A Letter to a Student

A Letter to a student by Swami Sukhabodanada is an ode to the teacher-student relationship. When a distressed class 10 student writes to him about his worries, Swami addresses his concerns in a letter filled with tips. Originally written in Kannada, it became very popular amongst students who requested that the letter be converted to a book.

In the book, Swamiji starts by addressing the divide between village and city life. While the boy, Somashekhar spoke of problems faced by the infrastructure-deprived village school. Swamiji motivated him to look over on the brighter side- tranquil and distraction-free environment in the villages.

Further he spoke about how students must inculcate within themselves the habit of drawing up timetables. At length, he described the importance of including physical activity in one’s routine. Having a balance between studies and was the best way to ensure no burnouts. He spoke of a attitude that resembled a bouncing ball and not a long, drawn face like soaked flattened rice was the best way to make friends and bring along company.

In other paragraphs he denotes the importance of collective learning and active listening. Recommends looking up to every teacher as ‘Sadchidananda Guru’-The eternal teacher. Somashekar was advised to sit in one of the front benches to avoid the noisy and naughty back-benchers to focus better on his studies. Studies were described as a penance. Mugging up was highly discouraged. Guruji emphasized on the practice of reading and re-reading to assimilate portions thoroughly through the power produced by practice that relates to memory.

In conclusion, a few tips about personal hygiene and the importance of having a daily routine. Swamiji summed up the experience in the form having to use the book as a guide-book for student life. He recommends coming back to the book to read and re-read what has been taught to become a better student!

Good To Great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t!

This book by author Jim Collins is amazing research of styles of business leadership. Good to Great details all the factors needed to be adopted to make a company go from good to great. Like it is often parroted-It is easy to get to the top but equally tough to stay there. The graphs of a company’s success can be upward-looking which is easier to accomplish for the very first time. The real test of a CEO’s leadership is in maintaining the company’s position at the top. Here’s how senior leadership can start building the foundation of customer trust in a brand.

Author Jim Collins categorises the book into 3 crucial ideas. Based on these three ideas one can determine if a company will move from being good to becoming great.

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

Archilochus, Greek Poet (Source: NPR)

This Greek parable enunciates an important concept- Clarity of vision and strategizing in tandem can bring along more success than a repeated change of strategy. It further explains the concept in the analogy of a fox and a hedgehog. The hedgehog is prey for the fox. The fox being extremely cunning and sharp comes up with a million ways to attack the hedgehog while it trudges down the jungle floor. Some might think the fox is bound to achieve success- a sharp, lithe, thinking-on-its-feet kinda animal will have an easy hunt. While the lithe predator may have had us fooled, it is useless to underestimate our little spiked rodent. In the event of an attack, the hedgehog immediately rolls into its shell and becomes a sharp ball of spikes, staving off the brutal fox’s attack. This is a tried and tested strategy that the hog uses every single time. Applying the same logic to a company that sticks with its passion, sphere of expertise and true value that it brings to a potential customer. Such companies are able to beget more success compared to a company that cannot stay on the strategic course.

The second characteristic the book speaks of is a bus. A simple analogy that distributes the overall workforce into sections of two. At the back of this ‘bus’ are seated the ones who are problem solvers. These are the people who put their boots on the ground, and get their hands dirty but forget to lift up their heads. All of their focus is on solving the current problem facing the company. While the front seaters have one eye on the present and one on the future. This futuristic attitude is what keeps them on the hunt for newer opportunities that align with the company’s goals and can be leveraged to move forward on the graph. It also lays emphasis on the hiring a company does. Great CEOs spend a lot of time putting square pegs into square holes and round pegs into round ones meaning that having the right person for the right job is extremely important to a company’s success and wellbeing.

Lastly, he sums up with a term called a ‘Level 5’ leader. A level 5 leader is a combination of extreme humility and strong resolve for the betterment of their company. It is essential to note that these such embrace criticism-constructive criticism. Their drive to further and better their company’s interests far outstrips anybody’s imagination as such people are rarely vocal or they don’t prefer to take the whole credit upon themselves. A great Indian example of a level 5 leader would be Mr Ratan Tata, Tata Group and Mr Narayan R Murthy, Infosys.

In the end, the 11 companies that Collins and his team had researched, were replete with such characteristics and headed by great leaders. This makes the good to great ideology a practice to adopt for companies that already exist and entrepreneurs looking to create newer companies.