To achieve a goal you have never achieved before you must do things you have never done before ~Stephen Covey
What is so inspiring? All of us already know that in order to do something new, we are expected to do something different.
Well, the answer is “FISH discover water last”. I will write a separate blog to explain why fish discover water last. Lets find out the relation between 4DX and the above quote.
The 4DX or The four disciplines of execution is designed to create a winnable game. Very simple and easy to understand while tricky to implement and sustain because this requires us to work differently than what we do.
Steve Jobs quoted “Ideas are worthless without execution”. It is easy to say that someone “stole your idea” but the truth of the matter is that ideas are worthless until they’re brought to life and executed
The 4 Disciplines of execution – A wonderful book written by Mr. Sean Covey where he talked about how focusing on goals that matter and further how to win the game by step by step process. You can be very well assured that this really works with more than 1500 organizations that have adopted it and seen wonderful results.
In order to understand the disciplines, let’s understand the two key concepts
A leader can influence two of the items when it comes to producing results.
Strategy and Ability to execute that strategy. Which one you think leader struggle with more – I don’t have to ask as it’s obvious.
The answer is the ability to execute the strategy.
In case if you are MBA or spend time in learning management – What did you were taught? “It’s Strategy”
No wonders great strategies fail – Now the question is why people fail to execute the goals – It’s because of whirlwind. Whirlwind – These are existing work and urgent tasks that need attention now. For example – Management reports, KPI, Status report, reviewing code, 1x1s, and the list goes on.
On contrary to that there is another concept called WIG or wildly important goals (WIG) which are nothing but “new activities” and “Innovation” which affects the future success
If you closely observe you would find whirlwind are urgent items because it affects today while WIGs are extremely important items that affect the future. When there is a battle between Urgency and Importance, obviously urgency will win.
Now, let’s understand the 4 step process to make a balance between your WIG and Whirlwind.
Discipline of Focus
Ask yourself if everything else remained the same, what is the one thing you could change that would have the greatest impact.
If you have 4-10 goals – you achieve 1. if you go with more than 10, you typically achieve none. Interestingly if you have 2-3 goals, the chances of achieving them all are very high. Sounds interesting, isn’t it?
To define a WIG; Identify 1. Where are you now, 2. Where you want to be 3. & By When
Or you define the starting line, finish line, and deadline
Focus on your wildly important goals
Focus on less to accomplish more
There are always good ideas than the capacity to execute
Focus on what not how
Inability to reject good ideas
This is the disciplines of focus and the first step for creating a winnable game
Discipline of leverage
The second discipline is to act on the lead measure. In order to understand this, we need to understand lead and lag measures
Lag Measure – Lag measures measure results towards your wildly important goal. They’re easy to measure but hard to influence.
Lead Measures – Most high impact things you must do to achieve your goal.
If we take the same weight loss example, I want to lose 10 kg by December. The 10kg is the lag measure. The lead measure would be cutting 100 calories a day and working our 5 times a week.
Using Lag Measures without Lead Measures is dangerous. They only measure the result of your goal. Lead Measures can influence the chance of success in achieving your goal. They are even predictive of success.
Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
Think of a bunch of players playing a cricket match on the ground
People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win. Great teams know at every moment whether they are winning or losing. They must know, otherwise, they don’t know what they have to do to win the game. We need to publish the score regularly and that should be visible to everyone. The Agile “Information radiators” plays a critical role here.
Discipline 1, 2, and 3 are nothing but a formula for creating a winnable game. Discipline 4 is how we play the game hence it’s the most important activity we need to focus on
Create a Cadence of accountability
Discipline 4 is to create a cadence of accountability – It’s all about regular and frequent team meetings that focus on the wildly important goals. You should remember
This should not last more than 20 to 30 minutes
The meeting should be held at the same time and same day of the week. Consistency is critical to have a sustained cadence of accountability.
The whirlwind never allowed in the WIG session no matter, how urgent it may seem.
The focus of the session is to make team members hold each other accountable. In this meeting, we would have answers to three things
What did we accomplish last week?
Did that move our lead or lag measure or need to course correct
What are 1-2 things we should do to push the lead measure which would push the lag measure?
The Behaviors play a critical role while ensuring 4 steps
Establish a sense of urgency (Kotter’s law of change) – The constant sense of danger to survive or innovative leadership can bring in urgency. Precisely you are expected to challenge the status quo and push employees to no longer be complacent.
Change is inevitable – We need to realize that change is mandatory but you don’t need to be perfect. Have you heard of leaders’ plans to plan and further plan – to achieve perfection but the same focus is not there in execution. Don’t be perfect. Perfection is a fallacy. Start with a good plan and move towards perfection.
Take an economic view – It’s tough to say no to good ideas. Use the Pareto principle which is 20% of ideas will generate 80% of success. Pick what is important and narrow your focus. The human brain is not programmed to multitask. Prioritize looking at the benefits of goal to the organization and not with emotions
Don’t make your Whirlwind to be a WIG – Don’t get so busy that you are 100% reactive. 20% of your time must be focused on doing WIG then only you can make a difference and that would result in organizational success.
The decision should go where the knowledge exists – Unless a decision is one time, makes a significant financial impact, move that to your team. That would help you to move faster and at the same time help your directs to grow in their career.
