Category Archives: Corporate

The marathon race

There are certain quotes that are momentous, iconic and simply beautifully meaningful. It may not necessarily be quoted by someone big and famous, and may you might never find it even by googling it, but for those who have heard it, taken it by heart and seen it ensue over the years, it’s just consequential.    

“Your career is like a marathon race, and not a 100 meter dash. While running a marathon, you might find yourself at the back of the pack in the first kilometers, but what really matters is that you win when the marathon is complete. So, what happens in the initial years is of least concern when you see what you have or want to achieve after 30 years. You might lose the 100 meter race, but strive to win the marathon”  

This was one quote that we used to hear almost every day in 2006-07. We were in the initial stages of our career, and for us the yearly performance rating was the ultimate trophy. A rating of 4 out of 4 would mean that we have outwitted our colleagues in a war of numbers, performance and some self promotion.

I was good at all this, in fact very good.

I got the best seat where I could perform. Obviously at the customer service desk in the financial industry, you get to get all the spite from the customers, but ultimately, the more abuse you get, the more your stocks rise with your boss.

There was speed in me, young blood was flowing in the veins, and in a new-generation multinational company, speed matters a lot. And this brought in the numbers.

Youth and exuberance was part of the game. And this made me popular with most ladies, and some men, including the people at the right places who’d got to give my ratings. Well, popular with ladies means, you had your share of enemies too.

And every abuse, every extra bit of effort and every appreciation was an opportunity to use my marketing skills (obviously to market myself) and prove on paper that I was a tiger. Lessons well learnt from MBA classes – “self promotion is the best promotion”

All this, and the first ratings here gave me four out of four.

He just got three out of four, my buddy, colleague and roommate.             

 

He was wild. Actually, there was nothing bad about his performance too. But when two people go head to head, the one who is a little bit better on numbers, energy and the art of image management and publicity wins hands down.

That was what just happened here too.    

Our boss, being an emotionally weedy man, had a tough time convincing him. Every day, after office, we used to sit and listen to boss’s gyan mostly up to 9 pm. Being bachelors, we had nothing much to do. But he was a family man, and we always wondered why doesn’t he go home and play with his kid. He used to talk at length about Flight Crash Investigation, that popular programme on National Geographic Channel, on how investigations are done using brain and intellect where technology fails.

When the discussion usually ends nearing nine, boss would look at him, and find on his face the disappointment, dissatisfaction and discontent on losing out the rating war to me.

This is when he used to make that famous quote:

“Your career is like a marathon race, and not a 100 meter dash. While running a marathon, you might find yourself at the back of the pack in the first kilometers, but what really matters is that you win when the marathon is complete. So, what happens in the initial years is of least concern when you see what you have or want to achieve after 30 years. You might lose the 100 meter race, but strive to win the marathon”  

We never used to understand what it meant. We were just a couple of years into our careers and really did not try to comprehend the meaning behind those words. But looking back across the nine years of our professional life, this is the mostmeaningful quote we have heard. The disappointment of the one bad appraisal is gone, and we have learnt to look at the larger picture. Today, when we sit back and talk cheerfully of those good old days, this marathon quote is always the vanguard of the parley. One swallow does not make a summer, and marathon is complete and won only at the end of the full twenty six miles.

Cut to the present, this marathon race quote is the most quoted prose that I use now, whenever I address my team. When they hear this, among them, I can see some of the same beleaguered faces that we used to make, but they will too understand what it means when the time comes.

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Oh! It was me!

It was the first day of the week. I had just returned to Thrissur early morning from Kannur after my weekend trip to home. As usual, I reached quite early to office. It was mid-2006 and I was just months into my new job, so I was never late, at least on Mondays. It was a new place for me, and a new team, quite unlike my previous job assignment, and I was thoroughly enjoying every bit of it.

So it happened, this Monday, 8:30 AM, I was sitting at the Customer Service Desk, relaxed and checking the emails that landed in my inbox during the weekend. There was one more hour for the official office hours to begin. It was then that my boss entered the office, looking quite animated and over the top, for the start of the week.

“Good morning” – he wished me.

“Good morning boss!” –  I wished back full of beans, to show that there was no tiredness of the travel and weekend blues in me.

“So reached office early huh?” – He asked, smiling.

“Yes boss! Monday! Fresh and ready to hit the battlefield” was my rather sardonic reply, trying to impress a bit. After all, there’s always a bit of brownie points to be scored everywhere.

“So, how was your training?” – Next question from him.

And this stumped me like a wrong one that spins off the leg side and hits the off stump. Like the ball of the century from Shane Warne that got Mike Gatting out in the Ashes of 1993.

It was he who had gone to Hyderabad on a training session for the entire week, comes back early Monday morning, and asks me how good the training was! Suddenly I was as dumbstruck, just like Gatting was after being bowled by Warne with the all time best leg spinning delivery. I did not know whether to cackle or snivel. Was he joking? Or was he trying to put me through some sort of test? You never know, he was the boss. So if was in his rights to ask any question he wants, and it was my duty to answer it.

For few seconds, I was thinking what should be my reply. After all, one should be very careful while asking questions or replying to bosses. Corporate etiquette says that “Boss is always right”. So, I summoned all the guts in my heart and body and asking him a return question as the answer to his latest query:

“Boss… but I think it was you who had gone for the training…”

“Click…” Somewhere in the environment around, I could feel and hear the sound of cricket ball dislodging the bails. Like a searing yorker from Brett Lee that had hit the wickets of an indecisive batsman. This question had him like a yorker that hits the middle stump. He suddenly looked quite puzzled and perplexed.

“Absentmindedness… Damn!” I could feel these thoughts flowing through his mind. After all, didn’t look good, being in a funny situation, facing your subordinate.

Gathering his wits, he replied – “It was good, it was good, very good. Quite interesting! Maybe you should also go next time they organise this. It was good. Very good”

I was just counting the number of good he was using in the conversation while trying hard to conceal the discomfiture and awkwardness he had put himself in. He didn’t stay there for much longer, and quickly zoomed off talking “It was good, good, enjoy your week” with a wide snigger on his face. He walked straight to his cabin, sank into his seat, and absorbed his eyes onto the computer screen. Not looking right, not looking left, fully immersed into the seemingly infinity looking screen for the next one hour.

The day and the entire week went on well for me. After all, when somebody has such an enjoyable start to the day, nothing can go wrong.

What about boss? Nothing ado about it! Even the great Albert Einstein too had gone through lots of ineptness like this. A fair bit of genius can compensate a state of forgetfulness.