To Define Change, you Need to Define Yourself

Read excerpts from Rakesh Shukla’s talk on July 4, 2018, at the ANZ Bangalore

“The one great advantage of losing everything is that it gives you great clarity on what are the essentials of your life. Once you have a real baseline that few have, you can go anywhere you want from there” — Rakesh Shukla, at the ANZ Bangalore talk on July 4, 2018.

What happens when a large organisation is in the throes of change? It requires everyone to participate — down to the last (wo)man. But change is hard. Most of all because we don’t want to change. We want status quo. That is where we derive our comfort.

I’ve had phrases such ‘get out of your comfort zone’, ‘change is the only constant’ and so on thrown at me all my life — most often from people who I knew to be status quo-ists. What they meant was ‘it should change for you — it should not change for me’. How many CXOs tell you that we will transform this organisation but I will be made redundant?

People see change with an opaque lens and that lack of faith starts permeating the organisation. It becomes toxic. The uncertainty it causes can be paralysing. There are few managements that recognise that, and fewer do something about it. ANZ clearly wants to be better and faster but is focusing on not just shifting its bottom line, but shifting its people and culture.

As I headed to ANZ I saw this mass of humanity in a headlong rush. This rush to get to the place of work. Just that stretch of the road employs a few 100,000 software engineers. I remembered my own time on the same road 16-17 years ago. On that whole 10-km stretch Hughes Software Systems (HSS), now Aricent, was the first large office complex that came up and we had the road to ourselves.

I remembered being in the same headlong rush, and I was thinking about their fears and uncertainty. The whole talk about automation-led-efficiency. Change is coming to you, whether your company chooses or not.

That headlong rush has two motivations — success and happiness. The paradox is that we confuse these two otherwise very different things. Success does not bring happiness and happiness is not success.

The second paradox is that we fail to define either for ourselves. If you can’t be sure what success is for you, you will keep chasing a changing goal post that is comparative — compare your selfies against mine, your car against mine, and your designation against mine.

I would never say to anyone do not be competitive, but real competition drives excellence — it makes all parties better. Real competition is about learning what someone else does better. Real competition is about making substantial differences to any status quo.

When I arrived at ANZ, it was not as a motivational speaker or someone who knows all. I only hold up my own experience, and as I have dissected it. It is as a man who has had many painful falls, made many mistakes, but has had the presence of mind, courage and fortitude to listen, adapt and play with the hand he had.

I am the first one to say that all those qualities were not ones I was born with. Over years I have taught myself to be brave and now I teach myself to let go. I know I can’t change the past but I do control the future, and not letting go is that overhang that would control my trajectory. Over the experience of the last three years, I’ve had to go back to the core of me being me, something that I lost in the many ‘compromises’ that TWB_ brought — the foremost being to live with mediocrity.

But as I roll it back I’ve had to let go of some things that were also me — the foremost being unable to let go! No one can be the same, or indeed should be the same, if they are going to undergo a big change. If forgiving is a new balance then I’ve had to learn that, even though painfully and reluctantly.

At ANZ, we talked about defining success and some of those things that one needs to do to get there once you know what you want. We also talked about how no matter how you define it, the perfect balance between work, sleep, family, fitness and friends is just an illusion. Those that we admire or envy being successful have always had to give up something to get there. So the question is whether you want that ‘no holds barred’ success. If you do, what do you bring to the table, and what are you willing to give up?

We looked at how to create your ‘Map of Life’ so you can focus on what’s important for you. We talked about learning from falling down and the skills required to get up and run again.

From my early years, I have firmly believed that each man must experience life on his own and learn from his own. I do not focus on either correcting someone or talk about something I read in a book. As I said, I only hold up my own experience as I have dissected it, so others can identify these patterns for themselves. If some of the folks yesterday could see that for themselves yesterday, as the many who came and spoke to me later, that’s one step toward ANZ’s change.

Stronger with RAKESH SHUKLA is a framework for developing unparalleled mental and physical toughness. It is based on Rakesh’s life, and has helped drive two ‘comebacks’.

Rakesh Shukla slept on railway platforms on his way to creating a world-leading technology company — 
TWB_, which is the choice of over 40 Fortune 500 tech customers worldwide including Microsoft, Boeing, Airbus, Intel, and others. However, at 43, he lost everything within a year. Alone and friendless, he spent the next five years repaying over INR 20 crore of debt and taxes, while building back his company and reputation, and creating and funding VOSD — world’s largest dog sanctuary and rescue.

Rakesh Shukla has suffered heart disease since he was seven years old, had had two heart attacks by the time he was 30, suffers from brain diseases, has broken his back and his kidneys are failing. Towards the end of this five-year period, Rakesh weighed 88 kg and very unfit. Today, at 48 years, he can lift well over 100 kg above his head, run a 10-minute mile, do 2,000 push-ups, and 250 pull-ups. He has never been to a gym, been on a diet, had a trainer, or taken any supplements.

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