The Pao Effect

I have a new hero, or rather heroine. You may be familiar with her. Her name is Ellen Pao, a Chinese American woman from New Jersey, former technical chief of staff at Kleiner Perkins who filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer.

Her problems purportedly began when she ended an affair with her colleague and fellow partner, Ajit Nazare. To cut a long story short, she began receiving negative reviews from her seniors, was passed over for promotions, was sidelined when it came to important deals and wasn’t included in the regular wheeling and dealing lunches and dinners associated with the job.

Things began getting worse when she was elbowed out of important projects and the firm turned a blind eye and deaf ear to her complaints. She finally filed a lawsuit against the organisation after spending seven years there.

She eventually lost in a widely publicised trial against Kleiner Perkins.  You can read about it here .

But I still think that in the long run she emerged a winner. Here’s why I think she is a winner all the way :

She had the gumption to singlehandedly take on the biggest venture capital firm in the world.

She rattled the ‘big boys’ club of Silicon Valley when she decided to take a stand.

She was the voice of thousands of women the world over who felt slighted and blighted in relation to their male colleagues, but didn’t quite have the guts to retaliate.

She is educated, smart and took a big risk doing what she did publicly, when she could just as easily have chosen to lick her wounds in private and move on to another big firm.

Inspite of filing the lawsuit, she continued to work at the firm, until she was fired, on account of claims that her performance hadn’t improved after her last review.

She could have received millions if she had signed a non-disparagement contract but chose the hard way to share her story.

Every woman reading her article would relate to some aspect of the story. The glass ceiling exists. It’s there. It’s real. And it is yet to be broken.

We feel it every time we get paid one third the salary of male colleagues, despite doing thrice the work. Every time a snide sexist remark is passed within earshot. When a firm is full of women, but has only men in meaningful managerial positions. When nepotism prevails over merit and gender prevails over talent. Also, let’s not forget the boss who has an affair with his subordinate, and then passes over more deserving women for rewards and recognition.

These days, gender discrimination is hidden. It cannot exist on the surface lest it be exposed for what it is. It’s hiding places are sweet talk, mothers being seen as less dedicated to their work, reluctance to hire newly-wed women for fear of upcoming pregnancies, secretly labelling women who outperform men as “bitchy” and “manly.” But, a thorn by whatever name called is still a thorn.

That’s why we need the Ellen Paos and Sheryl Sandbergs of the world to call it for what it is and expose it. Because not all of us have the courage to do it ourselves.

I remember a casual conversation with a male colleague who was at odds with a female co-worker. After raving and ranting for a good fifteen minutes, he then let it be known that she was such a ‘grouch’, because she was unmarried and therefore frustrated. The implication being that her performance was inversely proportional to her sex life.

Evidence suggests that when men and women work together on a project, men get more credit (New York University study, 2005); women are promoted on performance, men on promise (McKinsey & Co., 2011); mothers are seen as less committed to work than childless women, while fathers are more likely to be promoted than childless men (Cornell University, 2005).

In the same vein, I remember a superior once telling me that he would only interview  women for a marketing position that came up. That’s gender bias on a whole different level. It also brings to mind the time when another partner was insistent on seeking only women candidates. His reasoning was that the two other important positions were already filled by men. So he did not want an ego clash by hiring a third man. Implying automatically that women are less likely to compete and clash with male colleagues. A back-handed compliment at best.

As for Ellen Pao, she has now co-founded Project Include, a non-profit that aims to give everyone a fair shot to succeed in tech. That’s why I admire her. She inspired many other women in tech to raise their voices and wage battle for their rights, getting reporters to come up with a name for women or minorities in tech for speaking up- ‘The Pao Effect.’ She is the David who lost against Goliath and still won. Proving that sometimes in the long run you win, because you lose!

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Second guessing Creativity

 

It’s been a stressful week. A week of gruelling work, new pitches, presentations and plenty of last minute deadlines. I usually thrive on the adrenaline rush of completing a tough-as-nails project. But, off late the rush has gone. It has been replaced by a sense of dread. Dread that I’ve become more of a supplier and less of a creator.