Intrinsic motivation – This is one of my favorites. This is from the book Drive written in 2009. If you want to bring the highest level of motivation to your team, you should focus on three core factors – Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
Autonomy– people are trusted and encouraged to take ownership of their own work and skill development.
Mastery– people see no limits to their potential and are given the tools they need to continue to improve their skills.
Purpose– people are encouraged to use their skills to achieve a “greater” purpose – for instance, getting involved in a “good cause” that they are passionate about.
Money doesn’t motivate people though not giving enough money demotivates them.
Credit Game – Don’t fall into trap of getting the credit. Have you observed people want to sign up for every initiative just for “Face Value”? As a leader, you should discourage that and moreover lift people up based on the outcome they produce. It is very easy to develop bias because somebody has said great words about your people or your direct has taken up great sessions. Once you are focused on the outcome, people would start getting out of the credit game. Focus on the outcome and not output.
A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.
Create short term wins – Remember principle #3 – Keeping a compelling scoreboard – It’s imperative to create short term wins. Celebrate your wins – Celebrate success and celebrate failure but ensure that you keep moving towards your goal.
Embrace the feedback – If you are wrong, accept mistakes. If you get feedback, listen, and act. Don’t shoot the messenger instead embrace your messenger. Feedback is the best way to improve faster.
Relentless improvement – Last but not least, continually improve. The relentless improvement is mandatory in the current competing priorities. You can go up the ladder or go down. You can never stay where you are today. Create an environment where people are encouraged to learn, read, and contribute. In fact, go back and read the book which will be given to you. Make sure the team read this before you start following 4 DX in your team.
I want to release anytime, I don’t want iterations, I want to skip estimation, I have challenges with self-organizing teams, I want to change my priorities,
I need better visualization, I want to process that is more adaptable, Scope creep is my major concern, I am want to handle support tickets, I am afraid of sprint failure and end of picking less work, I can’t break down stories enough to complete within the sprint.
Before I get into details, review below carefully, this would suffice the need for moving to Kanban over Scrum or XP.
There are teams that have a more responsive nature of work like maintenance, fixing customer bugs, run time day to day requests, etc.
It may not be a good idea for these teams to plan the sprint or iteration since a lot of activities will become overhead. In addition to that, we need to break the Agile principles for instance constantly adding items to sprint during execution, not doing refinement in advance, accepting back-to-back sprint failure, and more.
Not doing Scrum does not mean they would not publish the work. They are still expected to commit approx work (Preferably in terms of story points) in a given time period.
They commit to goals and SLA based on the past data
Scrum is great while the world is not a perfect place. You can always overcome challenges associated with it but if you have another Agile method is even more flexible there is no harm in leveraging that. I see many organizations are switching to Kanban and getting wonderful results. I don’t have the intention to move you from what you have been doing while I am just trying to initiate a thought process and philosophy around Kanban.
Let’s understand the above in more detail with real-time scenarios. A group of project managers gathered to discuss the challenges they have with the existing process with senior management. Let’s look at some of the interesting areas what they have put forward on the table (I am sure you can relate one or more areas if you have managed agile teams)
Project Manager 1:(Team is afraid of Sprint failure) My team has very fewer items in sprint compare to what they can accomplish as they are scared of sprint failure. Despite that, I don’t have successful sprints as one or items roll most times as we get blocked. I can’t allow my team to pick more middle of a sprint
Project Manager 2: (Prod issues; Lot of support to other teams) My team builds new features while I am expected to support some of the other teams for whom we provide back-end services. The requests coming from them is our top priority whenever it’s related to prod for them. The amount of work that comes from different teams vary and we cannot assign fixed bandwidth to deal with those issues. Most of our Sprint we have one of these two situations
The sprint fails because we need to focus on supporting other teams.
We are done much before the sprint ends. Pulling new work is not allowed mid-sprint hence we use that time for learning while this is not a great idea all the time.
Project Manager 3: (Support work; Tickets) I have all the support work. The estimation has been a challenge most times. A bug takes a day or a week, it all depends on the product I work for is huge and we have most of the newer members. How can I make sure my sprints are successful and at the same time, we as a team don’t under commit?
Project Manager 4: (Adaptive to more adaptive) My team hates too many ceremonies and processes. They think of having a lightweight process which is more adaptive over-prescriptive, is much better. All of them are experienced/committed and understand their roles and responsibilities.
Project Manager 5: (Time and material; Longer stories; Unpredictable work)We built adapters and I don’t see the benefit of breaking down and doing that in parts. We have a deadline for every adapter and we kept getting blocked. We are fine to wait as we are on the “time and material” contract. Getting blocked from the customer end doesn’t harm as billing doesn’t stop. How do I fit in a work which takes a few weeks to a couple of months?
Project Manager 6: (Frequent priority shift) Our priorities changes very frequently. Many times we literally have to stop what we are working on and start something else. Getting new work done in the next sprint doesn’t help as the work we are doing becomes useless even if that’s completed due to change in priority.
Project Manager 7: (Customer or Sprint success) Our company’s top priority is to manage customers and their expectations while we always focus on velocity and sprint success. This becomes challenging as in order to manage customer priorities, we compromise Scrum priorities or vice versa. Both are not good ideas. In the first option, you are disregarding a process resulting in low team morale and an unpredictable outcome. The later is not acceptable anyway 🙂
Project Manager 8: (The product owner struggles)The PO struggles to lock down the requirements for a week. He keeps adding work to sprint throughout the week, changing existing requirements, and even providing/updating acceptance criteria during the sprint.
