Indian Elections and the Law of Integrity


Over the last one month, the screen images continue to focus on that greatest show of Democracy on Earth, the on-going national elections in India. Close to a billion voters being wooed by a fractious, cacophonous political lot.
Indian elections
I notice contrasting articulations.

On one hand, I see political parties investing a lot of energy and resources to disseminate what they stand for. Their manifestoes drip with great intentions that they are committed to fulfill if voted to power. Candidates vie with each other for that once in five years photo opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder clutching their copy of this ‘intention bible’.But when a politician is confronted with non-fulfilment of earlier electoral promises, he is quick to ascribe causes. Of how the opposition was non-supportive in the parliament. Of how resources and funds were not made available. Of how, inspite of all such great challenges, he continues to remain totally committed to usher in development, both economic and social.

On the other hand, I see the man on the street expressing his disenchantment with the political class, even the political process. Of his ire at the lack of fulfillment of election manifestoes in the past. Of his perception that election promises are meant to garner votes and quickly abandoned thereafter. Of his perspective that politicians exist only to feather their own nests in terms of aggrandizing power, influence and money, giving scarcely a thought to the welfare of the citizenry. Of his fervent hope that at least this time around, the politicians coming to power might be motivated to focus on development, both economic and social.

I muse about this lack of alignment between the politician and citizenry even though both speak of the same goal viz. development, economic and social. Do I sense a loss of faith in the workability of our political system? What is at the core of this failure?

My thoughts shift to the Integrity model which I had read about recently. Authors Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen and Steve Zaffron present this model to demonstrate how Integrity, as defined by them, is intrinsic to the workability in any situation.
imagesAY8T79ZE
As per the authors, Integrity is all about our word being whole and complete, both to ourselves and to others. What is the meaning of word being whole and complete, one may ask. It means “Honouring our word” which is keeping our word and in case we are not able to do so, be willing to be held responsible for clearing any mess caused by that. The Law of Integrity states that as integrity (honouring the word) declines, workability declines, and as workability declines, the opportunity for performance declines.’

As I look at the Integrity model in the context of the Indian elections, I wonder about the contradictions the political process throws up. Could it be that the contradiction we see of espousing integrity but not honouring the word is a trait that exists in each one of us? So,what is it then that stops us seeing this contradiction? As I think of this, the following thoughts fleet through my mind.

Do we see Integrity as some kind of a virtue to aspire for rather than an underlying condition for performance? When we see integrity thus, we rarely think twice before sacrificing it to ‘succeed’.
• Do we suffer from self deception when it comes to our own out-of-integrity behaviour as we are quick to put the blame somewhere else but fail to see how our own failure to perform is linked to this violation of the law of integrity?
• What is it that stops us from admitting that we will not be keeping our word? Is it from a fear that we would be responsible for ‘cleaning the mess’ and thus look bad in front of others?
• Do we realise that having given our word, any attempt to subsequently link that to a likely benefit for us makes us look untrustworthy?

As I think of the divergence between words and deeds that has rendered our political system (which also includes us!) untrustworthy and undermined its workability, I am left wondering at the kind of political language that may be used by both politicians and citizenry alike. A language that would align the commitments. A language that would ensure that owning upto our commitment failures and taking responsibility of the clean-up becomes the norm…….

In learning………….. Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: ‘Integrity: A positive model’ by Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen and Steve Zaffron, Harvard Business School Working Paper No. 10-061, Revised May, 2013

Advertisements

Who would I be without my story?


“You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.”
Byron Katie, American speaker & author of “The Work”

I muse about this Coaching question asked me.

So what is my story? As I think of this, I see its tentacles going into the past.

The year is 1911. A lowly placed accounts clerk of the British Accounts Service in India boards the Kalka Mail train from Calcutta with his family. He is shifting home to Delhi in accordance with the British colonial Government’s decision to shift the administrative capital of the Indian subcontinent there. He is following his work, the only thing he knows that sustains him and his family. He is my grandfather.

East_Indian_Railway_Mail

Fast forward fifty years and it is my father in the midst of a career in the Indian Audit and Accounts service. Now settled in Delhi, the capital of independent India. Content with a middle class lifestyle. So grooved in his office work that he feels insecure to take up an exciting consular opportunity in the US. He regrets it citing family constraints.

Fast forward another fifty years and it is I sitting at the desk in my office wondering what next. Having been on a sometimes exciting, sometimes lacklustre roller coaster ride through diverse business areas for three decades, I can claim fair knowledge of the nuts and bolts of corporate working. But like my grandfather and father, I see my work primarily as the means to provide a comfortable life to me and my family.

My story. The story in which working at an office desk equates to life comfort and sustenance. The story which I accept as me. And as I accept, I see it gaining power and dictating what I do. I see it protecting me in a ‘safe box’. As it allows me to peep through my perception coloured lenses and read meaning about the world at large. But as it protects, do I also see it confining and preventing me from setting forth, taking risks and achieving my true potential?

