Ramesh Narayan has done the world a huge favour by chronicling some of the most significant chapters of his life, and lessons therefrom, in his second book published by Notion Press.
Many of the instances are from his second innings, post his voluntarily downing the shutters at a rather successful Canco Advertising, when he turned 50.
Why is this book valuable? For those who know him, there are stories that could well be titled ‘The Legend of Ramesh Narayan’ that they may have been a part of themselves, or at least heard of. For those who may not know him, there are perspectives from one who has led a purposeful life that will enrich theirs.
This book is important because it challenges the definition of success. We have all heard that success is what we define it to be, but it takes conviction to pull away from the conventional definition and script one’s own. When you’re professionally successful, it can be near impossible to choose a different path. Perspectives of the author, someone who continues to live by the words, ‘It is in giving that we receive…’ deserve to be heard because they can expand minds.
From a tennis ball factory to organic farming to a poultry farm to advertising, photography, media, philanthropy and social work, spirituality, and trysts with bigwigs, the author delves into his experiences to reflect on what he has taken away from them. Like the author, his takeouts put forth in the book are pragmatic and positive.
Across chapters, the author is also generous in gratitude and gracious in praise, be it for his wife or a speaker who went out of his way to keep his commitment or friends who he credits for his “success”.
It is quite remarkable that his experiences have been recalled in such detail. The detailing allows the author to draw the reader into each episode in an engaging storytelling mode. Even if one chooses to steer clear of the ‘Lesson learned’, each chapter (some which comprise multiple stories and nuggets) makes for very absorbing reading. The stories are not just recalled in detail but with a sincerity that renders them endearing – again, an extension of the author’s personality for those who know him.
Some excerpts with context from ‘A Different Route To Success - It Could Be Yours’ by Ramesh Narayan.
‘A few good people…’
On the Bhavishya Yaan project of the Rotary Club of Bombay, which was ‘born in the back seat of his car’, the author traces its origins and credits the key people behind its success. The project involves intervention in schools with underprivileged students, to improve the input quality and help them complete schooling, get a further education and become employable. It was born 12 years ago and counts 1,400 underprivileged students as alumni. They now contribute to the programme across 10 schools with over 1,000 children. According to the author, ‘They have learned that good things happen when people give back.’
‘Don’t allow anyone to stifle a good idea with copy-book questions like “Is it scalable? Is it sustainable?” I prefer to leave such replies to consultants. As far as I am concerned, if there was a chance for some incremental improvement in a sad situation, just jump in and try to do it. Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about such questions.’
‘Wipe one tear. Put a smile on one face. Uplift the life of one child. Transform the fortunes of one poor villager. Yours will be a life well lived.’
‘Stick to your values’
The Olive Crown Awards was born at Goafest and after the initial struggle, there was a potential sponsor for year two. Far from being elated, the author was in a dilemma because the potential sponsor was mired in some environment-related issues. Now, an award for communicating sustainability could not have said yes. When this was relayed to good friend Pradeep Guha, his company sponsored the award for three years. A lesson got reiterated here: ‘Always do what is right. Only good will come out of it.’
‘The good work must live on’
The author views the one year he served as president of the Rotary Club of Bombay thus:
‘So what did the term mean to me? An opportunity to do good in so many different ways. I deliberately collected funds not just for my year but for the years ahead. And I made it a point that my name never appeared on a single board or plaque. The good work must live on. Not your name.’
The good side of failure...
While failures are said to be stepping stones to success, not many like them, and fewer still like recalling them. Even fewer people can genuinely recount the positive side of failure. The author is one of them. He reflects on spending five years in college instead of four, thus:
‘So what did five years, instead of four, in college teach me? I had more friends than most people because I made friends with the batch I had to repeat a year with. My old friends remained my close friends. My newly formed friends were there as well. If I hadn’t failed I wouldn’t have met some of those wonderful people I got to know. Life was good.’
The book also houses some wonderful notes on the Canco days, including the story of how HDFC Bank got its name, and how Canco landed Minicomp through another agency. While on MTNL, the author reminisces while revealing a practice:
‘(sic) As for me, without being immodest, I knew almost as much about MTNL as most of their employees did, a fact that helped them and us immensely.
‘This was something I made a religion of. I had to know all about my client. I had to believe in them. And so I would buy a token number of shares (stock) in the companies I advertised for. Little did I know that these would turn out to be such wonderful investments.’
On awards and recognition…
‘Recognition is very pleasant. But honestly, if you do whatever it is you do, to the best of your ability, without expecting any reward, recognition and fame will court you. Of course that also means you might have to wait for it. And quite often, when it does come, a quiet satisfaction replaces active euphoria.’
The ‘Miracle Man’
When asked by a friend if he believed Satya Sai Baba was a miracle man, this was the author’s response:
‘Yes, he is a miracle man. And the miracles are the massive medical, educational and social infrastructure that he has gifted, without charging a paise.’
(All author revenue from the book goes to charity. Published by Notion Press. The reviewer is an independent content consultant and founder-curator of ClutterCutters.in)
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