Projects Manager 9: (Team experience or complex work)My team has challenges with breaking the requirements or estimating the work. The sprint success matters most to me (Why-Sprint-Success-is-Important). I end up being unhappy most times.
Kanban could be one of the solutions for most of the problems listed above. The comparison of Kanban with Scrum/XP and some of the core frameworks is available here
Sprint success is really important when you talk about Scrum. The Sprint fails due to a variety of reasons like team experience, The challenges with breaking down stories, unpredictable work, Customer focus precedes team priorities, support work, and many other challenges as listed above. Many times either we run too much to having a successful sprint (By means of slogging or patch up work) or do not think of a successful sprint at all. Both are not good options.
In my upcoming blogs, I would be talking in detail about how to use Kanban, best practices, myths, and an easy shift from the existing process to Kanban. Please provide your comments below. This would help me to cover all aspects of my next set of blogs on Kanban.
SAFe Agile is extremely prescriptive, works only with command and control from the top management – Is this a Myth? – Let’s explore to know the answer
Before I share my thoughts, let me add a disclaimer
I have a strong faith in SAFe
I am very much inclined to SAFe values, principles, and practices
“If you are on agile, scaling agile becomes relatively easy”
Let’s say your company is running on broken agile processes or is on a waterfall methodology, you can still be successful with SAFe but the chances are reduced significantly. The SAFe suggests significant benefits in 3-5 years while you will hear from people that the magical outcome in productivity, quality, employee morale, etc would come in 3-6 months. Let’s explore slightly deeper:-
I think you would agree that most of the transformations begin with top-down command and control for the simple reason that change is not easy and it needs a real push if it’s not small. This would shift unorganized functions to be more organized, pushes people hard for delivery, teams start running on cadence and synchronization if it’s SAFe resulting in higher productivity, quality and so is the outcome. The KPIs, Metrics, and rigid processes make people do more. There is a forced innovation in the beginning as well. But remember that this would not go long run. The management started believing that we have showcased better outcomes hence let’s not stop. They go with 100 percent utilization which is a disaster (SAFe says so, and I completely agree). The fall begins within 1 or 2 years and it becomes very tough to manage it. The command and control is fine at the start but it should be strictly looked into in six months to a year. The management needs to focus on generative culture, autonomy, and decentralized decision making.
We need to have a relentless improvement in not just the outcome but employee well-being, morale, and learning. We should ensure that we stick to SAFe values and principles. One of the main reasons I have seen for SAFe failure is organizations do not invest much after little success or Org is not ready to move to SAFe but they want to be part of the rat race.
People talk about only success stories while there is a good number of failure stories as well which probably is not taught anywhere. I met many people who ask the interviewer whether the company they are giving an interview is on SAFe or planning to adopt in near future. If the answer is yes to any of these two questions, they don’t want to join the company. There is a myth and perception created while that doesn’t seem to be true. The management truly has to involved at ground level in order to break the myth and move their towards the real benefits of SAFe.
We should all remember that identification of value streams and ARTs, Identification of EPICs are core challenges while implementing SAFe while organization alignment still remains the priority.
I just read an interesting book The ONE Invisible Code – I loved every bit of it. Sharat has done complete justice to convey the message to rise beyond mediocrity.
In this post, I am sharing with you what I found to be interesting in the book. Firstly, this is one of the finest books I read in the recent past. The book is very practical and filled with exercises. This helps you apply the concepts you learn immediately.
The book starts with Joy and his struggles. A failed entrepreneur and an employee. He meets his Mentor in unusual circumstances. The book then picks momentum and is an interesting conversation between Joy and his Mentor. During the conversation, Joy’s mentor helps him get unstuck and makes him realize his full potential.
The book is divided into 4 sections:
Section 1: Orbit of Mastery Vs Orbit Of Mediocrity – Where are you?
Here is where the foundation of every great success is presented in an interesting way. The concept of Orbit Of Mastery and Orbit Of Mediocrity. When we give too much emphasis on safety overgrowth, comfort over the challenge, and short-term pleasure over long-term purpose, we get stuck in the orbit of mediocrity. Mastery begins with self-awareness is something that I really enjoyed.
Section 2: The 4 Mindsets
Knowing and mastering our mindset is the key to achieving all the success and fulfillment. The top priority of every successful individual, entrepreneur, or a corporate leader has been the power of mastering their mindset. When you know your mindset, you can consciously choose to change and sail through any adversity that life throws at you. Learn 4 mindsets and discover your inner potential.
Section 3. Owning The Truth
All high achievers own certain truths which help them create exemplary results. Many of these unconventional truths make you think beyond what you have learned. It’s time to challenge the conventional wisdom and learn to own these truths
Section 4: The ‘ONE’ Invisible Code All high achievers practice a pattern or a series of steps to achieve massive success. Do you want to know what are these steps? Do you want to decode these patterns and find that invisible code? You can discover these steps to breakthrough mediocrity and reach the next level of success in the book.
Both are very similar that are aligned with each other and complement each other. If you walked to a team then it very is very hard to recognize which practice team is using if they are using one of the above practices. XP is Scrum with technical practices. It’s mindset/behavior and a more prescriptive approach with a strong feedback loop.
The iteration is between 2 to 4 weeks.
