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Wake up XIX - You can find light if you search for it...

Life in prison might seem to be the worst part of one’s life – but take a look at a few people who used even that period to good effect.

Let’s start with someone from present times – he has a pretty controversial life but is one of the most popular fiction writers in recent times. When he was imprisoned he decided to continue writing and came up with a series of books titled “Prison Diary” which did pretty well in sales – we’re talking of Jeffery Archer.

Rewind into the past and we have someone more interesting: he was imprisoned for 12 years because he preached without a license! He was a scholar of the scriptures and a popular preacher. And in those 12 years he wrote a book that is considered as famous and popular as the Bible – Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

Another person springs to mind – he spent 27 years in prison; he graduated with the Bachelor of Law degree during this period. He was allowed only 1 letter and 1 visitor every 6 months! You would think he would not respect people in prison who his group thought were enemies but that wasn’t to be – prison life broadened his perspective. While in prison he spoke with many such people (wardens and guards). He accepted that there were others more qualified than him and listened to them. “I was in the company of great men. Some of them more qualified, more talented than I am. To sit down with them, to exchange views was one of the most revealing experiences I have. It enriched your own life. It fortified your morality. It gave you courage to do better than your best.” – Nelson Mandela about the time when he was in prison.
Of course we all know what he has done in life. Interesting interviews with people who knew him during his prison life can be found here:

Wake up XX - It's all about passion

When you think of winning a few names from the world of racing definitely pop up. He pushed to the limits in F1 racing - was considered a master in wet track driving. He won races in cars that were considered inferior to the others on the field. This Brazilian, three time F1 world champion, always drove for the win - sometimes going to the extreme limits.
"Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose."

The world could have witnessed an interesting duel between him and Michael Schumacher...but Ayrton Senna was the last F1 driver to have died during the race on a racing circuit. He might have been ruthless on the track but people have said that off track he was a completely different person; he setup a foundation to help poor kids in which he put most of his fortune; interestingly he was the one who pushed for setting up of a driver’s safety group.

An insight into his other half is revealed from an incident on the final day. In 1994 in Imola an Austrian driver had died during the practice session (which happens before race day). On race day it was Senna who died. When officials examined Senna’s car after the crash they found the Austrian flag inside which Senna wanted to raise in honor of the Austrian driver if he won the race.

"On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, 'Okay, this is the limit'. And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high." – Ayrton Senna.

Rarely do we see such passion in an individual.

Wake up XXI - Luck?

Last year there was a new kid who arrived on the block; a sensational start to his career in one of the biggest sporting events in the world. But most of the time we tend to look at the ‘lucky’ side of his life – “He is a lucky kid. Got great support financially even when he was young”. What we usually overlook is the fact that he trained intensively for six months before the F1 season started; intensive – six hours per day jogging and cycling many kilometers to improve his endurance and then learning about his car and the tracks that he would race on. A lot of effort went into it; now do you say Lewis Hamilton was lucky to have had such a great run in F1 last year?   Switching track to something I read in Reader’s Digest recently. It was about a girl who is in her twenties and has been suffering from a skin disease from birth called HI (Harlequin Ichthyosis) – a disease where the skin hardens quickly and new skin keeps growing around ten times the normal speed – which leads to shedding of skin, deformed appearance and the hardening of skin eventually leads to death – it gets so hard that no movement is possible. To survive, it meant that every morning she woke up at 4:30 to scrub off the dead skin and apply cream to slow down the drying process; the cream has to be applied multiple times a day over the whole body to keep it moist. Imagine doing such a routine for over twenty years – waking up early morning and then doing so many things just to survive; there are a few people with this condition who have survived past their childhood with remarkable resilience and do their best to lead a normal life.   We on the other hand crib – ‘no time’; ‘no time for exercise, no time for anything’! Think over it…

Wake up XXII - Watch your words

Lot of times we speak out without pausing to think if we are saying the right thing. Even trained PR (public relation) professionals have made blunders and continue to make blunders.

Oops; I didn’t mean it like that!
The chief executive of Barclay’s once said that he never used credit cards because it was too expensive – he actually meant that piling debt on credit cards is too expensive but the media (and people around) are waiting to pounce on statements that leave room for imagination – “CEO of bank speaks against credit cards” – how’s that for headlines!

Whose side are you on?
A key media person for a political party which won the election, blogged describing his party leaders as lame duck! When the press questioned him he defended himself saying he wrote the blog as a journalist and it doesn’t reflect his views! Talk about ambiguity!

Do you know who you are communicating with?
A PR consultant in AMD, the chip maker, accidentally released their communication plan (containing confidential info) for the entire year by sending it to the wrong email id.

Communication disasters always happen but image gets tarnished based on the way we react to it. Take the case of Coke and Pepsi, in India, which were accused of having levels of toxin. Instead of investigating the claims by asking for third party tests, the two companies bluntly stated that their products confirm to the highest quality – we all know the damage that cause. So PR professionals recommend: ¤ Investigate and accept if wrong ¤ And If you don’t want it to be quoted against your name then don’t say it!

Wake up XXIII - No car, no home, no land!

He is an interesting person considering the fact that in present day most of us are quite obsessed with buying a car, a home, a land and what not. He is in a way an unknown Indian except in the corporate world. In fact CEOs would say that he knows the most about corporate America than anyone else!

He quit a teaching job in the US to take up consulting full time. And many CEOs including those from GE, Honewell, Verizon hold him in high esteem. He travels almost every day and sleeps every night either in the plane, airport or in some hotel. He doesn’t own a car and he doesn’t have a house. Clients pay him around $20,000 for a day. He isn’t married and doesn’t have any goals – talk about having a dream in your life! But he is dedicated to what he does and what he likes doing – he just keeps doing that faithfully (‘purpose before self’ as he says) and it has taken him to where he is now. It is a kind of rags to riches story.

Ram Charan never dreamt of attending Harvard but that just happened – his employers in Australia were impressed by the young graduate (who pointed out problems from the cash flow statement) and told him to pursue a higher degree. He completed his doctorate but he preferred solving problems than doing academic research and thus began his consulting career that has spanned over 30 years now.

That’s the story of a man who does what he loves. Read his story that appeared in Fortune:

He has finally bought a home but he probably will never ‘move in’ there – he got it just because
people kept asking him ‘how come you never bought a place’!