Subba’s Serendipitous moments

January 14, 2007

Ancient wisdom

Filed under: Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 4:13 pm

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 wolves.” One is Evil. It is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

The God and the Devil

Filed under: Perspective,Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 4:12 pm

There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he
could never hit the target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner.

As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He
was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to see his sister watching! Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch the next day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.” Then
she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally just smiled
and said, “Well that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help.”
She whispered again, “Remember the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed the he had
killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing.
But because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

Thought for the day and every day thereafter:

Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done, the devil keeps throwing it up in your face (lying, debt, fear, hatred, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, etc.).

Whatever it is, you need to know that God was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing, He has seen your whole life. He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven.

He’s just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave of you. The great thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness, He not only forgives you, but He forgets.

Put down your burdens

Filed under: Perspective,Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:50 pm

A Master raises a glass of water and asks the audience,

“How heavy do you think this glass of water is?”

“It depends on how long you hold it”

“If I hold it for a minute, it is Ok.”

“If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm”

“If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance”

“It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes”

If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, we will not be able to carry on, the burden becoming increasingly heavier.

“What you have to do is to put the glass down, rest for a while before holding it up again.”

We have to put down the burden periodically, so that we can be refreshed and are able to carry on. When you return home from work, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it home.  You can pick it up tomorrow.

Rest and relax.

We should take one day at a time !!!!!

Be brave against all odds..and never give up!

Filed under: Perspective,Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:43 pm

A  man decides to take on a hunting safari in Africa, and takes his faithful dog with him, so he doesn’t feel so lonely out in the middle of the bush. The first day out on the expedition, the dog starts chasing butterflies absent mindedly, and before long discovers that he has become separated from the safari group and is alone now.

He starts wandering around in the wilderness, lost, when he suddenly notices a leopard a little way off, heading rapidly in his direction, with the obvious intention of making a meal out of him. “Now I’m in deep doodoo!” thinks the dog, and starts wracking his brains to figure a way out of his dire situation. He notices some bones nearby, and an idea hits him.

He settles down comfortably to chew on the bones, with his back to the leopard. Just as the leopard is about to pounce on him, the dog exclaims loudly: “Man, that  was one delicious leopard I just ate! I wonder if there’s any more around here!”

Hearing this, the leopard halts his attack in mid stride, a look of terror on his face, and quietly slinks off into the bush again, thinking,  “Whew! That was close! That demon dog almost got me!”

Meanwhile, a monkey that had been watching the whole scene from the top of a nearby tree, figures he can put his information to good use, and trade it with the leopard for protection. So off he scuttles, but the dog sees him heading after the leopard at great speed, and figures something is going on.

The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, cuts a deal, and tells him the whole story. The leopard, furious at being fooled so easily, exclaims, “That dog! I’m gonna get him for that! So the stupid dog thinks he can make a fool of me, the Lord of the Wilderness, does he? We’ll show him who eats whom around here! Come on, monkey; jump on my back, and we’ll go get him!”

The monkey jumps on, and the two of them head off in search of the dog. The dog sees the leopard coming from a long way off, this time with the monkey on his back. “What a sneaky little monkey!”, thinks the dog to himself. “Now what am I going to do?”  But instead of running, the dog sits down on the ground, his back to the attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and waits for them to get close enough to hear him.

“Where’s that rascal monkey!” exclaims the dog, loudly, “Never can trust him! I sent him off half an hour ago to bring me another leopard, and he’s still not back!!”

Finding the “inner compass”

Filed under: Learning,Motivation,Perspective,Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:40 pm

Once upon a time there was a lodge-keeper who managed a mountain resort. Many people visited the area to hike and enjoy the natural splendour of the mountain. One day, a guest checked in and after getting settled, he told the lodge-keeper he was going out hiking. The lodge-keeper advised him to keep noticing the direction of the sun because there were no trails in this area.

“No trails?” the visitor asked. The lodge-keeper explained that as soon as someone made a path, the wind and dust covered it up. “The sun is your best guide to lead you back to the safety of your cabin,” she said.
The man assured the lodge-keeper that he would remember to do this but the thrill and excitement of the mountain overwhelmed him. He completely forgot the lodge-keeper’s advice as soon as he stepped outside. After walking and wandering most of the day, he decided to head back. Then he remembered that he forgot to watch the sun.
The hiker tried to retrace the way he came but soon lost his sense of direction after the first few feet. He didn’t see any footprints behind him and then realised that the wind and dust thoroughly wiped out the path he had just made. There was no trail for him to follow back to the cabin.
The visitor panicked and started running but the faster he ran, the more he panicked. The more he panicked, the more he lost his sense of direction. He knew he’d never find his way back before dark without knowing which way to go. Sitting down on the grass, he put his hands in his pockets and watched the sun get lower.
Soon, his fingers encircled a strange object. The traveller pulled it out and saw that it was a compass he had with him all along. “I didn’t know I had this,” he mumbled. Watching the needle sway back and forth somehow reminded him that he had walked south when he left the lodge. When the needle stopped moving, he knew that it pointed him in the direction back to safety.
After the man returned to the cabin, he told the lodge-keeper about how he got lost and especially about the unexpected compass he found in his pocket. “I put the compass in your pocket,” the lodge-keeper said. “You? Why?” asked the visitor. “Because I knew that in all your excitement you’d forget to watch the sun,” she replied. “And without watching the sun, you’d never find your way back.”
She told the traveller that her compasses are, without question, the most reliable means for making the return journey and that she made sure that all the guests had one on them before they went out. “Then why didn’t you tell me you put it there?” the man asked. “Because you’d be offended if you knew I did. I was aware of how you secretly thought you could find your way back without help,” replied the lodge-keeper, “but I knew full well you couldn’t. Some find their hidden compass sooner than others,” she continued, “but everyone eventually discovers that they have one. So everyone always gets back safe?” the visitor asked. “Everyone,” affirmed the lodge-keeper. “In the entire time that I’ve been here,” she said, “no one has ever been permanently lost.”
Finding a little bit of truth within is like discovering a hidden compass in your own pocket. Some find it sooner than others but when you discover it, you no longer need to go around asking other people to please show you their compasses. You have your own. But how do you make contact with this inner guide? It’s there but you have to do some digging in order to find it, like searching for a treasure buried in your own back yard. The treasure exists but you need to know some sensitive secrets about locating it.
You don’t have to invent this inner wealth because it’s already there. Your job is to remove the obstacles that prevent you from finding it. What obstacles? Not wanting to change inwardly is one. An unwillingness to forgive others and yourself, a second. And believing that you already have this treasure and there’s nothing more to experience, a third. Another secret is to try and see the inadequacy of your everyday responses to life. Changing your reactions to external events will set new causes in motion and these new causes will inevitably produce new results. When things change on the inside, they produce a corresponding change on the outside.
Release just one unproductive habit for a week and see what happens. Let’s take complaining as an example. Instead of grumbling when something goes wrong, do just the opposite. Don’t make a fuss about whatever happened. This will feel strange at first, but do it anyway. The issue here is to challenge your everyday habits. When you don’t go along with your customary reactions, you’re setting into motion powerful forces that will change you internally. This same energy will also attract new conditions and new people into your life who, likewise, will be less complaining. Remember, that the inner determines the outer. The more you change, the more your world changes.
Give yourself permission to experiment with different ways of reacting. Don’t shortchange yourself by using the same emotional response over and over again in every situation. Try something new. Keep in mind that each event has its own set of circumstances and that each requires a distinctive reply.
Think it’s too late to start? Never. If you turn on the light in your living room, it doesn’t matter how long the room was dark. The important thing is that there was an internal change. You’ll feel a refreshing, new sense of self starting to emerge and it won’t be just another rearrangement of your old mental furniture. Don’t sell yourself short. Discover your inner compass and go all the way. What you’ve always wanted is already there waiting for you.

The moral poser

Filed under: Education,Learning,Perspective,Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:35 pm

Well, here is an interesting morality poser . A couple of years back when I was teaching the MBA program, I posed this to the class. It drew about 60 responses and seemed to be more popular than some of the other posers that I post:

The basic rules and guidelines:

  1. There is no right or wrong answer. Every answer is acceptable. You cant criticize another person’s answer.
  2. You don’t need to justify your choice. If you want to, your justification has to be restricted to ONLY one line/one sentence
  3. You are not allowed to discuss this question with anyone as you answer.
  4. You cant add more facts or make any other assumptions or make some wild tangential interpretations.

A man (M) and a lady (L) who are very much in love and devoted to one another, are separated by a river with no way of getting across to the other side. On L’s side of the river, there is a boatman (B) who is able to take her across but refuses to do so unless she pays him a price of $100, thrice his normal fare. L has no money.

Another man (S) tells L that he will give her (L) $100 if she sleeps with him. L agrees to do so and on receiving the money, pays B the boatman, who takes her across the river. She is reunited with M and they are very happy together again. However a friend of M(F) finds out what L did with S and immediately tells M. On learning the news, M ends things with L, stating that he wants nothing to do with her.

Now, here is your task:

Rank these 5 people : M, L,B,S and F from the best person to the worst person with just a one line/sentence elaboration.

Making difficult choices

Filed under: Learning,Perspective,Stories — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:28 pm

A group of children were playing near two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused. Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track. The train came, and you were just beside the track interchange. You could make the train change its course to the disused track and saved most of the kids. However, that would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would you rather let the train go its way? Let’s take a pause to think what kind of decision we could make…………….

Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way, I guess. Exactly, I thought the same way initially because to save most of the children at the expense of only one child was rational decision most people would make, morally and emotionally. But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place? Nevertheless, he had to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was.

This kind of dilemma happens around us everyday. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are.

The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track was sidelined. And in the case he was sacrificed, no one would shed a tear for him.

The friend who forwarded me the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that track was still in use, and that they should have run away if they heard the train’s sirens. If the train was diverted, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track! Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to the track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! And in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few kids. While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right one.

“Remember that what’s right isn’t always popular… and what’s popular isn’t always right.”

Aging gracefully

Filed under: Perspective — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:25 pm

Old age is like a bank account  … you withdraw from what you’ve put in.  So, let’s deposit a lot  of happiness in the bank account of memories and life … and accumulate  it.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

  1. Free your heart from  hatred.
  2. Free your mind from  worries.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less – or better still,  get rid of expectations.

No one can go back and make a  brand new start.

Anyone can start from now and  make a brand new ending.

Accumulating happiness

Filed under: Perspective — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:23 pm

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is  fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed  and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a  nursing home today.  Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making  the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby  of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she  manoeuvred her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her  tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I  love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been  presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room .  Just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied.  “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my  room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I  arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make  every morning when I wake up.  I have a choice; I can spend the day in  bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer  work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a  gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy  memories I’ve stored away … just for this time in my life.”

The essence of leadership

Filed under: Business,Leadership — Subbaraman Iyer @ 3:19 pm

Here, Mr. Narayana Murthy talks about the essence of leadership and effortlessly blends the so called Western and Eastern notion of leadership.

A leader is an agent of change, and progress is about change. In the words of Robert F Kennedy, ‘Progress is a nice word; but change is its motivator.’

Leadership is about raising the aspirations of followers and enthusing people with a desire to reach for the stars. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi created a vision for independence in India and raised the aspirations of our people.

Leadership is about making people say, ‘I will walk on water for you.’ It is about creating a worthy dream and helping people achieve it.

Robert Kennedy, summed up leadership best when he said, ‘Others see things as they are and wonder why; I see them as they are not and say why not?’


A leader has to raise the confidence of followers. He should make them understand that tough times are part of life and that they will come out better at the end of it. He has to sustain their hope, and their energy levels to handle the difficult days.

There is no better example of this than Winston Churchill. His courageous leadership as prime minister for Great Britain successfully led the British people from the brink of defeat during World War II. He raised his people’s hopes with the words, ‘These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived.’

Never is strong leadership more needed than in a crisis. In the words of Seneca, the Greek philosopher, ‘Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.’


The leader has to create hope. He has to create a plausible story about a better future for the organisation: everyone should be able to see the rainbow and catch a part of it.

