GE great”.

    Conventional computing involves separation of problems and solutions into 0s and 1s. Quantum computing assumes that 0s and 1s are inseparable. Recently, a breakthrough was achieved in quantum computing by performing a calculation in 200 seconds which the most powerful (conventional) supercomputer would have taken 10,000 years. The principles of quantum computing are radically different from conventional computing, which require abandoning the old model of writing computer programs. Similarly, we need a paradigm shift in our thinking to solve real-world social and organizational problems that will take 10,000 years to solve by conventional methods. Einstein, who was once a hero, refused to believe in Erwin Schrödinger (of “Dead-and-Alive Cat” theory fame) with a famous statement, “I can’t accept that the moon exists only because I see it”. Today, modern physics has confirmed that the moon indeed exists because we see it. Einstein was simultaneously both a hero and a zero in physics!

    At the dawn of a new year, let’s resolve to see the world differently – not as 0s vs 1s, stars vs black holes, heroes vs villains, “hypers” vs “lopers”, but with an ‘and’ instead of ‘vs’ — as a state of superposition of eigenstates on the same identity. Emily Baxter, the founder of the nonprofit organization “We Are All Criminals” says, “Each one of us is a criminal who has probably not been caught yet”. Similarly villains are heroes whose movies have not been released yet. “Lopers” are Steve Jobs who haven’t launched their iPhones yet.

    Your statement towards the end of the blog, “…Children spend many years of their childhood being afraid of darkness. I think, correspondingly, adults are afraid of light…”, is very thought-provoking, though for reasons different from yours. When I was a child, I thought that the sun was the brightest star in the universe. When I was a child, I thought that sun and the stars gave light, so were good; Black Holes and darkness take away light, so were evil. When I grew up and became an adult, I realized that without Black Holes, our universe would be unstable. When I grew up and became an adult, I took courage to look into the darkest sky and realized that the sun was not the brightest star – actually it is an insignificant star. The bright light and proximity to the sun prevented me from seeing stars that were several times bigger and brighter. Yes, now I’m afraid of light and its pollution that prevents me from seeing brighter stars. In the new year, let’s resolve to be afraid of the brightness of people near you and the light they throw on you, preventing your ability to see even brighter people beyond in the infinite dark firmament…

    –Prabhakar

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    1. MS
      In your characteristic style you have enlivened and upgraded the debate no end. Class.
      Many people follow the blogs and read the comments and I am sure they will be as much enthralled by your learned exposition as I was.
      Many thanks for the detailed comments.
      I would not like to just directly respond.
      Your comments will require deeper thinking and mulling over.
      Meanwhile , watch this place
      Regards
      vikas

      Like

    2. Dear MS
      sorry I took a while to respond to your thoughts as you had indeed made it very challenging

      But first, Thanks a Ton for listening to my thoughts. and making such a detailed comment replete with learned references and quotes and illustrations. I took a while to reply because I must admit that this was probably the most challenging comment to reply because of the multiple perspectives with which you have expressed your views. Your examples range from Literature to Science and from Business lore to Black Holes. It required multiple reads for me to formulate my position to the points you raise. So here goes….

      In a way I tend to agree with Campbell who defines a hero as someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. However, I do not necessarily endorse Campbell’s description of the 12 stages in a hero’s journey starting from the first (Ordinary world) to the last (return with the elixir). I believe that every Hero’s story has its own rhythmn and may not fall into a formulaic development like Campbell postulates. While I agree that principles of storytelling (especially of heroes) cannot be compared to human situations, I also believe that a common thread in both is the fact that, in the end “things will clearly never be the same”. Heraclitus’ warning that the only constant is change comes in to roost here. But possibly all the change is what makes the Hero’s adventures fun and worth emulating….though you may end up in a space you had not sought, much like our Columbus’ discovery of the Americas.

      You have elucidated your point of heroes and zeroes well through the thought experiment of Schrodinger’s cat paradox and added another dimension of thinking. I quote Eric Martell (Associate professor of physics) who puts it very simply “In any physical system, without observation, you cannot say what something is doing. You have to say it can be any of these things it can be doing—even if the probability is small.” So true! The world is changing at a faster rate than we can keep pace, and yes, the call of the hour definitely is the need to change the way we think. I too hope that in the coming years we will have more “lopers” who will emerge and contribute to change (in significant ways) the world around us. The world is certainly not only for GE’s hypers or Hitler’s aryans. In the real world, he Jews have many times over proven their right to survive and have even taken the World into very different directions than the monochromatic views of Hitler and Nazism!!