The iterations are 1-2 weeks or less. For very aggressive teams, it can go up to a day.
In Scrum product owner prioritizes the product backlog but the Scrum team has a privilege to chose a lower priority item in a sprint to work on before the high priority
XP teams must always work in priority order as features to be developed are prioritized by the customer.
Changes in the sprint are not allowed
XP Teams are much more amenable to change within their iterations, but change can only be made if the team hasn’t started working on a feature and at the same time the change is of the equivalent of the swapped item.
The validation of the software is completed almost at the end of each sprint, (i.e. Sprint Review)
The software needs to be validated at all times, to the extent that the tests are written prior to the actual software.
Scrum doesn’t prescribe any engineering practices
The XP does.
The Scrum Master is responsible for what is done in the Sprint, including the code that is written
A developer can modify or refactor the parts of the code as and when the need arises.
The teams start with Scrum and move towards XP. There is lots of focus on Self Organizing teams and XP encourages that to a great extent. The Maturity model that we have prepared for CDK has more focus on Scrum up to level 3 and further, the direction is to adopt XP in order to get on to level 4 and 5.
The original XP is based on four simple values – simplicity, communication, feedback, and courage – and twelve supporting practices as listed below
The Planning Process
The desired features of the software, which are communicated by the customer, are combined with cost estimates provided by the programmers to determine what the most important factors of the software are. This stage is sometimes called the Planning Game.
The software is developed in small stages that are updated frequently, typically every two weeks.
All members on an XP team use common names and descriptions to guide development and communicate on common terms.
The software should include only the code that is necessary to achieve the desired results communicated by the customer at each stage in the process. The emphasis is not on building for future versions of the product.
Testing is done consistently throughout the process. Programmers design the tests first and then write the software to fulfill the requirements of the test. The customer also provides acceptance tests at each stage to ensure the desired results are achieved.
XP programmers improve the design of the software through every stage of development instead of waiting until the end of the development and going back to correct flaws.
All code is written by a pair of programmers working at the same machine.
Every line of code belongs to every programmer working on the project, so there are no issues of proprietary authorship to slow the project down. The code is changed when it needs to be changed without delay.
The XP team integrates and builds the software system multiple times per day to keep all the programmers at the same stage of the development process at once.
The XP team does not work excessive overtime to ensure that the team remains well-rested, alert, and effective.
The XP project is directed by the customer who is available all the time to answer questions, set priorities, and determine the requirements of the project.
The programmers all write code in the same way. This allows them to work in pairs and to share ownership of the code.
Ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just multiplier. Execution is worth millions. – Steve Jobs
How many of you ever thought of starting your own venture/business but could not really do it due to fear of failure or complexity or lack of knowledge? It is far easy than you ever though as long as you are committed to it and have a strong plan.
Do remember that – “Opportunities don’t happen. You create them. The value of an idea lies in using it”
Everyone wants to be on top but most of them do not want to do anything about that. I am not encouraging you to start a business but if you want to do it or you aspire to do something big, go for it. The toughest thing is to take the initiative and get started – That’s a half victory.
Let’s look at the step by step process to give life to your idea and aspiration.
The research followed by initiative – Good research is core to the first step of your success. Please understand that there is nothing called complete research. You should look around and find out a few ideas – considering your interest, knowledge, feasibility, and outcome. Look for all the possible solutions you can come up need to be within the timebox period. You cannot go for research forever else your idea becomes just an idea.
Brainstorm ideas – I advise people to go for a DAR – Decision analysis and resolution. When you have more than one solution for a given problem, DAR would help you to decide the best option. This can be used in any situation including deciding your life partner … when you have multiple options. 🙂
Talk to your friends, family, and people related to your ideas. If you want to open a restaurant and the investment is big, I suggest you take a job at a restaurant for a couple of months in any good restaurant. It would teach you enough to take your business forward. How many times your thoughts you could have done better when you attempted something. This would significantly increase your chances of success.
Building a plan – The basic plan should have been done during planning but that’s just the starting point. You should write down every possible step which you would need to get started. Prioritize them so that you know where do you need to give a focus. Don’t worry too much as you move along, you keep getting ideas. As long as you are Agile, success becomes simple. You never need to boil the ocean instead be ready to deviate the plan.
It’s all money game – Check your finances
This is something you need to start thinking from the day one. Every step should be directly or indirectly related to this. You need to understand how much you can invest. How much is needed for a business? There is always a myth among beginners that what you start with is what your investment is going to be but that’s not true. You have to keep investing for the first few months/years. Even though I am a certified financial advisor, I would prefer to hire a CA. Spending little extra money is worth it.
The more you spend, more you gain. Money attracts money. Every penny you spend, you should plan it well. Don’t consider the sunk costs.
Legal Needs – You need to register your business to Govt bodies. If you have a – shop that might a shop act certificate. The “current account” is important. If you have a partner, the partnership deed should be discussed. It took us a week just to close on the partnership deed. Do ensure to adhere to any other Govt needs and be aligned to that.
Branding and advertisement – Most of the people forget that branding is really critical in today’s Era. This is one of the extremely crucial factors in order to be successful which is often ignored. It all depends on what kind of branding you may need to do. For example, one can use pamphlets, just dial, Facebook, personal website and other mediums.
