8 Precepts to get the best out of your Core Strengths

There is a simmering difference between performance and potential in all sectors, more so in education space. The essence of bridging this gap lies in the fact that teachers and students centralize their attention on core strengths. Discover the keys which make you steadily move up in life and career. Bizarre as it may sound, fish out that notepad now and make a list of things you enjoy doing. But don’t forget to pay attention to the following eight-precepts.

While addressing the nation on the occasion of 75th Independence Day, our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi reiterated that it is high time to fathom the service gap in all fields and make it reach to the last man. It looks like that the service delivery gap is a major issue, especially in education sector it is a matter of serious concern. A major factor inflating this gap is our innate tendency to perform at less than potential. Some would call it ‘laid-back’ attitude. There is also a latent sense for ‘easy going’ and a sheer lack of ambition. In the absence of enough urge to perform beyond call of duties, it remains just a work and hardly moves up to full potential performance. This is a source of productivity loss and hence potential loss of growth for the nation.

In a report by McKinsey & Company, it has been pointed out that productivity increase in various sectors in the emerging economy has the potentiality to add 50-60 per cent to growth and about 40-50 per cent to employment. In agriculture, the potentiality for productivity led employment could be 40%, while food processing and automotive alone can add up to 90% to productivity jack-up. All these are possible with a mere change in the manner and style in which we are working currently and strive to perform at full potential. For example, just due to lack of more productive format, retail is performing at 30% lower productivity than the average productivity of other sectors. Healthcare can catch up by adopting best practices in operations and procurement.

There is a dire need for productivity enhancement in education sector. We need to work with a sense of urgency and responsibility. Education sector is in the business of human-transformation and human capital formation. It is about transforming lives. If we start putting efforts keeping in mind that it is not just a job but an expression of identity and a contribution towards changing lives of people, there will be huge productivity gain which can bridge the infamous service delivery gap. Students in class IX with a skill equivalent to class IV and a professional graduate being refused a job due to lack of sufficient knowledge and skill, is a sad commentary on the state of affairs. Each individual associated with education needs to ponder over it and take personal responsibility of putting in the best. Let us perform at our full potential rather than a mere “chalta hai” type underperformance.

Precept # 1
Maintain Regularity

Regularity is a key factor. This gives you practice. Practice makes you perfect. Indirectly you train yourself. By training one can achieve even the most difficult goal. Mark it, the code of standard behaviour in animals is not taught to them. They know what to do. It is passed on to them in genes. We are to be taught for our standard behavour. If we are not taught we may actually become worse than animals. What makes us superior to animals is that we can be trained. Trained to the amazing extent of performing superbly. This comes about easily when we maintain regularity. Our ‘proximity’ to the job determines performance and outcome.

This is one big lesson I learnt in my life, albeit painfully, that procrastinating about jobs to be done and keep postponing it for tomorrow never helped. It leads to a sure debacle. Why do people procrastinate and keep postponing things? Jen Hubley Luckwaldt, a writer and editor, rightly mentioned: It depends — not just on which expert you consult, but on the person doing the procrastinating. For some of us, there’s a thrill in creating a time crunch, while for others, it’s about fear of success or failure. We might even put things off in order to avoid having to make a decision, and in so doing, taking responsibility for our choices. The problem, of course, is that no choice is always secretly a choice.

My near and dear calls me ‘PP’ which is a short acronym for my name. What is the short acronym for progressing in life, which one can remember easily? I could not realize it until my friend pointed out that it could also mean ‘prepare & participate (PP)’. What a great discovery? I used it in my interaction with students and they liked it so much. Surprisingly, it also got passed on from one person to another and from one batch of students to another. And, here we come, PP is a like a mantra for success. Indeed, PP has universal appeal. My faculty colleagues acknowledged the power of PP and shared their experiences that preparation is the key to great performance. How much do we prepare before entering a class? How much do we prepare before paper presentation? How much do we prepare before a meeting? These are hallmark of quality as well as professionalism that one can show in work and life.    

Quick Tips:   Start now. Start with what you have and where you are. Utilize the existing resources fully. Go slow, for you don’t have to run to make a footprint. Resort to mindfulness that enhances focus and reduced ‘attention deficit’. Do not forget to follow PP!

Precept # 2
Don’t Be Too Lazy

You may feel lazy at times and take a break but being too lazy every time is a definite source of debacle. It is a trap. To be lazy is to be caught by a python. A python which will not leave unless it swallows. Kabir, the great Indian saint and poet, said—“kal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab; pal mein parilay hoyega, bahuri karega kab”. The meaning of this verse is that the time for doing things left for tomorrow is today and things left for today is now. Because you never know when in a moment everything will be doomed and your job remains unaccomplished. Kabir is clearly hinting at the necessity and the way to escape the ‘python of laziness’. Agility is important and an agile mind would discover the keys to success must easier and much faster. One can inculcate as many traits to be called agile, but the following five consideration can be a good staring point for faculty and students alike:

  1. I am sincere in my efforts to follow up on feedback I receive. Others can see action behind my words.
  2. It is a strength to change one’s mind based on new information.
  3. I avoid the temptation to be satisfied with the current reality or status quo.
  4. I am effective in listening, interacting and communicating with my students (faculty if you are a student), fellow colleagues, and external experts.
  5. I have a clear sense of long term direction of my own life purpose, career goals and societal realities.
Quick Tips:   Generate mental strength of doing things today and now. A practical way of doing it is to get up little early in the morning. Take a short walk. Think about the jobs to be accomplished. Get on to them. Or at least prepare a plan how you are going to do it. Your job is done and you still have plenty of time left all through the day! Isn’t it? Meet people, speak to them. Look for new information, often write them down. Visualize where you want to see yourself in next scheme of thing. 

