Friday, April 28, 2017

On Authenticity

Humanity arrived at our present day status, because of iconic events in the second half of the 18th century.  

We learnt the value of mass quantity during the advancement of the Industrial Revolution. Later, we acquired our desire for materialism and the aspiration to rise above the prevailing state of being, through the American and French Revolutions. The phenomenal success of the Industrial Floor meant many things were eventually designed based on it. Today, schools, offices, factories, warehouses are all designed as the Industrial Floor.  Man understood how large volume was imperative for critical mass, which in turn led to great material success. This understanding drove our growth and we reached for more. Thus, Man ended up consuming more and more.

This sustained need to grow ushered in the mega corporation, accentuated all the more, through the excesses of the stock exchange system. To facilitate the drive for mass quantum and growth, along came the HR revolution and humans became pawns. Humans needed to be mechanical and focussed on performance. We were subjected to the Bell Curve and our lives at work were now designed through it. Welcome to the machine like existence of the present day. This living, breathing, functioning machine is supposed to follow an optimum career plan and last out forty years for the benefit of the corporations. That is the HR optimisation vision.     

As it so happens, we are actually not machines. We are humans! Our DNA, our retina pattern, our voice print and our finger print are all unique. All 7.4 bn of us on this planet are truly unique. So why should we not be living unique lives, rather than cloned mechanical lives? There must be more to life than clocking up hours for forty years, living a programmed corporate existence, taking retirement and going to the grave. Our corporate card cannot be our identity; we are a name, a human of value and purpose.     

So we need more authenticity - i.e. we need to live lives which are real and owned by us. It should not belong to a corporate, or a government, or an army etc. We need to contemplate and find our 'very own reason to be' - raison de'tre, ikigai. 

Before individuals can find their 'reason to be', they need to know 'who they are inside'. They need to look inwards, find their personal vision and value system. Once found, only then can we proceed to live 'our reason to be'. There is no point in hiding behind a facade. Why would you live life as someone else or replicating someone else's values and desires? Unfortunately, we accomplish only this, when we go hammer and tong trying to deliver corporate vision and targets. After all it is only one existence and it passes by in a jiffy, so let's use it.   

So once you have discovered yourself, then you need to find out what is it that will actually satisfy this Real You.  What is your passion? Is it social regeneration, is it impact on the world eco system, is it simply to touch the senses through art or sport, or it could be more than one calling. Once you find what really appeals to your passion, you then have an answer of 'why you want to do something'. That something becomes life's purpose, your essence; you live and breathe that purpose. You love your passion and you OWN why you do this work. If you own that work, you will eventually find your way to achieving success. It will actually be easier to live this sort of life.  In our present world, almost all of us are doing something, because it is available at hand, we need to do it for money and we end up not loving it. Over time we lose our authenticity through attrition, and we become a cloned machine. 

You will only get to the end of life once and when you do get there, you want to look back and say I have lived this one life doing things which are important to me.

*free picture from dreamstime.com 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dhul Qarnain


Where is the Wall situated?

A few thousand years ago, Dhul Qarnain went West and came to a murky water, where he found a people, for whom he set rules to guide them. Then he veered and set off towards the East and he came to where he could see the Sun rising, and found  a shelter less people. He then went on a path between two mountains to the place of Gog and Magog (G&M). Today these events take major significance, as the world (maybe) edges towards the time of the Malhama (Armageddon). Hence, scholars trace Dhul Qarnain's movements, to get to know more about G&M.       

The Quran has succinctly described how Dhul Qarnain, the two horned warrior, went to the shores of the Black Sea (murky water) and then moved east to the Caspian (rising of the Sun). Then he took a path which brought him between two mountains and a people oppressed by G&M. A great leader of humanity, he rescued these people by imprisoning G&M, behind a huge wall. Forever, through millennia G&M have been endeavouring to get out and one day they will succeed.    

It is unusual, in this day of satellite imagery that a huge wall structure cannot be identified. Is there any area left which has not been explored on the earths surface? Remember, G&M are human descendants of Hazrat Nuh(as) and there is nothing supernatural about them. It is with this thought in mind, that scholars research this topic. Where is the Wall and G&M?      

There are two historical figures who are better identified with Dhul Qarnain. Alexander and Cyrus. Alexander is supported by some, because at one time during his conquest, he built a big gate at Derbent, to ensure safety in The Caspian. However, not enough of his travels coincides with the Quran's description. Cyrus is closer to the description given and he traveled much in this region during his Central and West Asian conquests. The description and characteristics of the two horned one, also seem to favour the concept of Cyrus the wise king. Hence, many scholars believe Cyrus is Dhul Qarnain. 
     
