On Corruption


I have some comments on the recent furore over Mr. Hazare’s campaign to bring in the Jan lokpal bill.

There are three levels of corruption depending on the amount of money and the number of persons involved:

  1. At the top level (this is opportunistic and gradually becoming systemic),
  2. At the department level (this is systemic and the process and ROI is clearly laid out)
  3. At the individual level.

I will not focus on the first two; Mr. Hazare and his well wishers are doing that, and I wish them all the best.

Is the individual level of corruption systemic or opportunistic? When a policeman finds fault with my motorcycle papers and demands a graft, do I not pay? Is this not systemic, since every month the policeman needs to fulfill his quota. Is it not systemic, as he has paid a bribe to get a choice posting and he needs to recoup this expense? Are you a victim or is he a victim? Is the government not to blame to raising  prices and not raising the policeman’s salary? Am I not to blame for taking a shortcut of paying the bribe, because I can afford it, my time is valuable, I need to see the movie or reach my destination?

Can this bribe be considered the self-adjustment of the system towards an equilibrium, towards a peaceful co-existence? It is possible that we rationalise the bribe-paying as balancing some inequality of status and opportunity?

When we asked our representative for the freebies he should provide us if he needs our votes, or accepted those freebies, did we not start corrupting our representatives? Did we not rationalise this action?

When Chanakya talked about ‘Daam,’ is ‘Daam’ only about payment for services rendered, be it legitimate or illegitimate? Is it not our thoughts that rationalise and determine legitimacy?

When I consider some act unfair and seeks redress, I believe myself justified in taking any means to correct the unfairness.  We have done this all our life. Our thoughts determine the legitimacy of our act.

When a CEO considers some laws unfair and evades them, we lionise the CEO as being creative. Did we not allow corruption of the laws?

Corruption is inside us. Let us not blame the outside world, the ‘system’, the CEOs as being corrupt and consider ourselves to be pure. When we take short-cuts, cheat, lie, rationalise to ourselves, create beliefs about people and situations, we corrupt ourselves.

Our beliefs lead to emotions and actions. Justified and rationalised beliefs lead to justified and rationlised emotions and actions. We cannot label these emotions and actions as corrupt, and we cannot separate corruption of beliefs from the resultant corrupt thoughts and actions.

Is there some ethical and moral code that we are believe in? As long as our thoughts are selfish, what morality are we talking about? If we justify survival of the fittest and intolerance towards others, are we justified in taking the high ground about morality?

Is it the money that we pay as bribes that we are objecting to, at this individual level, or is it the blackmail?  Is this why Mr. Hazare’s campaign seems to be gathering force, that we can see that we can blackmail the government? The shoe is on the other foot?

Why is this support against corruption gathering force, and other ongoing campaigns not having support? What about Ms Irom Sharmila and her 10-year fast, the fights against systemic corruption in the rest of India like the mining mafia in Goa, Karnataka, Bihar, MP, the dams and the uprooting of people, and the old Bhopal Gas leak tragedy?

Is this a better orchestrated campaign? Is it the drama? Is it our need for instant gratification, where we are seeing immediate results? Is it the tilting at the windmills, cocking our snook at the powers-that-be, showing them that they are not as invincible as they thought? Is Ms. Hazare our new angry “young” man, fighting on our behalf?

There is a certain corruption inside us: our need for gratification, need for excitement, the emotions of self-righteousness, need to be part of history, specially winners. Mr. Hazare’s campaign gives us all this. Which is why long-drawn campaigns lose support. All informal surveys seem to indicate people do not know the difference between the bills, students are enjoying the drama and absence from classes, and everyone is out there, abdicating their duties. Gandhi had the ability to withstand the lathi charges, I wonder how many supporters in this campaign would do so?

We have to look inside ourselves and decide if we have the courage to (a) fight the corruption inside us (b) support other campaigns that too need our help.

Otherwise, this will be a flash in the pan. The press coverage will stop, as people seek a different drama. Even if we get the bill passed, the implementation is fraught with peril for two reasons:

  1. The Lokpal will have power, and with all power, comes the opportunity for misuse. Will we need a super-lokpal to check this?  How much time will it take to set up the alternate bureaucracy and the checks and balances.
  2. With all the lok-ayuktas, the judiciary, the vigilance committees, the auditor-generals, which were supposed to take care of the second type of corruption; with Anna’s bill taking care of the first type of corruption, who will take care of the third type of corruption? And since the second type of corruption could not be taken care of, despite so many regulatory bodies, what makes us sure this is the right way?