      Last but not the least, thanks for sharing your personal story on lightness and darkness. What an unconventional and novel way of looking at brightness! You leave us all with a lot of food for thought with your wise words. I for one am even now afraid of darkness. And sleep with lights on in new places and when my comfort space is challenged. I see ghosts and goblins in every shadow and so have forever shunned darkness and veered towards light, though it may be ruthlessly unromantic. Another one of my growing up complexes I am still trying to work out….

      Personally, I have added valuable gems in my learning basket from your Comment and the road it made me take intellectually. Many thanks once again for your being a guiding light in partly illuminating my dark path!

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      1. झकास, Vikasजी, झकास… I’m flattered by your reply to my comments!

        Isn’t it strange that you’re afraid of a ghost lurking in dark shadows while the Japanese see the ghost of Ghosn escaping in broad daylight? If you look hard one way, you’ll see Carlos the saint riding in every Nissan car — look hard another way, you’ll see Ghosn the sinner escaping in every music band box. The moon indeed exists because we see it — but don’t blame Schrödinger during tonight’s lunar eclipse!

        –Prabhakar

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  3. Thank you for providing a great read.
    It is power packed.
    I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Together we can make 2020 a greater year for all.
    It is an honour to be such a hero.
    Greater will be to help, support and encourage such heroes in making for all our life to come.
    Himanshu M Bhatt
    Surat

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    1. Himanshu bhai
      you are one of the persons I have always respected for your contributions to our first love….the field of HR and leadership
      You have seen so many great leaders and have groomed so many of them and in the process provided great leadership your self
      So many many thanks for your comments and kind appreciation
      Yes indeed while it is great to be a hero, it is far greater to support and groom and develop others to reach their potential
      As you have done
      Tahe dil se salaam Himanshu bhai
      Avewich sneha ni nazar amara upar rakhjo, etlich vinanvti
      vikas

      Like

  4. Vikas,
    Well written. Agree with you. Age is not a barrier to a Hero!
    Let’s cheer to a great 2020. And play it like our modern day T20!
    Cheers
    Sainath

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    1. Thanks Sai
      you took me back to the days when in the local trains we used to miss trains to get into the compartment where someone boarded with a pocket transistor to listen to the commentary
      and that too when majority of the times , during our ear, there was no result
      and India also played for a draw
      T20 changed all that
      as has the present fast paced business environment
      in these T20 times aggression and playing for win is the sine qua non
      happy we are for leaders like Kohli and Dhoni
      let us follow them for a brighter future

      Like

  5. Nikhil Buch many thanks for your words of appreciation
    I think we all are in the same “human condition”
    so each others experiences and words ring true for us
    and we all can learn from one another
    thanks for taking the time to write in

    Like

  6. Sir,
    It’s quite Insightfull. It’s good stuff to be used for various talent development initiatives. Great thought for New Year 2020.
    Regards,
    Manoj Rajimwale

    Like

  7. Dear Vikasdada,
    Wonderfully written! The clarity of thoughts and the way you express them is simply amazing. Just one suggestion, rather a request. Keep writing more often. I’m already looking forward to your next blog!
    Best wishes for a wonderful and creative 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kiran
      Zahe naseeb Zahe Karam
      Mighty thrilled with your spontaneous words of praise.
      for any writer the proof of the pudding is when one’s writing strikes a chord and elicits a response from the author
      Being a people oriented person, I am forever driven by friends and family
      and you are both
      thanks once again

      Best wishes to you and all at home for a sparkling 2020
      vikas

      Like

  8. Dear Vikas dada,
    Very well written blog and wonderful thoughts, as always.
    Welcome back, and it’s so nice to see you writing again after a gap.
    Thank you for sharing… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

    Best wishes for 2020… 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼

    Like

    1. Thanks Amu for your kind words
      You know what we were going through for the past few months
      so i wrote after a longest gap of 2.5 months
      definitely plan to not let such long silences come in the way
      best wishes for 2020
      vikibaba punter

      Like

  9. You are super explainer and your selection of words is simple.
    But..
    I couldn’t understand “……..Adults are afraid of light””.
    ….. Happy 2020!!👍👍👍

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    1. Girish
      thanks for your compliment
      you know what SGN taugt us…..HR mhanaje kai…..C…iya banwaicha dhanda
      unke bataye naksha kadam pe chal raha hun ji

      What is meant is Adults don’t want to see, they want to remain in dark, so they are afraid of light
      how many times we avoid and ignore facts and truth
      prefer to look the other way when reality is facing us in the face
      that is why I said Adults are afraid of light
      as it reveals all
      no teri bhi chup meri bhi chup
      all in the open

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello VS,

    it was indeed a long wait…since your last blog!