Precept #3
Be Enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is that bubbly feeling which makes you do what you want to do. It is the very nucleus, the protoplasm of achievement. The best thing about enthusiasm is that it is infectious too. An enthusiastic person is the source of others zest. Enthusiasm and attitude are like static electricity. They can rub off and cling to someone else. In the book No Excuse! I’m Doing It, Jay Rifenbary writes—“Attitude is your first indicator of success, while enthusiasm helps you sustain it”. Like a compass needle points to the north, an enthusiastic person always work towards goal. If a train is standing, trying to start and someone has put a stone on the track. The train finds it difficult to inch forward. However, if a train is running at a speed and someone has erected a wall on the track, the train is likely to break it and move. This is exactly what enthusiasm does to us. An enthusiastic person does not see problem as problem. An enthusiastic teacher will have better opportunity to engage students than a teacher with sad demeanor and low on esteem.

Quick Tips: Add zing to your routine. Be enthusiastic about what you do. Make friends with persons of attitude and enthusiasm. Remember, a person is also known by the company he keeps, and of course, by the books he reads. 

Precept #4
Don’t Fear Failure

Failure and criticism help us to grow, to forge ahead. It gives us chance to set things right which otherwise would have been wrong. They are also a part of growing up sequences, an essential ingredient of life. The famous Write brothers had to face nearly unending ridicule when they suggested that a self-propelled heavier than air contraption could actually fly. Scientists as well as clergy criticized them. Bishop Milton Write said—“Flight is reserved for angels and to think about anything different is blasphemy”. Bishop was the father of Wilbur Write and Orville Write!

Quick Tips: “Learning by doing, participating and watching” is the golden rule. So what if I failed. I will do it again and next time.

Precept # 5
Face Trouble Don’t Flinch

Always accept the reality and face it. Never try to dismiss a problem or shy away from it. It is never the best way to solve the problem. The most difficult of problems deserve your most attention and time. This is the only way to solve it. Facing the problem finally culminates into your graduation. You grow by the degree of your own. But it is to be remembered that the hammer forges steel but shatters glass. So just what trouble does to you depends upon what is there in you. The tests of life are to make, not to break us.

Quick Tips:   Analyse problems clearly and thoroughly. Look for solutions. Never try to keep it in abeyance. The more you leave it, more gigantic it becomes.

Precept # 6
Believe That There Is A Way

Believe that there is a way and positive thoughts will rush into your mind to find a solution. However, the fact remains that you don’t always get what you desire. The poet has rightly said that one may miss the earth-another the sky. Read the following lines, my favourite:

“God has not promised— Skies always blue,
Flowers-strewn pathways— All life through.
God has not promised— Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow—Peace without pain.
But God has promised—Strength for the decay,
Rest for the labour—Light for the way”.

Quick Tips:   Believe in yourself and your strengths. Don’t lament and clamour for what is not destined for you and what is not under your control.

Precept # 7
Justify Your Position

Among all precepts this one is my most favourite. This precept demands that you live up to the expectations of the position you hold. You need to justify your position ex-ante and ex-post. To make it more clear, for example, if you are a student live up to actions and behaviours expected from a student. Justify your being a student. Similarly, the same goes for a teacher. This rule is applicable anywhere and everywhere. This helps in organizing your basic duties in an efficient manner. However, this is not to say that having done this you become an example. True, not everyone of us can be a Columbus, Gandhi or Madam Curie. But we can certainly be what poet Douglas Melloch said—“if you can not be a sun, be a star. It isn’t by size that you win or fall; be the best of what ever you are”. I think the message is clear. Justify your position.

Quick Tips:   Start doing what you are expected to do as whoever you are. Position-wise one may become a teacher or a student but you are yet to become a teacher or a student in true sense of the term.

Precept # 8
Embrace Some of Your Childhood Habits

Khalil Gibran told parents to always remember that children have come to this world not from them but through them. He warned parents not to try and make their children like them, for time does not move backward. Children have their own way of moving forward. Their sense of fairness is undiluted. We need to learn a lot from them.  It is said that the Zen is to have the heart and soul of a little child. First habit we can embrace in us is their indulgence in ‘pure’ play without competition. When children play nothing else matter. Such play “reduces stress, improves communication skills, builds team work”, says Cathy Raphael in her book It’s Our Turn to Play. Secondly, like children try to be your own best friend. Mildred Newman (How to be Your Very Own Best Friend) writes—“Give yourself positive recognition. When you do something you are proud of, bask in the glow, tell yourself that you did well, even if no one else does”. Third habit we can embrace in us is kids perennial tendency of learning something new. We learn for the pay-offs. Kids learn for the sheer pleasure of it. They are learning machine. As adults, we need to recapture the sense of joy we had as children. Lastly, be as simple as a child. One of the Bengali songs suggests–unless a man is simple, he can not recognize God, the simple one. Robert Herrick writes—“Truth by her own-Simplicity is known”. Brihad Aranyaka Upnishad mentions—“Let a Brahman reject erudition and live as a child”.

Quick Tips:   With the sense of simplicity you feel liberated. Also, you tend to retain control even when things go wrong. A little bit of child retained in you will never let you go hyper.

Author: Dr Prabhat Pankaj

Dr. Prabhat Pankaj is a postgraduate in Economics and a Ph.D. in applied economics. He is a teacher by choice and started his career 30 years ago in 1991 from Arunachal University. He has been teaching Economics at postgraduate and undergraduate levels for about 30 years, in Universities and B-Schools in India and abroad, including 7 years in Bhutan. Dr. Pankaj has also obtained his Executive Education in "Management and Leadership in Higher Education" at Harvard University, Boston, USA. Furthermore, He has written for the Times of India and other popular publications. Currently, he is serving as the Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur.

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