All I say is, let us control the corruption within us, because all external measures will come to naught if we are not ready internally to accept the pain that accompanies incorruptibility. It is not easy.

Mind maps revisited


Some time ago, I had written an article about mind maps.  J Murali’s article on mind maps today

shows a mind map of how to organise a topic for ready reference.

Think of its use just before exams or interviews.

How to Make Profits AND Contribute to Society


Social Entrepreneurship.

This word has been bandied around a lot, and many companies, colleges and people pay lip service to it.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_entrepreneurship

  1. How do we create a sustainable enterprise that makes profits and fulfills social obligations?
  2. Can we help uplift the stature of the small town that we came from, where we were nurtured, before the city lights seduced us to the big city?
  3. How can we make more money that by having a job in the city?
  4. How can we have more stature and recognition than being a factory worker in a big corporation?
  5. Can we take the unemployed youth of our town, the girls who are prevented from having a career in another city and make something that will create wealth for the young people of our town?

NextWealth is showing the way. Read it here.

How I wish that some more mentees used this example, and created a sustainable enterprise in their home towns.

As you start an MBA program


When you join an MBA course, you consider yourself a student. You behave like a student, learning from classes and books. When you leave the MBA course, after completing it, you are no longer a student. You are a corporate citizen and are being paid to behave like one.

In these two years, what have you learnt that makes you into a corporate citizen? Knowledge of management and its streams?

Does knowledge of Marketing, Finance, HR, IT and Operations make you a manager? Does that provide value to a company? The company can also search the internet for the data that you profess to have. In fact it is cheaper and more efficient, as this data is available in searchable form while it is available only incompletely in your mind. The difference between the internet and you is that you have arms and leg and can do things. But do what?

Doing things in a company means listening to your boss, understanding what he wants and doing it to his satisfaction. remember your boss contributes 90% to your career.

Doing things in a company means promoting yourself, your boss and your company and its products.

Doing things means executing projects to everyone’s satisfaction.

Doing things means influencing everyone to do what is required to be done.

How do you learn this in college if you are focused on memorizing and vomiting information?

If an MBA college teaches only theory, the instructors are simply aggregators of information. If you want book summaries, they are there on the internet. Why attend classes. Moreover, why not do a correspondence course?

So in order to be useful to any organization, apart from knowing the theory of management, you need to learn the practice of management.

You may argue: why do this?

  1. This is a college, not a company and there is no opportunity to practice management.
  2. Practice is what we will do in a company, we should focus on getting the maximum theory in college.

Let us evaluate these beliefs. By the way, these beliefs come from a resistance to transition from a student in academic life to an adult in real life. You will fight tooth and nail to resist these changes, because they move you out of your comfort zone.

  1.  A company is made for profit and has an objective of creating a product, its need and to sell it. Everything else is secondary. You have an objective of creating yourself into an MBA, creating a need for you and sell yourself in an interview. Are you not a company?
  2. You need to listen to your instructors, the deans, will your boss be any different?
  3. You need to execute group assignments and individual assignments to everyone’s satisfaction, in a give time period. Is this not execution of projects?
  4. You need to convince your colleagues and your professors to give you what you want. Is this not practicing influence?
  5. Why should a company pay to teach you the practice of management?
  6. Why should a company give you a high salary because you have imperfect theoretical knowledge?
  7. Why should a company take a risk on you that you will be able to satisfactorily practice management? There is no proof and predictability of your capability.

So what should you do as an MBA student.

  1. Keep an eye on your placement-ability. What does the market want and what can you do.
  2. Understand that the college social system is no different from a company, with its own share of internal competition, cooperation, politics, groupism and need for influence. If you cannot handle yourself here, you will not be a good corporate citizen
  3. Apart from mugging up information, you need to create transferable skills like managing your emotions, critical thinking, managing others, managing projects, managing stakeholders…managing life.

Dante’s Divine Comedy


Dante Alighieri wrote this allegorical epic poem in the 1300s. This is his examination of the afterlife. One travels through the Inferno (Hell), the Purgatorio (Purgatory), and the Paradiso (Heaven).

