Things that require ZERO TALENT

There was a famous astrologer in a village. He was very humble and noble. His predictions were always very accurate which brought people from far-away places to him for advice. He was frequented by kings and merchants who would seek his wisdom for their future courses of action.

However, there were some negative elements in his village who were jealous of his fame and the recognition that he was getting from all over. They decided to conspire against him by plotting to somehow make his predictions falter so his image could be maligned amidst his followers.

Four young friends got together and decided to challenge the astrologer. They announced in their village and nearby villages that on a particular day, they will challenge the astrologer and prove him to be wrong and fake. On the day of the challenge, loads of people from all over came to the astrologer’s village. Some out of curiosity, some out of jealousy and many out of love and respect for the man.

The encounter was in an open ground where more people could witness the challenge. The entire ground was flooded with people who were piling on each other. The Astrologer came to the venue where these four guys were waiting. They stood before the astrologer and challenged him to make a prediction that as per their plot would be proven wrong.

One of the four guys made an announcement in a loud voice addressing the crowd by saying: “As you can all see, we are carrying a gunny bag in our hands. There is a pigeon inside. The Astrologer has to tell us whether the pigeon is dead or alive?” — The plan was that if the astrologer would say that the pigeon was alive, they would twist and squeeze pigeon’s neck and bring it out dead and if he would say pigeon was dead, they will bring out the pigeon alive. In both the scenarios the prediction by the astrologer could be proved wrong for them to fulfil their sadistic desire.

The wise astrologer understood the plot and closed his eyes for a couple of minutes.

Everyone was anxiously waiting for an answer with their hearts beating rapidly awaiting the result….the astrologer opened his eyes, smiled and said in his profound voice, ‘my dear boys, whether the pigeon is dead or alive, is in your hands.’

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My student friends have major concerns about their professional career, their future in relation to the global trends, macro-economic issues, meltdowns, geo-political issues and all macro and micro developments. The debate between industry and academia is extended endlessly as to what qualities should the corporate world expect from the students / candidates? There are claims and counter claims about the percentage of students that qualify for a particular industry sector and the blame game continues where industry raises concerns about level of education, relevance of curriculum, quality of faculties etc.

In my experience, when you ask industry about their expectations from the academia, they would say that students’ basic foundation and the fundamentals must have to be strong, as companies would do the rest of the customisation during induction. When we speak to academia, they seem to be taking care of not only the fundamentals but also in many cases the soft skills etc. The question that then arises is — Where is the gap? What is the gap? It is interesting to note that many executives at the position of power and decision-making may also have come from similar (non-elite) academic backgrounds.

Of course, it’s very important to have the domain knowledge and soft skills for the students to get and excel in their jobs in any company. Both industry and academia have to take the responsibility, contribute and measure the outcomes.

I do remember during my early days with TiE i.e. around 1999–2000, K.B.Chandrasekhar who had co-founded Exodus Communications along with BV Jagadeesh in Silicon Valley were the iconic entrepreneurial team. The story of K B Chandrasekhar, founder-CEO, Jamcracker Inc, is highly inspirational. Especially, for all the enterprising young Indian generation that desire to be successful entrepreneurs.

Chandra’s journey started at Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu where he was born, moving on to Trichy where he spent his early years, and then to Chennai where he did his schooling and higher education, and finally to Silicon Valley in the United States.

It was at Silicon Valley that he struck gold. That too in a big way. It is the classic, modern-day story of a middle class young man-turned-multi-millionaire.

Chandra describes himself as “a serial entrepreneur and risk-taker who empowers others to accomplish their dream.” (More on )

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Taking clue from the story above, the answer to the question — whether the pigeon is dead or alive? — it’s in our hands. I believe that there are some things that every student must have which actually requires ZERO TALENT. These are some of the most important attributes that a person should have in order to be successful in life whether professionally or even personally. Parents are equally responsible to inculcate some of these attributes and mind-set while bringing up the child. Every organisation would be looking for these basic attributes and if you possess them, half your battle is won.