What is it that has embedded this ‘office work’ DNA in me thus? What is it that has made it such an integral part of my story? As I muse, I sense that in my office work DNA resides a gene harking back to the industrial revolution. A gene that through generations has altered my value system. And made me shift towards valuing business growth, productivity and profits over beauty, compassion, love and community ties. Over generations, the gene has also lured me away from simplicity and frugality and towards materialism. An attachment to materialistic possessions which has fuelled insecurity. And has manifested in my life through frantic work schedules, technology tying me down 24X7, scarcely any time to “stop by the woods” or “wander lonely as a cloud”.

So, who would I be without my story? Who would I be if I could shed the above DNA and gene? Would I have that glorious opportunity to start from a place where I am no longer confined and am free to define and implement what I think is important? What do I see?

I see myself slowing down, without the pressures of societal expectations of wealth and ownership. As I take personal responsibility to do that which is meaningful, creative and liberating to me.

I see myself effortlessly crossing those artificial barriers created by economic, social and racial compulsions.

I see in me the birth of a great willingness to learn. From all corners of the world. Unfettered and unhampered by beliefs of my education and experience.

Like the return of the Jedi, I see in me the comeback of the human heart. As I acknowledge intrinsic qualities like Empathy, Faith, Creativity and Interconnectedness and bring them centre stage.

I see how work would look like for me. Passion…. Art…… the pulse of the environment.

photo-0613

Who would I be without my stories?
Like a tree
Without the rustle of the leaves
Winter mind
Kind
Aligned
To the Inside
Inside the inside
A space so wide
It has no centre
Because it is centre

From Caitlin Frost’s Web log

In learning………………… Shakti Ghosal

Success…… Vision or Delusion?


“When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you’ve got plenty to watch, be it vision or delusion.”

Anonymous

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 Success is such an empowering word. We think of it and we think of…. Happiness….Self esteem….Superiority…..  facets which enthuse, inspire, pump the adrenalin. Success seems to be   what we live for. What our parents and teachers always exhorted us to do. Scholastically, materialistically, competitively. Success brings forth visions of wealth, power, intelligence and with these the ability to control the outcome of events. All those external trappings. What the world judges us by.

But as I think of success, I also see within it the other paradigm. Of increased self awareness and self development. Of a positive intention and an alignment with a higher purpose. Of that mysterious inner process which ensures personal integrity and a commitment to values. The aspect of success as exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “I must first be the change that I want to see in the world.” Success thus gets linked, not to the external world, but to an inner compass, an inside out initiative.

Which brings me to Vision and Delusion, those two aspects of our mind. We are conditioned to see these as the Good and the Bad on the same spectrum. We see great positivity in Vision but perceive delusion as something to be shed. So as vision becomes that which drives, delusion is that which keeps us lazy. Vision has logic and reasoning supporting it while delusion is immersed in randomness. If we go by this perception, we tend to associate Success with vision and not with delusion. But is this association valid?

 My daughter has this linkage to success. She needs to wear an old watch with a jaded pink band whenever she is writing examinations. She remains convinced that wearing this watch has something to do with her succeeding. The thinking is, “I wore this watch. I succeeded. My success is because I wore the watch.” The watch deludes her into self confidence and purpose; its absence leads to nervousness and lack of focus.

A work colleague of mine has this high belief in his own capability.  Every time he jumps into a fresh project, he deludes himself to over-estimate his own contribution and gives no credence to the positive role of other people or circumstances. So while he gets accoladed as an achiever, I notice him getting increasingly delusional from the success. Do I see shades of Hitler and Saddam Hussein who, in their time, were similarly deluded about their own great power and ability to control events?

Coming to my own self, I can see the several beliefs that have contributed to what success I have seen. Beliefs pertaining to people, situations and work. The other day, when a business associate was proposing a new process, I noticed an instinctive resistance building up within me. I heard myself countering that our prevailing processes brought success in the past so why change. Later when I thought about my negative reaction, I wondered if I had got trapped in my own success delusion, refusing to move with change.

The above provide glimpses of how success gets linked to the outside. But what about success that comes from within?

When we look inwards for that inner success, I believe this requires a balance between mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Success here gets closely aligned to our core values. It is this alignment which allows a clear vision of the future. Of innovative action and a sense of direction. Mahatma Gandhi had such a vision when he undertook the novel path of non-violence to gain India its independence from its colonial masters. Decades later, this also became the power of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

So I come back to the question, “What does success mean to us, a vision or a delusion?”

I believe true success would need to embody both external and inner facets of our existence. Which would mean that both delusion and vision would play a role.  If delusion panders to our emotions, makes us feel optimistic and helps us to aim higher, vision allows us to dream the future and inspires action with imagination and insight. So as our success remains a product of both sides of the Vision- Delusion polarity, the kind of success each one of us achieves depends on the mix of vision and delusion we have created within ourselves.

Could this be the reason for the thin line we often notice between a visionary and a delusionary? Could this have been the reason for the visionary brilliance of Nobel laureate John Nash as he grappled with his schizophrenic delusions, so eloquently portrayed in the film Beautiful Mind?

My Bad is stronger than my Good.


“I’m an accumulation of every single thing I’ve done, good and bad.”