When I try to do too much all at once, I play to the galleries. I begin cutting corners, give less attention to detail and cut myself more slack than I usually would. Mainly, because I have too much to do and too little time to do it in. Last time I checked, there were still only twenty four hours in a day.

On a micro-level, I feel creativity in print advertising has become pretty robotic. Template, layout, headline, copy, visual, logo and you are almost done. That’s what most clients want these days. There is hardly any time to think, let alone create or develop something new.

On a macro-level, on one side you have the extremely innovative award-winning advertisements. Some of them so creative that you need to have a good think or two to understand them. And once you’ve had your “aha” moment, you wonder if the rest of the world actually “got” the idea. Or had the time to give it a second thought.

On the other side, you have the extremely simple dull looking advertising that you wouldn’t give a second glance to, until you catch the word “SALE” in bold bright type, waiting to smack you right in the face if you don’t drop whatever you’re doing and rush to the nearest store to pick up whatever was being advertised.

Imagine the hours and sleepless nights spent by the creative team to create a superior conceptual ad.  Pit that against this one simple word SALE, which has the power to invoke your impulses and sense of urgency like nothing else. You’ll now understand what I mean. Why be creative when you can be crass?

I’m at that point right now. Wondering what I’m doing being a stickler for details, when nobody is going to be any wiser. I have become a mass production unit, a creation of an industry that simply wants produce, without productivity.

Until that next awards function or big budget new pitch, when we have to prove to the world that we are better, bigger and bolder. Out will come the thinking caps, the sharpened pencils and the thousand scratches on the storyboard. The endless brainstorming, countless cups of coffee and late night office romances. It’s not about the client anymore. It’s about us. Who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We must then change who we were all those months of being self-contained warehouses and morph into these highly intellectual mothballs of creativity. With pencils in our hair and upper lips that have seen better days. The boss will go on for hours about “out-of-the-box” ideas and “cutting-edge” design. Not realising that those very terms have gone out of vogue a century ago.

So, that’s when we transform. From months of mass production to a single unit factory. And if that’s not creativity, I don’t know what is.

As for me, creativity be damned. I’d settle for some good old fashioned simplicity in advertising. And honesty!!!

The Emperor’s new Clothes

The story of the Emperor and his new clothes has always fascinated me for some reason. I see it being played out in real life every single day.

The original tale was written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

How many times have we kept silent for fear of sounding stupid? For fear of being perceived as slow, ignorant and incompetent. I know I’m guilty of this. On the isolated occasion, that I’ve been brave enough to admit my ignorance, I’ve realized that I’m not alone. Several voices have seconded mine. Yet, I’m afraid. Afraid of that one occasion, when I’m going to be the only one standing in the room.

Why do we care so much about the opinion of others? We see this extended to social media every single day. Teenagers today care more about the likes on their Facebook page than the grades on their report card. That necessity to obtain approval and validation somehow never leaves us.

It’s also some kind of power struggle. Where the weaker and meaker adopt the opinions and actions of the mightier and powerful. Case in point, Hitler’s power could only have blossomed in collaboration with the German people. None of this would have happened if the Germans hadn’t accepted him. Opposing him, would have meant a certain death. This kind of fear is rather different. One where you have a perceived lack of choice. Conform or perish.

Today, the fear is more of an “under the surface” kind of fear. Nobody is going to shoot us in the head if we beg to differ. But there could be subtler consequences. Voicing a view opposite to a superior’s at a board meeting could lead to you losing that promotion. For a celebrity, wearing the same dress for a second time on the red carpet, would have tabloids the world over speculating about a potential bankruptcy.

In an age where conformity is the norm, it’s refreshing to see certain companies and brands breaking through the mould. This is why I love Diesel’s “Be Stupid” ad campaign. It was released some time ago, but it’s one of their nicest campaigns. And so very relevant.

 

The lines,

Smart has the Brains.

Stupid has the Balls.

Smart has the Plans.

Stupid has the Stories ” 

definitely resonate with me. We need more campaigns like this, that encourage us to Be Stupid. To take risks.

We want to be different but we’re scared of being the only ones who are different. We want to get those new jeans but we’re scared of looking too fat, too thin, too short, too wide, too young, too old. Too anything.

To quote Oscar Wilde,  “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” 

So, let’s make a pact with ourselves to live creatively and bravely. To not be other people.

