Letting Go

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!

futurepast

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!

two roads

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!!!

lookback

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.

comesngoes

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.

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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.

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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.

shore

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

end DC

25 Replies to “Letting Go”

  1. Brilliant narrative – quite some journey, been witness to parts of it…the philosophy of letting go applies to a lot of things in life apart from jobs…

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    1. Absolutely correct Ravi sir. One psychologist Green published some research in 1980s that Work and Life cannot be kept separate & they influence each other.
      Without research I always knew it he he
      they are siamese twins

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  2. Vikas,
    After reading your blog, a song came in my mind. “ Jeevan Chalne Ka Naam”. Young people will get inspired by your travels in life and your optimism. You have made your own destiny through your grit. Keep going.

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    1. Thanks SDS
      There is a Sant Tukaram abhang which has the wording”Tuka mhane ata uralo kewal upkara purta” (तुका म्हाने अlतl उरलो केवल उपकारl पुरता)
      Now the only thing left for me to do, is be useful to others
      what ever help or guidance I can provide is my destiny and joy

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  3. Vikas,

    Just don’t ask me to let go of reading your blogs, Chief.

    More power to your thoughts and writing!
    Nikhil

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    1. Nikhil bhai
      Bacche ko rulaoge kya?
      You are one one my faithful readers who always encourages me
      How can I let down that faith sir
      Thanks for your support always
      vikas

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  4. Hope your powerful narration inspires some unfortunate souls who are desperately clinging to the branch in the dark night thinking that if they let go, they will fall into a deep crevice, not knowing that the land is only three feet below their feet…..

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    1. Arun
      Indeed many times the main thing to fear is fear itself
      In Uncertainty we always imagine worse things than what actually comes to pass
      That is why if you have moved on , you will come out of the storm of emotions and depressions and pass beyond

      You reminded me of an old story
      Destiny warned the Warrior, ” A storm is coming!!”
      The Warrior replied,’ I am the Storm”

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  5. Very nicely articulated the message of letting go. In a very lucid way have given your own example which makes the matter authentic . Surely will pick up clues of letting go to move ahead .

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    1. Nitin Sir thanks for your vote of confidence and faith on my prescription
      But truly I have been privileged to live a good life and learn from all
      So my attempt is just to share my learnings
      Stay tuned
      vikas

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  6. Dear Boss.

    This comes to me at a time when my boat (can be read as career) is totally rocked. Found it very inspiring. Am chasing something that has been my dream… lot many challenges along the way but hope these thoughts will help me push my limits.

    Warm regards,

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    1. Anthony
      Yours is the third message I am recieving where someone is thanking me for the Letting Go and Moving On advice as it applies directly to their present situation. That makes me feel good about sharing my journey. Not that I did not screw up and I did not face diificult times. But they come and go dear one. So basically we must face the sun, boldly and firmly and proudly move on. Very often the goal is just around the corner, but we give up knocking on the door, when the next one was sure to bring us salvation & peace
      Stay tuned, Stay positive, Stay focussed
      Unto each life some rain must fall

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  7. VS: you have picked up the theme of “letting go” as the key thread running through your impressive career. The sequence of events, so well narrated, is very gripping. Perusing this article will provide a great learning for the younger generation. So your ‘teaching’ role continues..irrespective of the stage of your life…including the lockdown ! I consider this as a very useful service in providing direction to the many unfortunate,’direction less” professionals .

    Reading through your article , i related to your experience with my own period of 38 years of the corporate world. In my case, though ,it was a little different. I remained in the same organisation(Cibatul/Atul) for 34 years..joining fresh from IITB in 1974. The similarity with your situation is that my role kept changing very frequently. I was never on one role for more than 3 years. As soon as i was getting bored with one assignment, and started ‘looking around’ ,a new role came on my way .

    usually, one tends to latch on to the approach that has given one success in a role, even after the promotion. This may not always be a good idea. A working style that may have given good results as a Plant Manager may not be the right style as you become a General Manager of a group of plant. You need to decide what is required for the new role and also importantly what is not suitable for the new role..and let that go ,consciously. I have seen many who fail to let go ,and become failures in the higher role.

    during these years, it has been a constant exercise for me ,to keep analysing my approach and letting the ineffective ‘baggage’ go !