                                           David Millar, Scottish Road racing cyclist champion

 

Morals preach at me, “Love thy neighbour…… Do Good unto others…” I stand brainwashed to believe that Paradise beckons as I align my thoughts and actions to the goodness of my values.

Millennia of Religion and philosophy have depicted human life as that eternal conflict between the Good and Bad. The Goodness of Creation and Harmony ranged against the Badness of Destruction and Chaos. As I look down from the metaphysical level, I recall ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ amongst the earliest words I learnt as a child. All my fairy tales and comic books dealt with the likes of Krishna vs. Kanksh, Superman vs. Lex Lothar et al. I go through life and see my ‘Bad ‘instincts of jealousy and fear battle against the ‘Good’ strivings of my intentions and fulfillment.

I surf the news channels and notice how much thoroughly ‘Bad’ and negative information is investigated and followed through as compared to ‘Good’ and positive developments. Almost as if we are waiting to imbibe and carry away all the bad impressions and stereotypes. Could it be that we get attracted and these are quicker to form within us?

My colleague wins a lottery and feels elated. The euphoria however scarcely lasts for a couple of days and I can sense that the feel good level quickly returns to what it had been before the lottery win. The same person however gets into a prolonged bout of unhappiness and blame game when he incurs a loss in the stock market, a fraction of what he had won.

I remain witness to how a loving relationship between my friend and his spouse so easily degenerates into a break-up from a single anger-driven destructive action. Several positive overtures and communications fail to heal the rupture.

As I drive on the crowded roads, I become enraged from a single case of rash driving. As I leave the scene fuming, I scarcely notice the multitude of folks who give way and allow me to pass. My emotions can scarcely be quelled, be it by such good behaviour or kindness. The ‘bad’ memory remains vivid and I continue to rant about it on the dinner table, hours later.

As I go through life, do I see a Bad Good asymmetry? A negative bias towards Bad. Be it in the reports in media and in everyday events as above…

I look inwards and sense that I too am more motivated to avoid bad self perceptions than to pursue good ones. I muse and wonder why this is so. Could this be because ‘Bad’ signals that I need to change? And does my ‘Bad’ intuitively push me to adapt and change myself in line with a situation or environment? So does ‘Bad’ condition me to become more flexible and adaptive to an ever-changing world? Is this why my Bad is stronger and thus more relevant than my Good?

What if……..


If thought is the fabric from which reality is made, then faith and intention become the mechanisms by which we focus and project thought.

                                                                                                              – Anonymous

What if we were spirits, balls of energy?  What if prior to being born, we could choose the Men and Women who would conceive us and help us with our values and beliefs? What if we could meet up with all the other spirits who would also be born to play enabling roles in our future life? What if we could choose our destiny?

What if…..

Grounded back to our reality, we see “What if….” as the yearnings of a meandering soul. Or a delusionary dream that needs to be closeted in the attics of our minds. But what if we did carry a master blueprint containing all our yearnings somewhere in our DNAs? Or what if the dream did have moorings in our wakefulness?

I see two pathways. One arising out of faith and the other from our intention. Which path to follow becomes our choice.

Our faith leads us to the realms of spirituality .We conjecture that situations do not happen randomly nor people come into our lives by chance. As we move through this maze of situations and people, we can choose to see our life journey as a blueprint ordained by a higher purpose. With this choice comes the realisation that the reason we are here is to heal our beliefs, learn from them and not to master and forcibly change them. Such a perspective does allow us to make peace with areas of our life which we find confusing and out of control.

But were we to move on the pathway of intention, we can choose to see our life as something we create and are responsible for. This becomes the essence. As we step out with positive intentions to make a choice, we start understanding the underlying reasons why we fail to do so on many occasions.

I get reminded of that wonderful Arbinger Institute publication, “Leadership and Self Deception: Getting out of the box”. While the book focuses on leadership in the organisational context, its argument applies in our life situation too. The book states that people respond to “how we feel about them” and not because “how we treat them.” Let us halt here and absorb the import of what is being said. “Feeling inside” has far greater impact than “action outside.” The genuineness, or otherwise, of what our true feelings or thoughts are, seeps out irrespective how or what we show on the outside.

We “get into the box” as we allow our lives to be dominated by our insecurities and start projecting our failures on to others to try and protect ourselves from our own reality. This then becomes our strategy of self deception and “keeps us trapped inside the box”, away from the truth of our attitude towards others and its crippling impact on our relationships.

As an example, if you are in an abusive relationship, this could be due to your belief that you are unloved. If you believe you are unlovable, you will attract those ‘into the box” who can help you to demonstrate this belief because you have it, not because it is the truth. Abuse is one way that this belief can be played out.

But intention does allow us to choose to become the observer of our beliefs and changing them once they are no longer working for us. And as we change ourselves inside, what we attract on the outside also changes. And this becomes our pathway to move “out of the box.”

So, do we move on the faith path as we reconcile and make peace with our troubling beliefs and other aspects of life? Or do we follow our intentions as we face failure and turbulence in our efforts to implant new beliefs and a life change?

What if….. we could make this choice?

In Learning………                                                                                                  Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement:

* Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box – An Arbinger Institute publication, 2008.