And the next time, you’re getting new clothes, I’d suggest Diesel is a good place to start. If we can’t live differently, at least we can live stupidly !

All I want is some tea

3021416-poster-p-1-how-a-cup-of-tea-makes-you-happier-healthier-and-more-productiveShe wound up the last of her household chores and rested her aching feet on the chair. The chair creaked loudly, as though in protest. Having bathed and put three noisy kids to bed, cooked, and polished the kitchen sink until it shone, she looked forward to spending some quality time on her own.

The radio was on, playing an old favourite and she hummed as she shut her eyes and imagined herself far away from here. Away from her humdrum life of endless picking up after the children, obsessing over their homework and cooking for her husband.

The day’s work done, she looked forward to a steaming cup of tea. Suddenly energised, she got to her feet, heated water, poured some milk and pried open the tea jar. The jar was empty. No tea bags, no tea.

What a disappointment!!!

She rushed over to the neighbours house to borrow some tea bags. Unfortunately, they had none. They were happy to lend her some coffee powder. Filter coffee from Coorg, straight from the legendary coffee plantations. Or so, they claimed. But she declined. All she wanted was her precious tea.

Key in the ignition, one turn, and her car fired up as if ready for flight. She was on her way to the supermarket. She marched urgently through the aisles, scanning the shelves for signs of the elusive tea bags. But couldn’t find any. This is strange, she thought. She beckoned a uniformed attendant, and asked him where the tea bags were.

He explained that earlier that day, some pesky rodents attacked an area of the supermarket, causing them to dispose off all the tea bags. He assured her that the stock would be replenished the following day. In the meanwhile, he was happy to help her pick out some apple juice, coffee, Red Bull or any other liquid comfort of her choice.

Truly vexed, she shrugged off his suggestions, turned on her heel and left.

Her story ends here. But, it may remind you of an event in your own life, when you’ve wanted one particular thing so much, but simply couldn’t get it. You were offered much else to substitute for that one thing, but it just wasn’t the same. Even if you did manage to settle for a replacement, you still felt the emptiness of not getting what you wanted.

I’ve had similar experiences, when I’ve tried to look for happiness in the wrong places. In my work, in material things, in other people. I was often left disappointed and stricken with a sense of emptiness, which only God has since filled.

Secondly, it also brings to mind our tunnel vision. We are so engrossed in seeking a certain thing, that we develop a one-track mind and refuse to consider other possibilities, even though they may be better for us and make us happier.

Thirdly, if you consider this situation carefully, you will also realise the extent of communication gaps between people. We may want only that one thing so badly. Yet people don’t seem to understand. They offer us everything, except the one thing that we are asking for. Most often, they don’t realise what the big deal is. Mainly, because they tend to view things from the lens of their own perspectives, preferences and choices.

Sometimes, it’s hard for us to settle for something we don’t want. We end up waiting a long time, often a lifetime, for what we do want. Sometimes we get it and sometimes we don’t. That’s the way life rolls.

Frequently, what we want may be very simple and something that is fairly accessible for other people. But it seems so difficult for us to acquire it, when we want it, on our timeline. At such times, I guess we’d do well to remember that God has it all under control and will make it happen in His time, if it is His will.

And if by any chance, life gives you lemons, when you’ve asked for tea, squeeze until you make the best lemonade ever. And make that your cup of tea!

The Unique Blogger Award

I decided to begin blogging as a coping strategy to deal with a painful transition in my life. This was a little over a month ago. I can honestly say that it happened in response to a sincere prayer, asking God to channelize all my negative energy into a healthy channel.

I’ve made so many positive changes to my life since then.  Joined a gym, connected with friends I haven’t met in ages, become more tolerating of family. Most of all, I try to write at least twice or thrice a week. Earlier, I was wearing myself thin, trying to prove that I could handle it all at work. While I’m working harder than ever, I’m also taking the time to appreciate the tinier things in life.

The Unique Blogger Award!!! I’m pleased and touched.

Before beginning this blog, I had no idea if I had anything to write about at all, much less have people read and connect with me. But I have interacted with some amazing bloggers. Poets and writers of all genres. I am simply amazed by the quality of content. It certainly takes all kinds to make the world go round. And my world is spinning at the moment. With words!!!

