IntroductionWhat do M.S. Dhoni, Ravichandran Aswin, Virat Kohli, the chess master Vishwanathan Anand, the music magician called A.R. Rahman and such others, have in common? They are all high achievers. They also have the fire-in-their bellies as a matter of routine.
Based on some real-world experiences as well as observations of such people, it does turn out that developing the insatiable thirst that goes along with a limitless urge to Excel in life often requires a) An insatiable desire to ask "what next?" b) A very high degree of endurance and hard work c) The insatiable thirst for new knowledge/skills d) A pugnacious attitude that is always exhibited and e) Ability to do unique work.
An insatiable desire to ask "what next?"The famous historian, Ramachandra Guha, who is actually a trained sociologist without a history background was asked what made him click. Guha has produced a classic biography of Gandhi and has researched many aspects of his personality, like never before. Guha said that he had a Master's degree in Economics, but that never interested him. His urge to excel made him interested in sociology and he went on to acquire a doctorate in sociology. And then his interest in history made him what he is today. The famous biography of Mahatma Gandhi would not have happened if Dr. Guha had not asked the question, "what next?".
Many a career would never have taken off if he or she did not discover his or her passion. A.R. Rahman spends countless hours in his studios experimenting with his unique variety of fusion music. However, the biggest urge is the answer to the vital question, "what next?" that keeps him going. He has said as much in his numerous interviews. Winners like him always not only do different things, they also do things differently. Ravichandran Ashwin keeps on experimenting with his numerous variations that trouble the best of batsmen anywhere in the world. M.S. Dhoni had always backed his creative mind to implement spot strategies on the field and these have also worked.
A very high degree of endurance and hard workWe can easily spot them everywhere. Irrespective of their official position. These are the guys who stay very late in the office. They not only learn from others but also enable others to keep on developing. They are true team players. They do not hesitate to teach others. They can be easily spotted on the shop floor. Their ability to join the various dots that make the full picture can be easily seen in practice. For example, they would have already had a discussion with the marketing officials in the corporate office prior to the daily works meeting at the factory They would share a vital note of caution about quality voiced by one of the customers. This input would please the unit head no end. He would then go about quickly taking the corrective action. Simply said, such people always go the extra mile in contributing to operating excellence through their hard work.
Since such hard work would never be restricted to the confines of their roles and their regular tasks, they are often noticed and recognized. They are quickly recognized. They often do hard work of a tall order to update themselves. When others happily spend weekends on three years with their families and are contended with doing the same thing again and again, they would enroll for the Executive MBA on their own, and get that completed through the weekend classes. One leads to another. Their managerial knowledge would enable them to become better managers as well.
The insatiable thirst for new knowledgeIn a particular manufacturing organization of the Chennai-based Simpson Group, a middle-level manager voluntarily enrolled on his own with a short-term certificate course in Total Quality Management at the Anna University. He reportedly convinced his manager and trained many of his subordinates on the nuances of what is called the Deming's cycle or the PDCA cycle. This is nothing but Plan, Do, Check and Act. We always plan to do something. In the process of doing something, we often commit errors. This is where the corrective action should be taken and once this action has been identified, it needs to be implemented.
The PDCA cycle looks deceptively simple. In practice, it is not at all simple. It requires a good deal of documentation and data storage. However, once perfected, and translated into the local language that the workmen understand as a matter of routine, it becomes quite easy to keep on working on a continuous basis. The organization can always benefit through reduced rejection rates, better organization of work procedures, the involvement of workmen and consequent better motivation and so on. This is exactly what happened in the aforesaid organization as well. The CEO of the unit was particularly happy and then made him go on to execute far better roles, with higher responsibilities. He was subsequently promoted in double quick time.
A pugnacious attitude that is always exhibitedThe engineer in the aforesaid example had a never-say-die attitude to work. He not only spent long hours but kept on communicating with workmen and involving them. Initially, they were skeptical. They sometimes branded it "commonsense". However, over a period of time, they were able to understand the benefits of the PDCA cycle. In fact, anyone can try out the PDCA cycle at home too. For example, if we had planned for a particular budget, by checking what has happened after fifteen days by accounting for every pie spent, we can easily check where things have gone wrong or right. If there is a cause for correction, once this is done, the "Act" part of it becomes a habit over a period of time. This is the biggest benefit of the PDCA cycle. It is particularly relevant even in the simplest of things. For example, can we search a file without effort? What do we need to do?
We would have "just like that" stored all papers in some files, without ever organizing them. For instance, all the papers related to the filing of our Income tax returns. We keep on searching for the records and a precious amount of time gets wasted. Instead, if we had organized all the papers, particularly those relating to income in one place and in one file, we can save a huge amount of time. This corrective action can be taken only when we "check" what we do. Yes. We never do this. The "will do tomorrow" disease overtakes us. This is exactly why we land ourselves in deep trouble. The simplest thing to do is to be pugnacious and then have an urge to do the "check" in our lives. In whatever we do.
Ability to do unique workThis looks quite simple again. It is not. Those with a fire-in-their-bellies always do unique work. The director A.R. Murugadoss has now become so famous, only because he was able to do unique work. For instance, his film, "Sarkaar" was all about exposing corruption in high places. He also sought to project on the screen, the deep-seated urge in the minds of any average Indian to make a big difference by reducing corruption in the so-called System. The screenplay was too good and so was the acting of the hero, Vijay.
Another famous director, who is always one with the fire-in-the-belly shook the conscience of the nation, decades ago, with his movie called "Anjali" which talks about the travails of a mentally-retarded girl child. Decades after it was released, it continues to sway audiences. His masterpiece called "Nayagan", starring the celebrated actor Kamalhassan, talked about the Mumbai underworld and was a super-duper hit.
M.S. Dhoni had always crafted unique strategies on the filed to make his IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings, the real champions. His out-of-the-box thinking capabilities made him stand out. Decades ago, the telecom scar called Sam Pitroda created the STD revolution with a small team of engineers. It subsequently changed the face of telecom in India and was the foundation for the modernization later.
This is the most important quality that contributes to the fire-in-the-belly of most creative personalities. We can always learn a little from them. Since each human being in this world is capable of thinking creatively, it does follow that there are many strands of knowledge that keep floating around, from which we can learn many a lesson. For instance, we can learn quite a bit from the friendly neighborhood Kirana guy who keeps on innovating on the different and unique ways to serve customers.
ConclusionThe limitless urge to excel in life can be acquired through some simple steps described above. Once we keep going, we can always innovate in terms of learning and then keep perfecting the art in our lives. The scope is wide and it is always tough. However, making a difference is one sure way of success in this highly competitive world.