    In Pidilite, many aspects of the job requirements were almost 180 degree opposite to what was required in Atul. This was a massive learning for me, mainly in letting go the old styles and learn/adopt new ones.

    as i have entered the consultancy phase, the situation is the same. I can no more feel ‘attached’ to a position /role ..but have to quickly grasp a situation in the organisation in a few meetings and initiate some creative thinking to add value to the assignment.

    obviously, you don’t throw baby with the bath water…you do carefully preserve certain good aspects through the years. They prove to be of immense value . The skill is to recognise what is to be retained and what is to be discarded.

    i feel, whatever is closer to the basic value systems, like respecting every individual, compassion, fairness,openness etc have always to be retained /preserved and fortified as we move along.

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    1. JL
      In Atul as well as later I have seen you are a Restless Learner and I think that is what keeps you young, energetic and enthusiastic.
      I have seen you in a few of the roles in Atul and what I always appreciated was your dispassionate analysis and objective decision making. I think that is sure key to success and that is how a Trainee Engineer grew to a Director and the fabled corner office in Atul

      It is interesting but of all the responses I recd, personally and officially, to the blog there were 5 youngsters who said they were at a stage where my blog helped them. Frankly I was pleasantly surprised as when I wrote, I did not realise that could be the side effect, positive off-label benefit of a story I was telling. You and another ex-colleague Prof from MET pointing this out makes me pause and think….Allah indeed works in mysterious ways.

      You raise another beautiful point which is my pet peeve. I feel very often success is limiting! If you got success in a particular way you are resistant to experiment new ways. Success forces you to think ….this is the only way to be. And that can sometimes be a BIG downfall, as Kodak and the Swiss mechanical watch makers had discovered. What stops a successful company or man to resist change. He does not want the tried and tested formula to be changed….but he does not realise the world outside is changing. Long Long ago Heraclitus warned us we cannot bathe in the same river twice. Still people ignore the changes to their peril. I always tell my clients and teams I work with, if it is working, that is the time to break it and try something new.

      Finally re Letting Go I feel that there are enough signals in the surroundings that cue you when to Move. Tongue in cheek, I told an HR younger colleague, when in a company, you have more people to avoid than people to meet, it is time to move on. Change, Movement keeps you fresh and ebullient, as you yourself evidenced in Atul with new roles every 3 years. My MD in JnJ who joined after IIT IIM also used to tell me the same thing…I never had to change my company as my jobs kept changing. Sone me Suhaga!

      In this journey, our heart and our values are our best partners. The Heart always knows. If more of us followed our heart, the world would be a much better place, ethical and just.We must keep the Faith and push on , relentless!

      Many thanks for your regular and detailed comments. They are like my compass on the rough sea.
      Love
      vikas

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      1. Thanks VS for your detailed response ,which has further pearls of wisdom and quotes.

        i wish the two of us had interacted beyond the IR issues and settlement discussions during the wonderful Atul days! (Occasional meetings in the Atul Vidyalaya were ,of course, the exceptions!)

        thanks again

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  8. Very nice article, VSS! Well expressed…happy and proud to see you, NKA with Dr APJ Kalam…

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    1. Thanks Milind for your comment

      Your dear Friend Vijay Wilankar was the one who pushed through the entire application and put together all the documentation to qualify us for a chance to present the JnJ case to the FICCI & ISTD jury
      Here I took a novel tack, I asked KKM to come to Delhi and present on behalf of JnJ
      Idea was to showcase that it was not only HR but an overall corporate leadership approach. KKM obviously did a good job and we were declared the winners.
      NKA & CLT were pleasantly surprised
      When the invite came for the prize receiving at the hands of Abdul Kalam suddenly there were many fathers for the success. But then so what? All that succeeds is always good.
      Vijay, NKA and I were to go to Hotel Ashoka. Vinita also accompanied. It was the zenith of my professional achievements.
      Remember Vijay Wilankar very much even today for his sincerity & commitment

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  9. Full of candid confessions ,lucidly expressed . This is the gripping story of awareness,relatedness and building sense of futurity.
    Simply superb!

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    1. Suresh
      many many thanks for your lovely comments.
      I was indeed fortunate to work with great corporations and some fabulous teams and very indulgent bosses.
      I have often said my success is not surprising: I had so much help!!!
      I never struggled to establish HR or sell my ideas. People all along were supportive.
      I am truly grateful for a life well lived

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