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

Understand that this is an allegory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory It is not a treatise on Christianity. Here is my interpretation

  1. All actions and inactions have consequences, intended or unintended. If you do not know the consequences or ignore the consequences, these ripples will come and impact you later…ripples take time and space to travel. The later part of your life in time and space is the after-life. That means you do not know when and where the consequences will impact you. And it can become hell because of what you did in your previous part of your life.
  2. Once you have suffered the consequences, you need to decide how you want to move forward. If you mope and whine, you continue living in hell. But if you have thought it thorough and decided, enough is enough, I accept the consequences, and move on, you are into purgatory. Purgatory cleanses you. Fire burns off all impurities from gold. You pass through, burnished.
  3. Once you have been purged of your guilt, your pain, and all negative emotions, you are left with positive emotions
  4. Now you are in heaven, as you start finding happiness in every small thing. You know how to reframe.

Values and personality formation – some theory


This comes from writings by Tad James who is paraphrasing the sociologist Morris Massey. Some parts have been removed for succinctness.

There are three major periods that a person will go through in values and personality formation.

  • the Imprint Period, which occurs from birth until age 7
  • the Modeling Period, which is from 8 to 13
  • the Socialization Period, from 14 to 21.


The Imprint Period, from birth to age 7, is the time when we are like a sponge. We pick up and store everything that goes on in our environment. We get our basic programming in that Imprint Period. Our basic programming occurs between ages 2 and 4, and by the time a child is 4, most of the major programming has occurred. Most of the phobias are created between ages 3 and 7. That is where we find most of the earliest experiences that serve as the basis for a phobia. (Of course, there may be amplifications or reinforcement of the phobia after that.) There may also be no remembrance of the creation of the phobia because the learning processes that occur during the Imprint Period are largely unconscious. The Imprint Period occurs from ages 0 to 7 and is the basic programming of an individual. The child unconsciously picks up the parents’ behavior.


The ages 8 through 13 are the Modeling Period. Between 8 and 13 the child begins to consciously and unconsciously model basic behaviors. I can plainly remember a time when I was about 10. I was with my grandfather, who had a rather severe limp. I was unconsciously mimicking his way of walking. He saw me and scolded me for doing that, and yet at the time I was not aware I had been copying him. Perhaps you, too, can recall memories of how you modeled adults during this time. Maybe you can even remember having to dress just like Mommy or Daddy.

Before age 7 or so, the child is mostly unaware of any difference between the parents and himself. The child experiences no difference from parents. Then at age 8 the child begins to notice that there are people outside himself, and through age 13 he begins to look outside himself at the goings on in the world. They notice the behaviour of friends and family and model them. At that point, children begin to develop heroes. We notice that children have fewer conscious heroes before age 7 than after from age 8 to 13 they begin to start picking up the values of the people they have made into heroes. Massey’s point of view is that our major values about life are picked up between 8 and 13 (at around age 10). In addition, his point of view is that your values are based on where you were and what was happening in the world when you were 10.


Ages 14 through 21 we call the Socialization Period. The child goes through a Socialization Period where social interaction begins with other human beings. The young adult here picks up relationships and social values, most of which will be used throughout the rest of his life. At age 21, values formation is just about complete. At this point core values do not change unless there is a significant emotional experience (or other therapeutic change is done). Other more conscious values change and evolve continually. People change and grow and their values change over time. The values people start with, however, the basic core values, are formed around age 10 and locked in at age 21.



What is concentration? Is it focus? What does focus mean? Is it an action, where the retinal image is sharp? When you are listening to music – ‘concentrating’ on it – your eyes are defocused and closed. Are your ears sharpened? So is it using your senses more acutely? What does concentration during a lecture mean? Listening, hearing and feeling intently? Then how do you assimilate knowledge? What about the thinking part of learning?

Let us analyse this differently. Is concentration the absence of distraction? So when I close the door, turn off the music, create a sensory vacuum, am I concentrating?Our mind cannot be shut, our thoughts cannot be stopped.

I would say concentration is not getting distracted even if there are distractions present. Concentration is continuing towards your goal irrespective of distractions. What prevents us from concentrating?