What you earn in the beginning is what you have to keep investing in. It is ok to have a bad or average start. Don’t get demotivated. One of the people whom we ordered stuff from China has taken our money and ran away. That was sunk cost and we just forgot about it though the learning was there hence we were more cautious about choosing the right vendors.
Keep looking around what else we can do it. For instance, you started a business to sell school stuff, you business may be down during holidays. You can add on corporate gifts, and other add ons.
This is very important. If you are risk-averse than chances of getting success in business are really fat. You need to keep taking a risk at every point. You should always have mitigation, contingency, and a fallback plan in place to manage your risks effectively. Be Agile, be adaptable. Don’t stick to one thing forever. If you find an alternate which is working, switch to it.
Have a habit of spending lesser than what you earn.
Do appreciate at least THREE people every single day.
Never hesitate to accept your mistakes. Feedback is the way to improve and get better hence never shoot the messenger instead hug him.
Don’t make fun of someone’s dream. If people wouldn’t have unrealistic dreams, you are probably not living the life that you have today.
Sometimes, give a chance to a person to get ahead in life who is standing behind you.
See the sunrise every day whenever it’s possible.
When it is extremely urgent then only borrow anything from other people. Do ensure to return that in minimum possible time.
If you want to know something from somebody, do ask twice with discretion.
Never allow your enemy and debt to get bigger.
Always have faith in God. Never forget to pray, as there is so much power in prayer.
Live in present. That’s why it’s called a gift.
Mind your own business.
Time is the most precious. Make use of it wisely.
Whatever you have, you should learn to be happy with it.
Never say something bad about someone. Talking ill of anybody is like a hole in the boat. Whether it’s small or big, it would sink the boat for sure.
Always think positive. The law of attraction does work.
Every person is born with at least one talent. All you have to do is to identify and bring that talent in front of the rest of the world.
There is nothing called small work in the world. Every work is great. For instance just think about the work that you are about to perform, if you don’t do, what is going to be the impact on the rest of the world.
Take risks in life in order to be successful. Not taking risk itself is the biggest risk in life as you are not going to get anything
Read at least a book every month
“Don’t take life too seriously, you are going to die anyway“
I never knew that upbringing of a toddler will be that much laborious and tedious task furthermore requires maximum utilization of your saved energy, patience and quick decision making to say “Yes” and “No “all the time.
But today I was in so much hurry to wind up all my routine household chores and sending my son back to school, the reason behind the lady who is one among my favorite female personality I have ever met and her name is “Anupama”. Whose meaning in Sanskrit is “Incomparable”,” excellent” and she has truly justified with her name. Anupama’s presence in my life is sometimes as a mentor, many times as a true companion, and all the time as my motivational guru or speaker with whom I never hesitate to share anything yet. Though she is quite older to me, her symbolic big brown eyes on a radiant oval-shaped face and thick long waist-length hair are peculiar oomph attributes to enhance her impeccable personality.
She reached my place at the expected time. I gave her a warm welcome and took her inside the living room where she made herself relaxed on my blue color cozy sofa fully loaded with big cushions. I could not stop gazing at her until she intervened by asking to have a glass of water. I just moved to the kitchen like a jet speed and brought some homemade snacks, fruits, water and tea whose preparation was already done prior to her arrival at my place as I don’t want any interruptions while having our conversation. While placing all the stuff on the table, I was amazed to see that she is still smiling with “breath a sigh of relief” as if she has accomplished some herculean task. She is good enough to sense my rising inquisitiveness and reverted “It’s good to postpone sometime!!”Now this reply was more bewildered before I could say something she continued, “I knew it Prem is a wonderful guy”. Now this time my astonishment has reached a peak just like mercury of BP instrument suddenly rises up while measuring. Before I utter a word she gasped a long breath and started…….
Prem was my neighbor and I always treated him like my younger brother who also loved to see dreams and thought of their fulfillment. His cheerful smile and “Happy go lucky” behavior made him different in the crowd. He had always been a meritorious student as well as a good athlete built up who hardly skipped any extracurricular activity organized by our society or his school. His parents admitted him at one among the famous and prestigious school in Mumbai whose handsomely fabricated fees was more than sufficient for the livelihood of three to four middle-class family for an entire year. Initially, all went goody-goody like a typical Bollywood masala movie where everything gets changed once the villain’s entry is made. There was a villain in Prem’s life also but who that I would tell you later on.
