There was an old school-time joke we had: Question: How do Porcupines make love?
Answer: very very carefully
Life today has proved the veracity of this joke. Complexity and uncertainty has multiplied manifold. Unless we are very, very careful we will not even know what hit us. Spines and quills all around are ready to poke us & queer our pitch, vitiate the direction we have chosen! So indeed the basic question in front of all of us is: How do I proceed? Where do I go? and How to be successful?
To Go Ahead, we must Look Back! See the road travelled. And jettison what will not help us to move ahead. Reduce the bulwark, make the yacht lean, and then press ahead, full steam. Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but I have taken inspiration from our BMMC who has put up a board just before the Bandra Flyover: To turn Right, Stay Left!!! If you don’t believe me, see when you have crossed the causeway and need to take a turn to the WE Highway. BMMC cautions: To turn Right, Stay Left. Good advice for Life itself!!! So to be successful, Let Go and Move On!
What I have realized is, in the hurry to get ahead, and reach the destination, often we are our biggest enemy in moving forward. And this is because of our natural tendency to Hold On. Clutching at straws, or well rooted trees, both have the same effect: they arrest progress towards the goal! We do not realize that Holding On is the way we stop ourselves from moving on, getting ahead, and reaching our target. To reach our true potential we must be able to dispassionately analyze and understand, what is actually helping us move ahead, and what is toxic or excess baggage which is actually holding you back. Robert Frost’s two roads will always beckon, but we must let go of one road, to progress on the other!
In my professional career of 34 years in Corporate India, I changed 5 jobs. If I look back on each of those changes, they epitomise the Letting Go & Moving On gyan I am selling to you now.
My first job was with HCL I was reporting to the Personnel Director and responsible for Recruitment & Training. Since in a nascent computer industry in late 1970s, personnel turnover was high, Recruitment was an year long activity. Before HCL, I had sat in an aircraft twice…once when I was sick and had to be urgently moved for an operation and second time was for the HCL final interview from IIMC campus. Suddenly, in HCL, I was flying all across India, a flight every week, for campus recruitment and walk-ins. Every new product or software launch also required the Training guy to show all-India presence. Though by entitlement & grade, I was not allowed air travel, the high profile role with regular interactions with Shiv Nadar & Arjun Malhotra, besides being the blue-eyed boy of Personnel Director helped. After 2 years of limitless travel and heady recognition and compliments, my wife gave an ultimatum: enough of Delhi, let’s go back to Mumbai. Choose : Wife or HCL!!!
Having to Let Go and Move on, I applied for HR role in Siemens Corporate. 5 day week, 35 hours a week, 21 holidays a year. 50% higher salary. Recruitment & Compensation role. Started dabbling in Training, against the wishes of the Training manager, still enjoying the blue-eyed boy status of the Personnel Director, of Siemens now. Enjoyed Siemens parties and get togethers, hardly any work pressure. The bug hit me again. Must let go! Must be challenged! Must stretch!! Must learn and grow experience wise. Asked for a transfer to the Industrial Relations role in the factory which had 4500 employees of the 7000 in Siemens India. Siemens had very turbulent and violent IR history. Everyone advised me against the move. To add to it, no one wanted me in Kalwa Factory. Was seen as a “Head Office plant” not to be trusted. Was stretched and pilloried. Rough shod and tested. Baptism by fire! But I grew. I learnt! Developed my own niche and acceptance!! Became the perfect double agent: accepted by both factory and Head Office as “their” man. After 5 years, wanted to go back to Corporate. But neither Factory Management nor the Union were ready to release me. Had no choice but to fly out of the golden cage. Let go my hard earned respect and position in the hearts of managers and workmen in Kalwa and moved to another Company. Atul Products, Valsad, Gujrat.
6 years thoroughly enjoyed Atul & company township living. But after 4/5 years I realized I was not learning anything new. Challenges were past. Enjoyed great trust of the management, as well as the external Union leadership. But felt stifled because of repetitive tasks and experiences. Time to Let Go and Move On. Fortunately Siemens offered to take me back as a Head of Human Resource Development. Came back to Mumbai, but felt odd being the Boss of people whom I had reported to earlier. Siemens itself had significantly changed in the 6 years I was away. Took me a few months to realize this was not the company I loved in the past. Again a Letting Go, again Moving On to Johnson & Johnson India as Shared Services HR Head.
J&J after so many years in Chemicals and Engineering industry, was truly a breath of fresh air. Very professional and fast paced work culture. Lots of operational freedom. Multiple reporting, 3 Bosses in India (one per SBU) and the Functional Boss in the Region. The challenge was invigorating; culminating in national recognition at the hands of President APJ Abdul Kalam for Innovative HR Practices that drive Business Results.
With lots of achievements and recognition under the belt, got a chance to join Global HR Transformation Project Team as an AsPac Director. Letting Go of the comfort of JnJ India where I was accepted. Moving on to make my name in the Global Team. Suddenly the person who had sat in a flight twice till the age of 22 was spending 20+ days abroad living off a suitcase and airport lounges, as the responsibility involved 14 countries of AsPac.
With such a hectic schedule, it was natural I missed many family events. My parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary, My Father’s and Mother’s 60th Birthday celebrations, etc etc. One day my daughter Rashmi went to Vinita and asked, “Do you have Baba’s photograph? I have forgotten how he looks”. When Vinita told me this I decided time has come for me to Let Go & Move On again. And I took a simple desk job in General Motors India. Spent last 3 years of my parents’ life near and with them, serving and making up for staying away throughout my academic and professional life.
The last Letting Go was when I retired from GM in 2014 and Moved On to set up Basil HR Advisory with 2 friends. It has been a great and memorable journey and now Letting Go and Moving on is on lower stakes as it involves clients and assignments. With consultancy projects, the roots do not grow that deep as the time commitment and the emotional connect is not at the same level as in the jobs earlier. One knows, that you are a midwife or a nurse, and not the real mother, so the contract is itself defined with Letting Go and Moving On.
Tony Robbins the best selling author of Unleash the Power Within & Date with Destiny puts it very beautifully: ” Will you live inside your story or Let Go and Move On?” Very important question to keep asking yourself as you live and grow? The attraction “living inside your story” are legion. Comfort & security. No new questions or challenges. The ship is safest in the harbour. But it was not built to remain there. Rough seas make skilled mariners. Move On and face the rough seas.
Letting go is a process. You cannot do it overnight, especially if you have spent your life holding on to things you know and love – even if, deep down, you know they are sub-optimising your full potential. Focusing on moving forward and creating a new story for yourself will help you deal with the inevitable pain of conquering new territories. It will also help you gain confidence, develop empowering beliefs to live by and Move On with elan. The power of Letting Go helps you to Move On in your life. If you can not get out of the story you’ve constructed for yourself, then you cannot move on to bigger and brighter things.
So Don’t look back; the Grass is Greener on the other side: vikas