IntroductionThis happened some twenty years ago. A colleague of mine at a Management Institute ( B school) at Ranchi was working with me on a project. We had to tour parts of Tamil Nadu. He had invited me home for lunch in the first week of April. The climate was hot and in his house at Erode, it was quite hot too. But the hospitality of his 66-year-old grandmother was something that changed everything. She brought in two fans to reduce the heat on the dining table. The spread of dishes was amazing. She had made some twenty dishes. She proudly said she did it all alone. Except that for cutting the vegetables someone, next door had helped.
To this day, the taste lingers. When I asked her how she had made such a huge variety of dishes, she merely said that she had decades of experience. She would try new recipes published in Tamil magazines. She had indeed innovated so much. The involvement, the laughter, the happiness, the ownership, everything left a big impression on me. The lunch was so heavy that I forgot the dinner on that day!!
Passion. At its very best. What made this lady do what she did? Words came out in a torrent. Along with me, another guest was seen asking her the recipe for so many dishes. After lunch, she patiently explained the entire process. She promised to teach every trick of the trade if my friend were to be interested. Yes, that came with a warning. You better spend 300 minutes with me. And I will show you.
How many of us have this patience? This kind of total dedication and commitment? Her entire goal was cooking. She seemed to be supported by her son who worked in Chennai, financially. But her passion went beyond money. When the other guest asked her if she felt the strain, pat came the reply: ittha muzhu eedupaadudan Cheiven. Sila samayam Pattu padi kondae seiven. Sakthivel ( my friend who had invited me home for lunch) ippo thaane varugiran? Mamma thalayil enna thookki kondu poga porom sollu?".
Now, the exact translation. "I do this with total devotion. Sometimes, I do sing a song while cooking, Sakthivel has come here after such a long time. Tell me, what do we carry when we are gone from this world, on our head?" I have heard the same last words from many elders on many occasions. They are now 80 or even 90 + in age. Most of them talk about the same thing. The little additional motivation, it turned out, was that Sakthivel had come home after a long time, then based at Ranchi.
Passion, as I see it involves a) undistracted attention b) a keenness to learn new things c) a big ability to listen and respect others d) teach others and e) revise targets off and on. Even if one of these variables is missing, passion may not be seen in the individual.
Undivided attentionThis is common to public figures as much as it is common to old ladies like the one described above. Kapil Dev was a great cricketer, who had total devotion. So was Sunil Gavaskar. The passion with which Kapil Dev went on to run so much of a distance to dismiss the giant called Vivan Richards in the 1983 final of the World cup, can still be seen on Youtube. The passion with which Raamu thatha (grandfather) serves a full meal for Rs. 10/- in Madurai city, to this day, is an example of undivided attention to a cause.
Yes, celebrities have it. But so have ordinary men and woman we see all around us. It was said that T.K. Krishna, one of the late sons of T.V. Sundaram Iyengar ( his son, Mr. Suresh Krishna heads the Sundaram Fasteners group today), would slap workmen on the shop floor. The concerned workmen would immediately get an increment!! The workmen would happily receive the slap!!
The same thing happened in a TVS bus decades ago. ( In Madurai, the TVS group ran the private bus service, that was world famous for punctuality. This was later nationalized during the DMK regime). The driver was late by just less than two minutes. An irate passenger simply slapped him. The driver simply said, "am sorry, I deserve the slap". This was the TVS tradition. Undivided attention means just this. It is nothing but total involvement.
A big ability to listen and respect othersThe ability to listen to others and also respect them is key to the process of cultivating passion. Those who listen to customers in any business, succeed very well. In the making of the tremendously successful Hero Activa, the company had engaged with hundreds of customers. The feedback helped them to improve their service standards. Amazon India is really very good at tracking the pitfalls in service.
The travel website, makemytrip.com immediately replied when I had given very poor marks to a hotel near the Central bus station in Coimbatore. The hotel was ordered to change their ways or risk delisting.