Prem’s father who had been associated with a Private Bank as Managing Director post and earning hefty package with lucrative Bonus and a substantial amount of power and perquisites. Prem’s mother is a practicing lawyer in the High Court and trustee of an NGO which is mainly working for socially deprived women and small kids who are abandoned by their parents. As per my knowledge she had been working on high profile cases with an intense legal issue. Prem’s parents had been a consistent topper of their batches and doing very well in their individual profession. Prem was a very loving and adorable kid who never troubled so much to their family and always spread a beautiful smile on his face. He quite often visited my home whenever his parents were out of town regarding their work, to have some chit chat with me and playing with my pet “Tiger” a German shepherd dog. However I never found him complaining about his parents regarding their busy schedules and unavailability on various occasions like his Birthday, Parents meet at school or Annual function. Although they kept on enquiring towards his academic performance, attentiveness in the class, and most important the “Mark Sheet”. My flat was adjacent to his flat on the 22nd story segregated by thick wall thus I could hear frequent sounds of reprimanding and screaming from his flat which assuming their personal matter I usually ignored. In our duplex apartment, there is a beautiful sea-facing balcony with a sight of green hills and waterfalls in rains. It has always been my favorite place to have morning tea and sometimes evening also, as I usually reach home late due to work pressure. We both had shared the same balcony with concrete partition and now it is fully covered with overspread of Money Plant branches. There was always some mixed exotic fragrance of flowers flowing from their balcony to my balcony and soothed my mind and body, I must say good fragrance not only works like a tranquilizer but responsible for physical well being also maybe that’s why aromatherapy is so much prevailing nowadays. Prem’s mother told me about his fondness for flowers and very often brings different flower plants at home. But I would call such practice as a passion bringing great rejoice and ecstasy on his face even he asked me also to adorn my balcony with some variety of flowers something that he called Petunia, Geranium and, and Fuchsia. On the contrary, I find myself fumbling while pronouncing those flower species but I purposely turned him down by saying tiger will spoil them because I don’t want any issue hampering his studies and gave a clue to his parents. Till 9th standard, all went well but the moment he promoted to 10th situation got altogether altered. Prem’s parents started enforcing immense pressure and strict rules to be followed pertaining to his studies. From the beginning of the year to the end, he spent most of the time in a coaching institute, self-study and confining himself in his room.
Finally, Board exams were over and Prem’s Mother came to my place with Box of sweets, she told me Prem has scored 85% in Board though she was disappointed with his performance in science and maths who were the culprit of escaping his overall aggregate to cross the border of 90%. Eventually, he had been forced to opt Science & maths stream in 11th standard to achieve a sheer dream of their esteemed parents to become an IIT engineer. But it is said, “Reluctance and apathy will only take you frustration and anguishment” that’s what had seen with Prem now. A volcano had started forming inside him and waiting for an opportunity to erupt. Now I barely got a chance to see Prem or interacted with him. But even those few acquaintances were enough to assume his deep pain. Afterward, I was also busy with my next seminar which was going to be held in a different city and simultaneously was badly tied up with my New Book Launch. However whole year had passed and as it was anticipated he got marks on a threshold to move into the next class. On the other hand, as per my information, Prem’s parents maintained good repo with school authority and staff which could be the reason he had not been failed. Now again the battle started with the 12th Board exam and I still could not understand why Board exams are over-exaggerated and overstressed by us. From now he was completely different Prem whom I knew earlier. His rugged hair, puffy eyes, and dull face were indicating like he has not taken a good sleep for long. Parent’s pressure and expectations were increasing day by day as if he was going to fight the IIIrd world war. Contrarily my work commitments and continuous seminar made me so engrossed that I have almost forgotten about Prem. Finally, Board exams were over and result declaration Day arrived as expected he got failed in science& maths subjects. Although the result was not shared with anyone but loud scolding noise mixed with frustration and muffled whimper revealed everything. I saw Prem’s parents leaving home in anger and agony. However, I could not dare to go to Prem’s house and console him but trust me I really wanted to meet him once that time. Somewhere in-between I was also feeling bad for not look into this matter conscientiously, which has got now worsened. Meanwhile, I just went to my balcony to have some fresh air holding along with my newspaper. Instantaneously I could hear deep mourning and weeping sound coming from Prem’s Balcony and made me anxious. Hurriedly I arranged my coffee table close to the wall and adjust the chair on the table so that I could peep out in his balcony what’s wrong is happening. But the other side was frenetic what I had seen was completely unimaginable. Prem was half stood on the railing and bent down his upper half body but what he was looking for was my biggest concern. I am sure he is not doing this stunt casually that’s for sure and this sudden event made frozen my blood instantly as if the temperature drastically went down below ‘zero’. For a second my eyes were remained wide open with the half-open mouth I wanted to scream but somehow managed to keep mute myself. It was pretty clear Prem was trying to commit suicide and any wrong step could have been fatal. Fortunately, I have had a habit of carrying my Phone and this recalled me to make a call.I dialed his number silently and his new white color sleek pattern I-phone 7plus started ringing which was gifted by his father last month on his birthday. My heart was throbbing so badly that I could feel the heartbeat and seemed it would jump out at any time and get burst. It was my first live confrontation with a person committing suicide thus it was obvious. I was just hoping he could pick my call for once plz….
Since childhood, I always love to play Rubix cube where you have to try different permutations and combinations to resolve it similarly that “keep on trying” continuously coming into my mind. I did not want to give up and just tried, tried, and tried. Prem was standing like a Bungee Jumper who was about to take a dive but it was not for fun not for an adrenaline rush and not for excitement. He just wanted to run away from all his grief and problem, he wanted to end up his life and embrace death forever. However I reached on 7th attempt to redial his number at the same time he leaned ahead, Oh no he was jumping as I thought but against my scary imagination he raised his hand to take out his phone from the rear pocket of jeans and stammered “Hello”…
I replied casually, Hey “How are you Prem” and in spite of waiting for his response meanwhile jumped on another question, how are you doing??
As if I wanted to delay his action by keeping him busy in conversation and then there was a deep silence like “the calm before the storm”. After a long pause, he broke out with sobbing and crying but I let it go away this “rupture of damn sufferance”.