  1. We do not have a goal. When we study, we just read a book until we fall asleep or get distracted. Distractions can be physical / external distractions – the ones that disturb our senses – people talking, moving, watching other things like emails etc. Or they can be mental / emotional / internal distractions – when our mind starts wandering. We lose our sense of the goal.
  • So ideally, we should have a goal. We have the concept of micro-goals or ‘chunking down’ – breaking a goal into tiny sub-goals. In project management, we call these milestones. They are a measure of progress and they are a reason to celebrate small successes. I want to see my email – I decide that I will see it after I finish and understand 10 pages or even 5 pages. I should reward myself with things that I love to do – after I reach a micro-goal.
  1. Our mind plays games with us. It distracts us. We daydream. We go into flights of fancy, wishful thinking. Or we think of past incidents and try to give some meaning to of it (remember outliers and black swans). The way to handle it is not by telling our mind to shut up and focus. It is to watch the distractions and the thoughts but not get involved in it.
  • When I teach meditation in class, it is not to raise our Kundalini or attain Samadhi or to blank my mind. It is to observe our thoughts, but not get involved in them. It is like I am the station master and a thought is a train, where the engine is the thought and the bogies are the emotions. We, as station masters of our mind, do not climb the bogey and ride with the train – we wave a green flag, observe and record the train timing and go back to our room – whatever we were originally doing.

The essence of concentration is not to have so much focus that we are lost in it. It is that we are aware of what our senses are feeling and what our mind is thinking, but we are not distracted by the thinking and the feeling. Too much focus is also a strain. It does not allow us to relax and assimilate. The best way to understand a paragraph is not to focus on each word, but to focus on a sentence and gradually the whole paragraph. That requires us to broaden our vision, not narrow it.

While reading J Krishnamurthi on education, I came across advice on how to meditate. It may be worthwhile to paraphrase the same:

“To learn about meditation, you have to see how your mind is working. You have to watch, as you watch a lizard going by, walking across the wall. You see all its four feet, how it sticks to the wall, and as you watch, you see all the movements. In the same way, watch your thinking. Do not correct it. Do not suppress it. Do not say, “All this is too difficult”. Just watch; now, this morning.

“First of all sit absolutely still. Sit comfortably, cross your legs, sit absolutely still, close your eyes, and see if you can keep your eyes from moving. You understand? Your eye balls are apt to move, keep them completely quiet, for fun. Then, as you sit very quietly, find out what your thought is doing. Watch it as you watched the lizard. Watch thought, the way it runs, one thought after another. So you begin to learn, to observe.

“Are you watching your thoughts – how one thought pursues another thought, thought saying, “This is a good thought, this is a bad thought”? When you go to bed at night, and when you walk, watch your thought. Just watch thought, do not correct it, and then you will learn the beginning of meditation. Now sit very quietly. Shut your eyes and see that the eyeballs do not move at all. Then watch your thoughts so that you learn. Once you begin to learn there is no end to learning.”

Sales is about managing the numbers


The process of sales is to start with the universe of ‘suspects’ who could possibly buy my product (here I can very creative in creating this universe, thinking laterally helps), then based on some criteria narrow it down to ‘prospects’ – these are persons with whom I will have to seek appointments (called approach), then I will spend some time (2-3 times) meeting these people, then get down to ‘negotiation’ then ‘close’ the deal and then get a cheque (order).

The conversion ratio for each stage is different for different industries. Say, the conversion ratio is 2:1 at each stage (S.P.A.N.C.O), this means for one order, I need two closes, 4 negotiations, 8 approaches, 16 prospects and 32 suspects.

As a poor sales man, I will create 32 suspects and then run though the sales cycle to get one order. Suppose this takes 14 days. If I, then, start the new cycle, I will get an order after 14 days. That means, in a 8 week program, like SIP, I will get 4 orders.

As a good salesman, I will

  • start day 1 with 32 suspects,
  • start day 2 with 32 new suspects and 16 prospects of day 1,
  • start day 3 with 32 new suspects, 16 prospects of day 2 and 8 approaches of day 1
  • start day 4 with 32 new suspects, 16 prospects of day 3 and 8 approaches of day 2 and 4 negotiations from day 1…etc.

This means every day I will have to spend time creating a new set of suspects and following up with the funnel of the previous days.

My sales is limited by

  • how I manage time each day
  • how fast I move from one stage to another, and
  • how good is my conversion ratio

To be a good sales person, I need to start thinking, check out the best sales person in my company, talk to him, accompany him …take short-cuts to learn the best practices.


If I am waiting in the reception, I should pick up my mobile and start finding out suspects and their details, start talking to prospects to get an appointment….

Good salespeople are NOT people with the gift of the gab, they are people who are focussed on their numbers.

Of carpentry and MBA


To learn to make a chair, there are three approaches.