    You have selected a very appropriate topic, as we move towards 2020. The concepts and the anecdotes will infuse strong determination in readers’ mind to pursue their new year resolutions!

    Talking about opportunity , I had read somewhere :“A pessimist is somebody who complaints about noise when opportunity knocks.!!”

    A few other quotes relevant to the topic:

    Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it

    -sir Winston Churchill

    Another one from Churchill :

    “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”.

    “If what you are working for really matters , you will give it all you have got”

    “Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” ..Mark Twain

    The only part I differ is your last para. I feel we should not wait for someone else to come ,shake us out of inertia and show us the way…
    Let us not give that responsibility to some presently unknown hero to appear out there!
    Let us take things in our own hands ..and do whatever best that we can, in whichever area we choose ! We all don’t have to necessarily match those celebrities in heroism!
    We all have some ‘heroic’ qualities merged within us.
    Let us resolve to bring that out ..as we enter 2020!

    with best wishes for the New Year ..and hoping to be treated with many such thought provoking blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JLS
      many many thanks for your comments.

      the quotes you have sent are so appropriate
      it left me feeling….wish I had known this one and used it
      anyways this will inspire me in future
      so thanks from the bottom of my heart

      had some serious family issues for the past 3 months and so I had no mental peace to write
      hopefully 2020 will show better days to me and family
      anyways life goes on

      what you said about taking personal responsibility and not waiting for heroes does make sense at one level
      why leave the locus of control in outside hands?
      the drive should be internal, I have no quarrel with that
      what i wanted to stress….which I may not have done well…..is that while the self initiative propels you out of your comfort zone, we all are dependent on a lot of external support and direction to remain firm on our path
      Often times people forget the contributions others have made in shaping their lives
      But none of us would be heroes were it not for many other influences that piloted us
      That was my limited point

      thanks for writing in
      and once again best wishes to you and Smita ben for 2020
      vikas

      Like

  11. Kudos !

    Another insightful blog.

    Your thoughtfulness is amazing.

    As we raise a toast to the heroes who get the limelight, lets acknowledge all the unsung heroes whose effort were determinant in each success notched up by each hero.

    While it could be the Sherpas role in the accessing the summit of Everest or the back up team which guided Apollo13 back to safety, there were many who selflessly contributed to the success of the mission – not for adulation but for their passion.

    This being a true hall mark of a hero.

    Closer home all of us have been privileged to have parents , spouses & children whose fervor overcomes all as they pray, support and work tirelessly to ensure their loved ones success.

    Hats off to them !

    Nikhil

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nikhil
      thanks for pointing out the unsung heroes, the men in the backroom to whom we owe a lot
      success is as much theirs as of the shooter who finally shoots the gaol
      his success is made possible ONLY and ONLY because of contribution of so many
      Ceratinly a gap in my exposition and thanks for raising this
      Let us all raise a toast to the parents, spouses & children has actually reached us to the goal

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Vikas, well written article with several anecdotes and quotations. Yes, Hero desires to change status quo and considers many aspects you have listed but one. Hero also learns from his and others’ mistakes and failures. Shirish has already pointed another aspect, that is need of mentor for Hero to guide.

    In past, seniors used to advise us
    that opportunity is like bus. It will come to your stop and then you can ride it. But as you have said opportunity is like a moving bus which does not stop in front of you.. You need to catch it while it’s moving.

    Thanks for giving us this opportunity to write comments on your blog. Regards. Dr Kelkar

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Doc Love the analogy you have given about the bus…..I must use it sometime in future. Yes opportunities come, but we must exert to benefit from them.
      As I told Shirish the Mentoring is a big enough subject for me to write a separate blog on.
      Pl keeo reading and commenting
      Makes me feel good that it is sparking some debate
      Thanks for taking the time dear friend

      Like

    1. Col sahib you are more than kind.
      Due to some developments on personal family front I wrote after a 2.5 months fgap. So there was some hesitation and trepidation. Was not sure if the flow is coming out well. Also was awkward with the site controls. Even as I was editing, the blog got published as I did something foolish.
      I have some 7 updates in a matter of 10 minutes as the pics, the categorisation, the tags all were missing.
      But am happy it has finally come out well
      (if you are telling the truth)
      regards
      vikas the insecure

      Like

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