I would like to extend my gratitude to the lovely Bassey Etim for nominating me for this award. Thank you Bassey Etim. Thank you for reading my posts and thinking me worthy. I am so very grateful.
She writes about all the subjects close to my heart. Life, her connection with God, blessings and her personal experiences. If you are not already a follower, please do visit her blog at Bassey Etim. I guarantee you’ll feel lighter in spirit.

RULES :

  1. Share the link with the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
  2. Answer the questions.
  3. In the spirit of sharing love with our blogging family, nominate 15 people and notify them.
  4. Ask them three questions.

My answers to Bassey Etim’s questions : 

1. WHICH DECISION HAS BEEN THE BEST DECISION OF YOUR LIFE?

The decision to pursue a career in the creative department (advertising) is possibly the best decision of my life so far. Everyday is a new day, with exciting possibilities. I truly believe that this is what I was meant to do. Though it’s been a hard road, I still want to do this, more than I want to do anything else.

2. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND TODAY IF IT WAS YOUR LAST?  

This is a tough one. I’d like to spend my day with family. I’d call anyone I’ve upset in the past through words and deeds and say ‘sorry’. Finally, I’d spend my last few hours reading the Bible.

3. WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?

That would be my mother. A woman who has handled whatever life has thrown at her with grace and a smile. Protected me fiercely and comforted me at my worst. A true role model!!!

Now, I will nominate 15 bloggers according to the rules. I wish I could pick more, but here’s my list. Please do visit their blogs :

1. Garfieldhug’s Blog
2. Kelvin M. Knight
3. Thrifty Campers
4. USA Through Our Eyes
5. Mr. Mel
6. MFCastillo
7. Andnowmiguel
8. Simple Observations of Everyday Life
9. Ivor
10. Sour balls
11. A Jaunty Life
12. George F
13. J Beauty’s Expert Amateur
14. Slasher Monster
15. Poet Rummager

 My Questions :

  1. WHO IS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW? 
  2. WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS CHANGED YOU?
  3. IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN NEW LOVE AND OLD, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY? 

Thank you Bassey Etim.

Thank you everyone for being so kind to me, reading my posts and encouraging me. I love you all!

That old feeling

It’s hard to describe how music makes me feel. Happy, sad, nostalgic. So many mixed emotions. Certain songs often remind me of a moment in time. And sometimes of a person.

If people were songs, how would you remember them? The song ‘Guantanamera’ reminds me of my grandfather. Not only because he loved that song but because the lyrics are probably the best description of him.

The English translation would read, “ I am a truthful man; I come from where the palm tree grows, I am a truehearted man, who comes from where the palm trees grow, before I lay down my life, I long to coin the verses of my soul.”

It’s been more than a year since he passed away, and whenever the song plays on the radio, my thoughts invariably turn to the man, who was simple at heart, and longed for nothing more than the best for his family. I have no idea whether he managed to coin the verses of his soul, but his melody lingers on in our lives.

‘Blue Moon’ brings to mind thoughts of my dad. My childhood is rife with memories of him belting out the lyrics tunelessly at parties, while my poor mother would almost die of embarrassment. The lyrics “Blue moon. You knew just what I was there for. You heard me saying a pray for. Someone I really could care for.” It’s strange, but it matches his character so well. I don’t think he has a single enemy in the whole wide world. And he’s always praying. Most of all, for me, I think.

The way you look tonight’ makes me think of an ex. The lyrics blow me away. “Some day when I’m awfully low, when the world is cold. I will feel a glow, just thinking of you and the way you look tonight.” I was feeling awfully low last night. And when this song came on, I travelled back ten years, to a time when we were together. The relationship wasn’t ideal. But listening to this song, made it seem like the best time of my life. Which is actually far from reality.

There are some songs that I just can’t listen to, without shattering in a million pieces. For instance, Richard Marx’s, ‘Right here waiting’ is one of those numbers. It’s just too heartbreaking.

Music is dangerous that way. It makes you nostalgic. Reminisce about things that are best left in the past. Makes situations look rosier than they actually were. And people seem better than they are.

