Entrepreneurship, Life, StartUp

Alertness: State of Mind

There was a Zen Master who was famous for his teachings about “Alertness”. Many students and disciples used to come to him from far away places. One day the Prince of a nearby kingdom decided to reach out to the Master to be his student.

Master was sitting below a tall Redwood tree and meditating. Prince came and bowed to the Master. He opened his eyes. Master’s silent demeanour was overpowering and the Prince felt nervous. He finally gathered some courage and said– “Master, I am the Prince of the neighbouring Kingdom. I’ve heard from many that you teach lessons about “alertness” and people are benefitted by the same. I too am keen to become your student and learn.”

Without uttering a word Master gestured and asked the Prince to start climbing the tree under which he was meditating. Prince was a bit confused but started climbing the tall Redwood tree. As he was climbing the tree, he looked down to get some instructions from the Master but to his utter astonishment, Master had closed his eyes and was meditating. Prince was irritated but continued climbing the tree. As he was reaching towards the top of the tree, the stem was getting thinner and the tree was swinging heavily in the wind. The Prince was scared of falling and had to catch the stem and the bark firmly to maintain his balance. He looked at the Master below and to his surprise the Master was still in deep meditation with his eyes closed. Prince got angry that here he was struggling to survive and avoid a death fall and there his Master was so carelessly sitting and meditating.

After reaching the tip of the tree, he started climbing down. Again at mid-way, he looked below to see the Master meditating. As he was coming closer to the ground at around 20-25 feet height, he heard his Master shout, “Beee caaarrrreeefffulll myyyy SSSSonnnnn, hold the stem properly…make sure you do not fall, takeeee careee !!!!”

Somehow he reached the ground but was so frustrated and angry with the Master. He could not control his princely anger and almost yelled at the master, saying “I am utterly surprised and disgusted with your behaviour and your teaching methods. It is so ridiculous that when I was at the top of the tree which was swinging heavily due to the wind and I would have fallen to death, you were merrily meditating with your eyes closed. And when I was just a few feet above the ground, you were trying to tell me to be careful??? Have you gone crazy????

Master smiled and said, “My son, when you were reaching the top, and the stem was getting thinner and the tree was swinging in the wind, you had the fear of death, fear of falling down. Your mind and body were extremely alert at that time in holding the tree and saving yourself from the fall. It was when you were reaching the ground that your mind and body could become overconfident, casual and relaxed. That is the time when most fail to hold and at that point, there are most chances of falling. I started cautioning you at that time to ensure that your mind is sensitised and you remain alert to reach the ground safely.

Prince touched his Master’s feet for he had learnt his lesson.


I have yet to find a person who is learning to drive a car and has ever committed any accident. We are so alert about all our actions such as pressing the clutch, changing gears, applying breaks, our eyes on the road gauging every possible movement even in the periphery of our vision that we leave no scope to collide. It’s only after we think that we now know driving that the attention and alertness of mind starts getting into our muscle memory that we drive so mechanically and detach ourselves from the ‘act of driving’. This is the time when most accidents tend to happen.

As a start-up when we are bootstrapped, passionately pursuing our idea, looking to build a core team, pitching to the first few angels, customers, ensuring that the team can survive that early phase when we are spending our own savings or borrowed money from our parents and siblings or close friends. We are extremely alert as we are always threatened by near-death situations and challenges to our start-up, our dream.

It is when we start getting customer validations, angel / VC funding, more success and growth that we have to be more careful and alert, as unknowingly the complacency and overconfidence would creep in to our mind and we start taking things for granted….Our dreams, our passion, our team, our values, our customers, our strategies and our execution.

When Mr. Bill Gates says “Success is a lousy teacher, it seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” To me it means that failure or challenges keep us focused and alert, while success make us casual.

बुलंदी की उड़ान पर हो तो ज़रा सब्र रक्खो,
परिंदे बताते हैं की आसमान में ठिकाने नहीं होते l

Bulandi ki udaan par ho to zara sabr rakkho,
Parinde batate hain ki aasmaan me thikane nahin hote.

Flying high on Success, keep a little patience
birds reveal that the sky has no dwellings..



About rajivvaishnav

Rajiv Vaishnav Managing Partner Cornerstone Venture Partners Rajiv is Managing Partner at Cornerstone Venture Partners, a global tech VC fund focused on Consumer business enablers (such as Applied AI) and Enterprise / SME BI solutions (vertical SaaS, AR & VR applications, Blockchain for enterprise, etc.). Cornerstone is a Pre-series A / Series A fund, the first institutional support for promising tech ventures enabling growth and customer access in unique ways. Rajiv brings over 35 years of solid experience in building brands, developing teams, expanding the market share and building organisations from grass root upwards. He was heading the Ecosystem & Partnerships Developmentt at Jio-GenNext Hub, A Reliance Enterprise. In this role, Rajiv is responsible to evangelize the Start-Up ecosystem, identify and connect with the deserving start-ups, academia, government agencies, mentors, angel investors and VC networks globally. Since 2002 till end of 2015, Rajiv was an integral part of NASSCOM’s senior management team. He headed NASSCOM’s first regional office in Mumbai and grown to manage the membership outreach nationally. He initiated many path breaking initiatives at NASSCOM including Cyber Safety initiatives with enforcement agencies, start-up incubators with State Governments under 10K Startup programme, evangelised Animation and Gaming industry and nurtured it, lead the ISO Standards initiative to establish a Global BPO and Product Quality Framework Standards out of India. He helped establish NASSCOM’s emerge forum in its formative days. At NASSCOM, he was enthusiastic about developing new IT destinations in the country, and fostering platforms for Industry-academia interactions as he believed that these were the two most critical requirements for the Indian IT industry to maintain its globally advantageous position. Rajiv was a member of AICTE (WR) and of IQAC of the SNDT Women’s University and Trustee at Dewang Mehta Foundation Trust. With Harish Mehta, the first President of TiE, Mumbai and the first Chairman of NASSCOM, Rajiv co-founded TiE in India. He built the organisation bottoms-up and nurtured the start-up ecosystem in India since early 2000. He got early exposure to work with TiE in Silicon Valley and investors, entrepreneurs and mentors such as Kanwal Rekhi, Suhas Patil, Desh Deshpande, Sridhar Iyengar, Raj Jaswa, Shabir Bhatia, Raj Desai and many others… He has worked with Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), Franchising Association of India (FAI) and US- Environment Resource Center (US-ERC). In the corporate sector, his experience includes stints with two U.S. Freight Forwarding giants Emery Worldwide and Air Express International in sales & marketing. In 2000, Rajiv was invited by the U.S. Government to participate in their International Visitors programme on US Trade and World Market. Rajiv has administered several outward trade delegations including those to International Franchise Expo ’99, USA, Emerging Companies delegations to CeBIT Australia and Silicon Valley. He has represented NASSCOM in the International Advisors Council to the Mayor of Luwan District in Shanghai, China and E-Sports Symposium in Seoul, Korea. Rajiv is a Science graduate from Mumbai University. He is passionate about music and literature. His blog url: www.rajivvaishnav.com
View all posts by rajivvaishnav →

8 thoughts on “Alertness: State of Mind

  1. When a person is on zenith of his career he need to have patience then only one can have control over his mind and alertness … Excellent article Rajiv …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *