Letter from Azim Premji – Lesson #6, #7, #8

Lesson # 6: Put yourself first

This does not mean being selfish. Nor does it mean that you must become so full of yourself that that you become vain or arrogant. It means developing your self confidence. It means, developing an inner faith in yourself that is not shaken by external events. It requires perseverance. It shows up in the ability to rebound from a setback with double enthusiasm and energy. I came across a recent Harvard Business review which describes this very effectively :
“No one can truly define success and failure for us- only we can define that for ourselves. No one can take away our dignity unless we surrender it. No one can take away our hope and pride unless we relinquish them. No one can steal our creativity, imagination and skills unless we stop thinking. No one can stop us from rebounding unless we give up.”
And there is no way we can take care of others, unless we take care of ourselves.

Lesson # 7: Have a broader social vision

While there is every reason to be excited about the future, we must not forget that we will face many challenges as well. By 2015, we will have 829 million strong workforce. That will make India home to 18% of global working-age population. The key challenge is to transform that into a globally competitive work-force.

This will not be an easy task. Despite all the rapid economic expansion seen in recent years, job growth inIndia still trails the rise in working-age population. It is important that gains are spread across this spectrum, so that the divide between the employed and the under-employed, is minimised. Education is a crucial enabler that can make this growth as equitable as possible.

Lesson # 8: Play to win

Playing to win is not the same as playing dirty. It is not about winning all the time or winning at any cost. Playing to win is having the intensity to stretch to the maximum and bringing our best foot forward. Winning means focusing on the game. The score board tells you where you are going, but don’t concentrate too much on it. If you can focus on the ball, the scores will move by themselves. I recently came across this story that I thought I would share with you

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went into the kitchen. He returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups: porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal- some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – and asked them to help themselves to coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, you were more concerned about comparing your cups but what you really wanted was coffee. Yet you spent all your time eyeing each other’s cups.

Now if life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to contain Life, but cannot really change the quality of Life.

Sometimes, by over concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

— Azim Premji, Chairman, Wipro

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