As Cyrus conquered, he moved North and ran into the area of the Caucasus. Passing between this mountain range, north of Tbilisi in Georgia, is the Darial Pass. It's wide enough and allows an approach to the region south of the mountains, from the plains in Russia. Today highways are providing access, but in Cyrus time, he came across G&M and it is here that he may have built the Wall in the pass. If you look at a photograph of Darial Gorge from 1872, you see that there is an ancient tall broken structure there. Furthermore, other photographs suggest a tall wall between two mountains, now absorbed by nature. So it would seem, that the Wall of Dhul Qarnain has been destroyed or overcome.    
What about G&M? Our present eschatology indicates G&M will emerge during the time of Hazrat Isa(as). That obviously is in a time yet to happen. Could it be that our chronology is wrong and G&M are already out and about in this world? Would it not explain the chaos which is building up in the world today? A couple of possible proofs of this conclusion.

There is the famous event when the Prophet (saw) woke from a dream, red and worried. He said to his wife Zainab bint Jahsh (ra), today the G&M have driven a hole in the Wall. This happened 1400 years ago. What is the likelihood of the Wall not being destroyed by now?  

There is another Hadith which recently has perturbed scholars. It states that when the last G&M is passing the Lake Tiberius (Sea of Galilee), he will say " when the first G&M passed by, this place was full of water. Now when I pass it, the water is dry." Lake Tiberius supplies a third of the water of Israel and also its water flows into the River Jordan. The problem is that today, Lake Tiberius has almost reached dead levels. It is dying very fast and is beyond recovery! It will go dry very soon.
So the conclusion has to be that G&M are already resident in the present day world. Out of this inference comes a whole host of conclusions, which just turns the traditional eschatology timescales upside down. The timing of Malhama, the coming of the Dajjal, the economic deprivation which will come through the droughts in that time, and all the escalation of suffering and chaos. Sadly, people do not care in this fragmented world. Here, the self has become all important and sceptics about religion and history are in fashion.  However, there might be serious times ahead and the people of the world, need to stop worrying about economics and profits and start looking at how to make it more peaceful. This will be mankinds biggest test in its long history. We need to come together to face it.

Note: Eschatology is difficult to prove. It's part material substance, part belief and part historical reference. I have written this based on some research, but there are scholars who have spent decades and still are not certain. These conclusions are by no means the only argument out there. Allah knows best.



Monday, April 3, 2017

The Urge to cut Costs


imageRecently, during a dinner with some senior MNC friends, a discussion led to the question of comparing a cost effective model with a growth model. Normally, I do not write about these management questions. Most people do not have any interest in them, whatsoever, and I myself find them very boring. However, in this case, I thought it incumbent to record my learnings, as it may help someone in the future.
Right at the outset, let me declare that I find it amazing that some big management gurus tilt towards cost effectiveness, while in my opinion, cost cutting is only an occasional tool to boost efficiencies (for minimal periods) and can never create sustainability, as compared to a business growth model, which leads to longer term sustenance. 
The answer in sums is so simple. Fixed cost will be, say 10% of the total revenues of the company. A substantial saving in these will lead to an overall increase in bottom line by approximately 1% of revenue. A similar growth rate in the overall business revenue, will lead to a 10 % growth in the topline. This will lead to a very significant pass through to the bottom line. That is the essential difference. In one case you are expanding the whole pie, while in the other its just one small slice being improved, while the pie does not expand, infact sometimes contracts.
Nowadays it seems to be a habit though. Most MNCs seem to be restructuring all the time. This is really a code word to control costs and become more efficient. A continuous cost drive takes the edge off creativity and makes people risk averse. Employees are incessantly worried about their jobs, so very little space is left to actually worry about performance. There are other side issues. Uncertainty, while cost is saved, leads to tension and insecurity. This inevitably leads to politics and a lot of in-fighting. The employees forget the purpose of working for the betterment of the company. Very soon, even when the cost has been saved, the company has lost enough sales, so that we are back to square one. The same bottomline! So then this process is applied again and more costs are drawn out of the system, with the same circular reference effect on the sales. The company is actually chasing its tail and we have seen some large companies dwindle into nothing over time.
Gunning for growth is always a positive message. It means more sales, more people working, less per capita costs, greater buoyancy, more people progressing in their careers and general all round happiness. Of course it comes with more risks, as growth is not a given and many times one has to create this growth, sometimes with innovation and change, other times with out of the box thinking.
Fortunately, in almost all my career, I have been in growth situations and only a couple of times has one encountered a cost saving situation. I make no bones about it…once the job was done, my dislike for the organisation led me to leave it at the first available opportunity, as part of a general exodus of many good people. Infact, generally the best performing people find optimistic spaces and are much happier moving from these sort of adverse cost saving situations.
The need to cut costs will surface at times, especially when a business is in trouble, and to save the company and a larger part of the work force, some sacrifices have to be made. In this case cutting cost makes sense for survival sake. But not the way its practised today, for the sake of enhancing bottomline and rewarding shareholders at the cost of employees lives and families. That is a most inhuman form of management. At the same time one is not advocating rampant cost increases here. Its good to be cost conscious and not throw away efficiency. However, that is a mind-set and not the main purpose of the business, which is to sell profitably, make bottom-line, have an engaged work force and happy shareholders. A balanced path!


The picture is from the free picture site dreamstime.com