At VIT University, Vellore, the Chancellor, Mr. Vishwanathan, engages with students on an everyday basis. The food is improved in the canteen very often. The teaching methods are based on American ways of teaching. There is a big innovation. The students land in the US, right after their education. The NAAC accreditation and international recognition have made this one of the best institutions for engineering in the country. Here is one founder who simply pumps back all money into creating a world-class infrastructure. The results are there for everyone to see.
Passion is a habit that requires repeated attempts to master each step of the process. There is no scope for shoddy work, ever. A more or less similar way of working has made SRM one of the finest deemed Universities alongside VIT. Chennai is home to a few more deemed Universities, but none of them have got the chemistry right. The KPN Omnibus service, the largest in India, is now raring to go, only because it gave the customers a big hand in giving feedback.
Teach othersM.S. Dhoni who is now 38, does not tire a bit. He always teaches others. In the very lively IPL, his contribution to the continued success of the Chennai SuperKings can be attributed to his leadership. His inter-personal relationship with Stephen Fleming, the brilliant coach of CSK, is another shot in the arm. IPL is IPL. It is the main source of entertainment for millions. Rich or poor. It is the only event that helps the unorganized to earn some decent profits at all venues where the matches are played. It is the only event that does not seem to be tiring at all.
We have had the Japanese excel in whatever they do and do it with passion, only because they teach others. For instance, the tremendous bank of knowledge management at Toyota, the best auto company in the world, is now simply superb. All this passion has resulted in the knowledge being spread throughout the company and not in isolated pockets. There are no selfish managers who can store knowledge in their heads and allow things to take their own shape. The hugely innovative organizations like Toyota get the Passion chemistry right, all the way.
Revise targets off and onComplacency is the exact enemy number one of the building or cultivating passion. Those who are passionate about anything always have it in them to conquer new heights of success. Ratan Tata systematically built the Tata group into a globally competitive conglomerate.
We do have examples of this kind in India. The Mahindra and Mahindra group aims for excellence and does go about systematically building competencies. There is no compromise. The way to excellence on a continuous basis is never too easy. But the targets keep on going up day after day.
When passion resides in our minds by following the steps mentioned above, sleep will become secondary to us. We will not sleep even for a minute if the work is something so urgent. The mind keeps on thinking about the big picture. The world is full of examples of people who do it day in and day out.
The next time you want to understand this, go over to the best motor mechanic who has won your confidence in repairing two-wheelers. You will notice particular chemistry at work. That guy would be very honest. He would not over-charge for any service provided. The bills for spare parts fitted anew will be really original. This is his target. His way of doing it.
ConclusionPassion is all about getting the chemistry right. Once we start, the journey is bound to be exciting.
Begin it right away.
Passion is like a burning desire to work and achieve the target. Some people have it and they endure to convert it to achieve their goals. Some people have passion but when it comes to work and toil they become discouraged and subdued in their attempts and start cursing their luck and destiny.
So, passion requires persistence of hard work for reaching the desired level. If you are passionate about something then you will achieve it one day. It could be late in life but you can not get things quickly as external factors are also there to change the scenario. What is important is the continuity of efforts and persistence of purpose.
My cousin was having a passion for singing and music. He was so much involved in that. His parents told him to go for the medical line because as per them there was no financial future in singing and music. He followed the guidance of the parents and became a doctor. He did his job with sincerity and never bothered for elevation or had political nexus for promotions or other gains. So, his colleagues were given bigger assignments but he never yearned for that and got retired from a small place as an ordinary doctor.
The day he retired, he restarted his singing and music and now he is so happy with his passion that he is giving 3-4 hours daily to it and enjoying his retired life. He told me that he was simply waiting for his retirement to pursue that hobby.
Sir, I have seèn such passion in many people. There are so many fairly wealthy people who have now immersed themselves in productive social work with a big passion. They are never really bothered about the consequences of their actions. They are not after money.
In fact, when such passion dominates mind-sets, success automatically follows. They impact the lives of others so well and this becomes very important too.