“Didi, I can’t take it anymore. I am fed up with this humiliation and frustration. Please tell me, How many times I should confess that I don’t understand science maths, I don’t want to become an engineer and I really hate to do what I don’t like and I am not good at that. I have lost my patience and willpower both by trying, trying, and trying harder. Every failure is worse than the previous one and wipes out my all efforts and now my mind and my body both gave up, I am feeling so hurt from my soul so there is no point to live in this materialistic world, what’s the point to survive. All he conveyed in one breathe. I have never seen such a massive conviction at this adolescent age. The most saddening part was that his parents still did not understand his hardship.”
Now it was my turn to speak and I did not want to let it go away though I had to be very careful. I replied calmly, Prem I truly understood your resentment and I will not take much of your time. Just give me 30 seconds and in those 30 seconds if you don’t find justifiable to survive then carry on…
I knew what I said could be dangerous but I knew that even if I succeeded to escape him, for now, this will not be an end because till the time your heart is filled with misery your brain is trapped by frustration such step could be reversed again.
He was quite ok with our deal and murmured, go ahead. I felt great and continued, I will ask you three easy questions and an answer should be given either “YES” or “No”, no complications anymore.
He nodded and I started with the first question, do you want to die?
He said, “Yes”
The second question, what if all your problems get resolved then still you prefer to die??
“No”, He said (as if he wants to say who the hell wants to die when he has no problem at all)
The third question and the last, I would resolve all your troubles but you have to keep faith in me, Will you??
He reluctantly first then said unwillingly, “Yes”…..
Yes, that’s what I want from him, keeping my small victory hiding from him.
Ok, Prem, you have to abide by your answer before moving to any next action. Now please open the door and let me in your house now. He was still wondering what has happened and why he is bothered to listen to me but indulging his thought in another direction, this time I said more loudly, open the door, Prem.
He said, Ok..Come and the time taken to reach towards his flat was merely two to three seconds.
For instance, I felt like crossing the railway track at the same time train is ahead of me to crush me down. I stared at him, he was totally messing with red swollen eyes overfilled with tears and he was still whimpering. Without utter a word I directly went to the kitchen and brought a glass of water. While holding the glass his hands were still shivering but he could manage to gulp few sips in one breath. I asked him to sit and then I said, listen, Prem, I know you faced immense hardship which caused you pain frustration and hatred but the path you have chosen to get rid over that was not correct rather this will only lead you and your family to great devastation. Instead of taking too much of your time and giving you life lesson speech let’s have a simple deal. A Three Day Deal. Furthermore waiting for his reply I kept myself continue to speak. I have some work commitments in the next three days which I want you to accomplish in the meanwhile I surely resolve all your troubles and escape you out from all these. I knew it he had no option to negotiate thus just nodded his face to say “Yes”. I told him to get ready tomorrow by 9’o clock sharp and the rest of the things will be explained by my assistant who takes care of my work schedules, meetings, and upcoming seminars.
The same day I met with Prem’s parents and explained to them the vulnerability of the situation and how to clear out from this. I had also revealed his deep interest in becoming a florist and a list of colleges which best suit their son. Initially, they were in deep shock as quite obvious I had presumed, with Prem’s drastic step. Anxiety and fear just have taken out all the courage to say something and what would have happened if I would have not intervened at the right time and stopped him. They silently provided all the approval to fulfill prem’s dream to become florist without any discussions as if they just want their son at that moment none other than anything in the world. From the other side Prem’s three-day task had begun, next day morning he came to my flat on time seemed he already prepared himself for the tasks no matter whatever it is….
I narrated in from of him, Prem you got three tasks in the following three days and how to execute, will be explained at task spot only.
After Three Days….
When I confronted Prem, He was no longer an old Prem who was completely shattered, whatever sufferings and pain he had gone through were wiped off and he was enlightened to persuade new beginning. He came forward and touched my feet with full of gratitude, tears rolled down from his cheeks and soaked my toes but this time I did not bother about his tears because he just unleashed all the negativity and agony through his tears.Didi, now I came to know why did you send me to accomplish those tasks.
“First day when I was taken at my first task spot I was surprised to see it was an old age home.I was instructed to spend a whole day there and had words with 20 people for minimum of 20 minutes and write down my experience with everyone. When I entered inside with shaky legs I could realize only I am not alone in this world who has suffered. Moreover, when I personally interacted with 20 people, I learned every person’s problem is worse than others but they never prefer to choose the path of an end or destruction. They taught me happiness is a state of mind which if you wish could exist all the time with you no matter what the damn circumstances knocking your door to bang you out. The woman there was rejected by their own families, many were sick and counting their last days but failed to steal smile on their faces and made me ashamed for a nonsensical act I was about to commit”!!!
If we would love life with all our hearts it would embrace us back. While cursing our failure and pain we forget to admire all the beautiful things which we already are blessed with. We blew ourselves in the air of negativity to throw out all positive elements of our life…..
After listening all this from Prem’s voice I felt passed with distinction marks in my exam.
“On the second day, I was headed to the orphanage where God’s beloved kids who are unfortunately physically challenged are given shelter and education. It was so heartbreaking to see that those tiny kids never let their physical deformity to dominate their happiness and liveliness. And the most mesmerizing part of my task was giving the speech on “Life and Laugh” with a mere 30 minutes preparation. I really enjoyed with kids with all my heart who taught me, most of the time while regretting what we do not have actually spoiled the fun that actually we could have. My best learning was “why can’t you just be with the flow in spite of whatever circumstances coming in front of you”.
