When the thief in me died…

There lived an old fakir on the outskirts of a village. One night he was busy writing, when, past midnight, a thief entered his hut. The door was not locked so he just pushed it, hoping that everyone in the house must be a asleep, but found this old man awake. The thief got scared and immediately took out a big knife.

Fakir said, “Come in brother and keep the knife back in your pocket. There is no one here for you to feel threatened or afraid of. Who are you?

The thief was shivering with fear and said, “Now that you are asking, let me tell you that I am a thief and I came here to steal money and other valuables.” Old man was in tears, the thief was surprised and asked why he was crying.

Fakir said, “I can imagine agony that you must have undergone. You must be feeling such helplessness that you left the village and came to a poor fakir’s hut in want of things. This condition of yours is making me sad and also that I do not have much to offer you… look, I have some 10–15 coins in that drawer in the table in the corner, you can take them.”

The guy took the money and was about to leave the hut when the old man said, “Hey listen, do me one favour, give me one coin as I may need it tomorrow morning.”

The thief gave him back one coin. Again the fakir said, “Brother, at least say ‘thank you’ to me for what I have given you.” Confused, the thief looked at him and said, ‘thank you’ hurriedly before dissolving in the darkness.

It so happened that some days later the thief was caught by the police and was brought to the court. Among other thefts, it was also found that the thief had gone to this old fakir’s home to steal, so the magistrate called the fakir to testify. The thief was too scared as he knew that the magistrate may not believe others, but this old fakir was known for his truthfulness and nobleness, and hence his comments were of immense value in this case. When the magistrate asked if the old fakir knew the thief and whether he had stolen anything from the fakir’s house, Fakir said, “I know him. He is a good man. He did come to my house in some desperation and I had given him some money. He also thanked me for the same. The matter was over then and there. He never stole anything from me.”

When this man was set free, he went straight away to meet the fakir. He was puzzled as he asked the old man, “I was very surprised that you didn’t even consider me thief for what I did.”

Fakir said, “The day when the thief in me died, it was difficult for me to consider any other person a thief.”

The world cannot give us what is not there in our character and personality, at the same time cannot take away from us what we have within.

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I picked up Robin Sharma’s The Greatness Guide after a while. It was as refreshing as it was when I read it the first time. I found topic 74 — ‘See Through the Eyes of Understanding’ rather relevant in extending the core thought of the above story. Author said and I wish to quote –

“The sad fact is that so many people look for the worst in others. They see them through the eyes of their anger, fear and limitation. If someone shows up late for a meeting, they impute a negative intent to that person, saying, “they are so rude.” If someone makes a mistake on an expense report, they grumble, “That person is so dishonest.” If someone miscommunicates a point, they silently say, “She is a liar.”

Real leaders are different. They look for the best in people. Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, said it so well: “The most important job you have is growing your people, giving them a chance to reach their dreams.”

I want to be clear. I’m not suggesting that leaders avoid reality. Not at all. They make the hard calls when they need to. The best don’t worry about being liked — they just do what their conscience tells them is right. Best leaders see through their eyes of understanding. If someone is late, they try to get to the truth. May be there’s a time management problem to coach around or a sick child to help. An error on an expense account could be the result of a poor process in place or the employee’s disorganisation. The miscommunication might be all about the person communicating having weak skills in this area — an opportunity for improvement.

Today, rather than looking for the worst in people, I encourage you to look for what’s best within them. Sure some people really are inconsiderate or dishonest or uncaring. But in my experience — most people are good. Few human beings wake up in the morning and ask themselves: “What can I do today to mess up someone else’s day or undermine my credibility or ruin our business?” Most of the mistakes people make are the result of a lack of awareness. Most people just don’t know better — so stop taking it so personally.

And there’s the payoff for you. As you seek out the good in people, not only will they want to show up more fully for you, but you will see more good in your world.” — Unquote.

I have been involved with the start-up ecosystem since the early 2000s when we started TiE in India. I was fortunate to have worked with many amazing angel investors, mentors and professionals, along with some great start-up founders and entrepreneurs. What I have observed and learnt was that the best angel investors and VCs who can spot the right entrepreneur, idea, technology, team, and back their start-ups were ‘entrepreneurs’ at heart and not just hardcore investors.

They can relate to the vision, passion, perseverance and even pains of the start-up founding teams and support them in their thick-and-thin with the same entrepreneurial zeal and compassion. These angels do not see the entrepreneur with the lens of a pure play investor.

My salute to such amazing angels and leaders. I wish to tell the start-up founders –

याद तुम्हें भी आएंगे वो लम्हें..,
कि कोई था, जब और कोई नहीं था!

Yaad tumhe bhi aayenge woh lumhe…
ki koi tha, jab aur koi nahin tha.

You will also recall those moments..
That there was someone, when there was no one.

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