Things that require ZERO TALENT:

  • Being on time
  • Having good ethics — Personal values matter
  • Taking ownership at work
  • Being courteous and polite
  • Being your self-critique / doing self-analysis
  • Putting in honest efforts in your job
  • Positive attitude
  • Positive body language
  • Bringing energy to your work
  • Keep a ‘Can Do’ Attitude
  • Be Passionate
  • Be coachable — Improvement begins with ‘I’
  • Walking an extra mile
  • Develop lifelong habit of learning
  • Build your own community of knowledge sharing and learning to reinforce each other
  • Be ‘hands on’
  • Dates and deadlines must be respected
  • Getting into details is important
  • No ‘Chalta hai’ attitude
  • Sincerity and Hard work will always pay
  • Be confident — Must work on your ability to articulate and communicate what you really want to say
  • There is knowledge, opportunity and challenges everywhere — catch them
  • Develop your own working style
  • First deserve then desire
  • Failure is to be celebrated: ‘Success is a lousy teacher’
  • Build trust and learn to be trustworthy: It takes hard work, integrity, commitment and
  • sacrifices to build trust
  • Smile
  • Have fun
  • … … …

It is proved one more time that there are no coincidences. As I was about to post this blog I received the following story on my WhatsApp. I thought it was worth sharing here.:

This is about what happens in a typical middle-class household.

The son didn’t like living in his house.

“You are leaving the room without switching off the fan”

“The TV on in the room where there is no one. Switch it off!”

“Keep the pen in the stand; it is fallen down”

The son didn’t like his father nagging him for these minor things. He had to tolerate these things till yesterday since he was with them in the same house….But today, however, he has an invitation for a job interview.

“As soon as I get the job, I should leave this town. There won’t be any nagging from my father” were his thoughts. He left for the interview.

“Answer the questions put to you without any hesitation. Even if you don’t know the answer, mention that confidently.” Father gave him more money than he actually needed to attend the interview.

The son reached the interview centre.

There was no security outside near the gate. Even though the door was open, the latch was protruding out probably hitting the people entering through the door. He put the latch properly, closed the door and entered the office.

On both sides of the pathway he could see beautiful flower plants. The gardener had kept the water running in the hose-pipe and was not to be seen anywhere. The water was overflowing on the pathway. He kept the hosepipe near the plant and went further.

There was no one in the reception area. However, there was a notice saying that the interview was in the first floor. He slowly climbed the stairs.

The light that was switched on last night was still burning at 10 am in the morning. He remembered his father’s admonition, “Why are you leaving the room without switching off the light?” and thought he could still hear that now. Even though he felt irritated by that thought, he sought the switch and switched off the light.

Upstairs in a large hall he could see many aspirants sitting waiting for their turn. He looked at the number of people and wondered if he had any chance of getting the job.

He entered the hall with some anxiety and stepped on the “Welcome” mat placed near the door. He noticed that the mat was upside down. He straightened out the mat with some irritation. Habits die hard.

He saw that in a few rows in the front there were many people waiting for their turn, whereas the back rows were empty, but a number of fans were running over those rows of seats.

He heard his father’s voice again, “Why are the fans running in the room where there is no one?” He switched off the fans that were not needed and sat at one of the empty chairs.

He could see many men entering the interview room and immediately leave from another door. There was thus no way anyone could guess what was being asked in the interview.

He went and stood before the interviewer with some trepidation and concern.

The officer took the certificates from him and without looking at them asked, “When can you join work?”

He thought, “Is this a trick question being asked in the interview, or is this a signal that I have been offered the job?” He was confused.

“What are you thinking?” asked the boss. “We didn’t ask anyone any question here. By asking a few questions we won’t be able to assess the skills of anyone. So our test was to assess the attitude of the person. We kept certain tests based on the behaviour of the candidates and we observed everyone through CCTV. No one who came today did anything to set right the hose pipe, the welcome mat, the uselessly running fans or lights. You were the only one who did that. That’s why we have decided to select you for the job”, said the boss.

He always used to get irritated at his father’s discipline and remonstration. Now he realized that it is only the discipline that has got him his job. His irritation and anger at his father vanished completely.

As you can see, all the above attributes require ZERO TALENT but are as valuable and desired by every employer or even as an entrepreneur. You may also add many more attributes which will help enrich your job, work environment and your life…’s in your hand.
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उम्र भर ग़ालिब मैं यही भूल करता रहा,
धूल चहेरे पे थी और मैं आईना साफ़ करता रहा |

Umr bhar Ghalib mein yahi bhool karata raha,
dhool chahere pe thi aur mein aaina saaf karata raha.

All my life I repeated the same mistake,
The dust was on my face, but I kept cleaning the mirror.

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