It is truly said that,
“For every blocked path there is an open one
And for every disability, there is an ability one……
Now my ecstasy was on the seventh cloud after hearing all this. I could not resist listening to the third-day experience.
And the third day was most heartbreaking and saddening. When I was brought to meet a family.
A family who were in deep mourn and sorrow due to the tragic death of their beloved child. He had committed suicide a few months back and left their family members in endless trauma. After meeting and interacting with them I actually realized what a foolish mistake I was about to do and I am fortunate enough that you emerged on the right time and saved my life, saved my family from the pain they would suffer. I don’t have words to show my gratitude and he just bowed down to touch my feet.I patted his shoulder and said prem this just the beginning and you have to go very far… “Chuckles”.
I have some surprise for you now, one more surprise, He exclaimed. I handed over the envelope with
List of floriculture diploma course colleges in Mumbai and said, I have shortlisted few colleges and had a discussion with your parents and obtained their approval to go ahead. He laughed joyously and hugged me tightly. Now you can fly over your dreams and grab them one by one.
After 6 Years…
Prem had completed his Diploma course in floriculture with distinction marks and persuaded his masters also. Simultaneously he opened his florist shop also where an extensive range of flowers, bouquets, arrangements, and cost-effective flower gift basket are sold as well as delivered. He enhanced his services from office decoration, seminars, Business opening to Shop decoration, weddings and various festivals. His mother told me that response is so good that he got tied up with big corporates, Hotels, and Temples also for decoration and regular supply of flowers.
“It is said that creative minds and devoted spirits never needed to be nurtured to find their path”
Same I was seeing with Prem.
Later on, Prem initiated Waste Management Mitigation by his own efforts to curb all the waste flowers and leaves leftovers remained after pooja, decoration, and celebration. Its general practice of maximum Indians to immerse flower residues into the water or keeping underneath a tree after offered it to god or used in holy rituals. Prem’s this new thought not only be helpful to prevent all this but promote the use of waste and recycling process also.
His new mission tagline says, “You take flowers from us, we take waste from you”.
Whatever the waste was accumulated from people is being used to form compost which is an organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming.
At the simplest level, the process of composting requires making a heap of wet organic matter known as green waste (leaves, flowers) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months. Compost is rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil.
Initially, he started with his area to collect all flowers, fruit scraps and plants waste to make compost using Hot Compost Method. And the most significant thing came out from this compost formation was people here stopped immersing flowers in the pond, lake after being offered to god. This idea is so blossomed up that he started getting orders from relatives neighbors and friends for their personalized gardens, society parks and at home to flourish their plants and enhance the productivity of soil because compost is a great material for garden soil.
His earnings got doubled by selling it and that led to encouraging him to open another branch. Meanwhile, he got married to a beautiful girl and blessed with two adorable twin daughters. He had bought land outside Mumbai where large varieties of exotic flower species are grown in the supervision of well-trained staff.
Suddenly Anupama’s Phone rang and I could hear Anupama was saying Oh, Hi Prem…Yes yes, I am on my way to your place don’t worry I will be on time. She hung up and said its Prem’s third branch inauguration is there in your locality and that is the purpose of my visit today and I thought we will also have some talk J
It’s his personal desire that the Ribbon cutting ceremony should be done by me and inaugurate the opening of his new branch. We both laughed in rejoice and promise each other to meet again soon.
When I went downstairs to drop Anupama, a carbon black color Audi was waiting to take her to the inaugural function which was sent by Prem.
I must say Prem was fortunate enough out of those thousands of youngsters who hardly got a second chance by life to relive again. As per recent estimates in 2013 alone, 2471suicides (https://scroll.in/article/694364/) and in 2014 alone, 8,032 student suicides were reported, out of which, in only 30% of these cases, failure in exams were attributed in the country. A common cause for concern is the pressure from parents to do well in national board examinations, especially for class XIIth, before finishing school. As scores in these exams often determine college admissions and subsequent employment opportunities, students aged 16-18 are often subjected to undue pressure at home to succeed.
Major causes of students suicide in India are Poor Education System, Forced career choices and lack of speaking up in front of parents’ guardians or friends.
I still don’t understand why Parents, across all income groups, are petrified about letting their child do anything less than engineering or other conventional courses. Awareness about new subjects may be there, but acceptability is missing. Arts is still considered a poor cousin of science subjects, even though it offers plenty of interesting and even well-paying career options. Just a little out-of-the-box thinking is needed. We need to allow our children to dream.”
Have you guys ever plant a tree/sow seed if not then each one of you must do this beautiful activity before becoming a parent. To grow a beautiful plant a seed needs fertile soil adequate sunlight and an optimum quantity of water and pesticides to fight all the adversities to turn itself a big green tree. I am sure we all are certainly aware of this fact then how come we forget the same one to be followed while nurturing our own child. The biggest misery of life is while knowing everything we tend to pretend ourselves and our sheer ignorance and our own selfishness cause major pitfall in our child’s growing seeds of dreams and unfulfilled desires. Please don’t set too many expectations and pressure which further carried away to your kid as a burden. Being a Parent you must have decided something good for your kid but while keep putting this on their shoulder making sure you don’t miss something extraordinary which was about to come from them.
“Wonderful things are not created rather cultivated and nurtured by Brilliant People
Who are indeed lucky enough to follow their dreams only”