This requires creating trust in people. And to create trust, the leader has to subscribe to a value system: a protocol for behavior that enhances the confidence, commitment and enthusiasm of the people.

Compliance to a value system creates the environment for people to have high aspirations, self esteem, belief in fundamental values, confidence in the future and the enthusiasm necessary to take up apparently difficult tasks. Leaders have to walk the talk and demonstrate their commitment to a value system.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘We must become the change we want to see in the world.’ Leaders have to prove their belief in sacrifice and hard work. Such behavior will enthuse the employees to make bigger sacrifices. It will help win the team’s confidence, help leaders become credible, and help create trust in their ideas.

Enhancing trust

Trust and confidence can only exist where there is a premium on transparency. The leader has to create an environment where each person feels secure enough to be able to disclose his or her mistakes, and resolves to improve.

Investors respect such organisations. Investors understand that the business will have good times and bad times. What they want you to do is to level with them at all times. They want you to disclose bad news on a proactive basis. At Infosys, our philosophy has always been, ‘When in doubt, disclose.’


Good corporate governance is about maximising shareholder value on a sustainable basis while ensuring fairness to all stakeholders: customers, vendor-partners, investors, employees, government and society.

A successful organisation tides over many downturns. The best index of success is its longevity. This is predicated on adhering to the finest levels of corporate governance.

At Infosys, we have consistently adopted transparency and disclosure standards even before law mandated it. In 1995, Infosys suffered losses in the secondary market. Under Indian GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), we were not required to make this information public. Nevertheless, we published this information in our annual report.

Fearless environment

Transparency about the organisation’s operations should be accompanied by an open environment inside the organisation. You have to create an environment where any employee can disagree with you without fear of reprisal.

In such a case, everyone makes suggestions for the common good. In the end everyone will be better off.

On the other hand, at Enron, the CFO was running an empire where people were afraid to speak. In some other cases, the whistle blowers have been harassed and thrown out of the company.

Managerial remuneration

We have gone towards excessive salaries and options for senior management staff. At one company, the CEO’s employment contract not only set out the model of the Mercedes the company would buy him, but also promised a monthly first-class air ticket for his mother, along with a cash bonus of $10 million and other benefits.

Not surprisingly, this company has already filed for bankruptcy.

Managerial remuneration should be based on three principles:

Fairness with respect to the compensation of other employees;
Transparency with respect to shareholders and employees; and
Accountability with respect to linking compensation with corporate performance.

Thus, the compensation should have a fixed component and a variable component. The variable component should be linked to achieving long-term objectives of the firm. Senior management should swim or sink with the fortunes of the company.

Senior management compensation should be reviewed by the compensation committee of the board, which should consist only of independent directors. Further, this should be approved by the shareholders.

I’ve been asked, ‘How can I ask for limits on senior management compensation when I have made millions myself?’ A fair question with a straightforward answer: two systems are at play here. One is that of the promoter, the risk taker and the capital markets; and the other is that of professional management and compensation structures.

One cannot mix these two distinct systems, otherwise entrepreneurship will be stifled, and no new companies will come up, no progress can take place. At the same time, there has to be fairness in compensation: there cannot be huge differences between the top most and the bottom rung of the ladder within an organisation.

PSPD model

A well run organisation embraces and practices a sound Predictability-Sustainability-Profitability-Derisking (we call this the PSPD model at Infosys) model. Indeed, the long-term success of an organisation depends on having a model that scales up profitably.

Further, every organisation must have a good derisking approach that recognises, measures and mitigates risk along every dimension.


Strong leadership in adverse times helps win the trust of the stakeholders, making it more likely that they will stand by you in your hour of need. As leaders who dream of growth and progress, integrity is your most wanted attribute.

Lead your teams to fight for the truth and never compromise on your values. I am confident that our corporate leaders, through honest and desirable behaviour, will reap long-term benefits for their stakeholders.

Two mottos

In conclusion, keep in mind two Sanskrit sentences: Sathyannasti Parmo Dharma (There is no dharma greater than adherence to truth); and Satyameva jayate (Truth alone triumphs). Let these be your motto for good corporate leadership.

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