I can teach you how to make a chair in theory and tell you a lot more about wood, types of chairs, design etc. This allows me to teach you a lot of things, and you gain knowledge about chairs, its history and how to make them. You can know all about chairs in a short amount of time and you would feel that you are getting value for money.

But you too can read a book (maybe not as many) to get the same knowledge.

You need a buyer who wants your knowledge instead of him reading a book. So you are substitute for his time. You are his google. You can use methods and tools that you learnt in different and creative ways. You are paid for your creativity.

If a chair needs to be made, your buyer will tell you to get it made and either you will micromanage the carpenter or try it yourself. The first chair created will be terrible. You may not be able to communicate to the carpenter and he will make a chair as perhis belief since he did not understand you or thinks you don’t know anything or does not want to listen to you.

This is what most of the educational institutes do.


I can ask you to make a chair and learn from your mistakes. Since making a chair is physical, it takes time. That means you will learn very few things in the limited amount of time but you have more expertise in these few things.

The buyer knows that you have made a chair and if needed you can make a decent chair. However, the buyer may not need a chair. Also you cannot be his google so he has to spend time himself to learn something, or ask you to learn something and then tell him. Both ways, a lot of time is spent on too few things. You are being paid for your expertise. If the buyer wants a different type of chair, you may not have expertise in it.

If a buyer is clear he wants carpenters who can build a chair, he will want you. When he asks you to make a chair, you will have better rapport with the carpenters because you can roll up your sleeves and help build. You will also create more realistic project plans.

This is what most students want. But then what is the difference between engineering students and polytechnic students?


I can tell you where you can read the theory and then discuss how someone (the subject) else made a chair. You can go through the process, using your theoretical knowledge and making comments on the process. I can add practicality based on my experience. So you learn from my experience of making a chair, your thoughts about making a chair, and the subject’s processof making a chair. So you learn from two persons who have made chairs, and clarify your thought process. I can also ask you how else to make a chair, and that will promote creativity. Drawbacks are that you need to learn the theory yourself – as without this background, you will not understand what is going on, I need to have done this before, and you will get your hands dirty only virtually, not physically.

This is the case method, which requires equal participation from the student and me.

The buyer needs to know that you have seen how a chair is made, you have discussed with 2 carpenters what can go wrong, what went right etc. And you have a lot of knowledge about a lot of topics with some practical experience.

What is the right approach?

There is no such thing as a quick pill


We have a headache, we take aspirin or paracetamol or consult a so-called expert, take their recommendation and get back to doing what we were doing. Since the problem goes away, we do not bother. Each time the headache returns, we take a larger dose or try a different medicine. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. One day we realise that this is not working and go to a proper doctor. We then understand that the root cause was different, by which time it may be too late.

We treat life the same way. When we have a problem, we consult a so-called expert or read a self-help book and apply its principles. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.

There are tens of thousands of ‘self-help’ or ‘how-to’ books, ranging from fixing your physical problems (weight, looks, complexion, height) to fixing your emotional and mental problems (memory, speed of thinking, control of emotions) to fixing your after-life (spiritual, religious problems). If they give quick fixes, it is a good book or advice. If it asks you to do things from basic principles (like yoga) where the results take too much time in coming or are not evident, we do not like that book or advice.

We become evangelists of some remedies thatwork. We close our eyes to the root problems, or ignore any signs that are contrary to our beliefs. We also try to convert others to our way of thinking. We force our beliefs on others. Check out the latest diet, fad, religion, spiritual guru.

The answers are within ourselves. We are a product of what we didor did not do in the past. All this past programming made us what we are today. This cannot be deprogrammed by an instant pill. We have to spend a certain amount of time undoing and redoing.

We then have four choices.

  1. We can get disheartened and keep searching for the magic pill. We will run from one fad to the other, ask more and more quacks about what to do and believe that the symptomatic relief is the final cure.
  2. We can accept ourselves as what we are, and by the same token, accept others as they are. We understand our shortcomings and work around them, and compensate for others’ shortcomings and/or help them.
  3. We can start the process of undoing and redoing the most important things. For example, health issues happen when we are old, and we have time to undo/redo our range of activities pertaining to our health. However, once we have taken the career path of ,say, engineering, we cannot go back into medical.
  4. We can, early on in life, start doing the right things, so that we are programmed the right way. This requires us to analyse and agree that we need to create some skill sets, find the best way to do it and stick to it, giving it a chance.