My dad, an Ex-Indian Airforce Servant, opted for a VRS nearly 20 years after serving the nation and technically now he “fulfills” the retirement age! Just as they say “A soldier never retires”, dad can never stop working or stop using his skills to contribute in a meaningful way. If there is nothing that he could apply his skills at, he would dismantle a machine and re-fix it in his signature style. Dad and I even speak of swapping our lives and he would throw at me a wide smile with his standard dialogue “With pleasure!” It’s such a pleasure to be with him, surrounded by his energy, his endeavor to be physically fit and the never say never attitude.
Back then, in my early college days, like any other defense kid, I was someone badly wanting to be a soldier. It was such an obvious career choice in fact. Your neighbors, your friends parents, everyone around you, and even your priest most of the times were all soldiers. It was nearly obvious that I would be that “man” in the uniform one day, with a bob cut, rank on the chest and the most desirable service cap. Little did I know I would be someone not working on the fields, not hearing loud sortie sounds incessantly, not surrounded by people in the uniform (even in the hospitals), not hear a “Jai Hind” but a “Hello” in response to receiving a call and not get transferred to another strange remote city every 3 years! It was difficult to digest as reality hit me, leading the life of a “civilian”. The world on the other side of a highly cozy yet rugged Air Force neighborhood was unreal and non-existential. It was nothing less than a culture shock getting away from this vicinity to that, first as dad chose to retire, second my job that did not give me the “kick” in comparison to that of a “Fauji’s”, third, things like harassment existed in our country; last and most importantly we are identified as North & South India and that I had to really have an answer to where I belonged, and that saying just “India” could feel sarcastic to someone or even offensive.
It was in fact so strange most importantly because dad never let us feel that being a soldier is not a bed of roses. But now, after nearly 8 years of my corporate life, managing household responsibilities and work and trying hard to match up to parents energy, their high social quotient and the “little is more” attitude, feels nothing but a dream that can never come true! Now the best thing is, through the course of the entire journey there are certain lessons and values I have embedded and carry along. Here are My Top 5 lessons picked up from my Fauji and an equally strong and bold Fauji’s wife, that I will carry along with pleasure:
ONE – It’s Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been – A Soldier
Every one goes through rough path, some due to situation created by self and some by someone you never even met. All you have to do is trust yourself and your ability NO MATTER WHAT while Be prepared to face the worst. A soldier doesn’t sit idle when there is no war. Every day is meant to sharpen the saw and to be the best. Call it your mental & physical dis-ease, A row with a colleague, a strategy you are unable to crack, a data you want to conquer, unending work, everyone is your enemy you needs to shoot them down. Believe that you are a competent soldier and you will get them all. Every Single Day!
TWO – Save Your Time To Save Your Life
For a soldier a minute’s delay could cost a life in the battle field that critical & agile is the environment around her. Understand the actual (or the longest) approach to a process while as a next step define the best, fastest and easiest way to do it and try to automate to make your life easy, while keeping a watch on the automated behavior. Create your own “Controlled field”, create a schedule, divide and conquer. As being counterproductive could cost nothing but your own life.
THREE – Fake It Till You Become It
Meet a soldier who has just passed his POP and compare him to what he was before his SSB. The difference between the two is what it takes you to be your own hero! Understand yourself well, what are you right now vs what you want to be in long run. Start behaving like what you want to be already and that’s the only way you reach your goal. Cribbing, finding out reasons for failure that you are a woman, having too much to handle, and underestimating your own will & yourself are your worst enemies, again, shoot them all down. Its ok to feel overwhelmed and out of control, but taking care of yourself and bouncing back with the same vigor without having anything or anyone to blame your failure upon will give you larger reason to perform very well. So use effective tools of your choice be it time management matrix or schedules to understand your lag indicators and Stay in control.
FOUR – A Sense Of Purpose Magically Lays The Path like an SOP
Everyone goes through a “writers block” especially when delegated something that might in fact sound abrupt or even another box to be ticked. What works like magic is taking some time to understand the origin of the request, second and most important what will be the cost of not doing it well (huge cost to the company? A job loss? Or nothing really?), every project comes into existence by that one person who saw a great value or vision behind it, see if you can talk to the person, if not, how about gathering as much information as possible, ask relevant questions to the relevant stakeholders and the metrices & why, and some more whys till you finally are convinced to get to the chase and why not? You are the one doing it, you have all rights to ask the right questions till the point you are convinced to do it. And remember after all the information gathering, your zest at value adding to it should be unaltered and consistent. You will see you have tread a long way and to the point that it indirectly or directly relates to what you have been doing. Such is the power of purpose as you naturally try relating to what you do and define the WIIFM/P factor.
FIVE – Confidence with Humility and High SQ
Be the one you are – smart, confident, rugged, with a tinge of empathy and sympathy. A soldier is meant to serve the nation. Find out your nation – your target audience. At work your stakeholder, customers, etc, or at home all your friends, your relatives etc. Have a great relationship with them, we all need them all the time, make this collaboration successful by helping them with all your heart, support them and lift them up, be available for them when in need, talk to them often, make your presence positively felt and be some one they speak good things about when you are away but remember to be assertive, you have your values and goals don’t let them evaporate.
There still are times I find myself lost and not on track while a quick phone call to dad helps me bring myself back on track without even talking about it. All of us needs that “Fauji” in our lives to bring us back to sanity. Find out your go-to person who doesn’t need any explanation but magically pulls you back on track to why you wanted whatever you signed up for at the first place. Continue to be the Soldier you always wanted to be as you have all that it takes to be one!
–By Shilpa V
Title: Talent Branding Lead, Global Strategic Resourcing Group, HR