So, why do we love music so much? Why do we contribute to our own nostalgia by listening to the very songs that evoke those memories? Perhaps, because music is exactly that. A return ticket to those moments, that we can only relive through song.

Wish you a happy melodious Sunday!

Not everything is Team work

Off late, trite phrases like “Team work makes the dream work” really stir me up. And not in a good way.

Let me explain. I’m as good a team player as the average Jane. I can work hard, plan, strategise, direct a team and slog till kingdom come, until I hit the right chord with a project I’m given. I rarely complain and don’t throw my weight around. I’ve even taken one for the team plenty of times.

But, here’s the problem. When a project is successful, management rarely rewards individual contribution. Most often, there’s an emailer or an obscure message posted on a watsapp group that says things like “Congratulations team (Insert company name). Great job.”

While this has never riled me up earlier, it’s increasingly annoying to see every successful project attributed to team effort. There have been times when the so-called “team” working on the said project has consisted of only two individuals. And you have a message that says, “Super job Team (company name), keep up the good work.”

Whaaatt?

Are the bosses patting themselves on the back?

Well, I’m pleased they’ve recognised that the project was successful. But their refusal to credit singular individuals is immensely baffling. It’s also extremely discouraging to have work accomplished by three or four individuals, attributed to the many hundreds that make up the corporate and branch offices of the company, most of whom have no clue about the project in question.

It’s become a fad for top management to dilute the performance of star performers by attributing it to the whole team. It’s all about power and control. God forbid that these achievers should get swollen heads or demand a raise in salary. By pretending that the company has succeeded as a whole, it averages out the success over a whole bunch of people, thus driving home a point that everyone is mediocre. And it is only through team effort, that each one has been able to rise.

No singular piece of writing, photography, painting or even an idea, has ever been produced by a variety of people. Most often, it’s one individual, or at the most, two or three who have been responsible for excellence.  I believe there is nothing wrong in recognising that effort. Crediting people who had nothing to do with it, is not just wrong. It’s damaging.

In the same vein, I often feel guilty when I come across these general congratulatory messages being posted for things that I’ve not contributed to at all. It’s difficult to know how to react under the circumstances. Most co-workers afflicted with the same confusion, respond with the most general of all signs : “the thumbs up” sign. I choose not to respond at all. Though I’d love to barge in with the middle finger.

Many organisations today have developed a strong team culture. This is not a bad thing when balanced out with a healthy dose of individualism. The problem arises when individual contribution is sacrificed at the holy grail of team effort. I see it happening all too often these days.

” It is amazing how much people can get done if they don’t worry about who gets the credit.” – Sandra Sweeney 

The problem is that those who don’t worry about getting the credit, frequently end up getting none. And that’s just the way it is.

You have to blow a foghorn today, to get yourself heard in a sea of noise, all dedicated to team work.

There is a reason why designers do their best work alone, artists prefer working in isolation and writers don’t collaborate (most of the time). Imagine the Mona Lisa being painted by a bunch of people. I’d hazard a guess that the resulting artwork wouldn’t be hanging in The Louvre. It would probably occupy a prime position in an office like mine. Not a masterpiece by any standards, but a mediocre artwork attributed to the power of a team.

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”- Steve Jobs

Why then is Steve Jobs the first name that comes to mind when we think of Apple?

I rest my case.

Fine Moments

Unknown

Sundays are supposed to be lazy. For the longest time I’ve always associated Sundays with good things. Choral singing at the church. Coming home to a lazy brunch. Puttering around in the kitchen, while sighing over a cup of rich coffee.

The rest of the week and all its bustle is soon a blur. Today, was a fine day. It was a family lunch at our favourite seafood joint, with parents, uncles, siblings and their kids in tow. We caught up, laughed and gossiped over a fine meal of rice, prawn curry, fish fingers and french fries. The men knocked back a couple of large ones, while the women kicked back with virgin mojitos and drinks with little umbrellas that made me dream of exotic destinations.

All in all, a gentle happy Sunday afternoon. It made me think of other happier moments. Everyday happy moments. Not just with plenty of people around me, but quieter times. Alone time with me typing away on the laptop. Or curled up with a mystery novel. Jogging on the beach. Reading the Bible. Playing with my little niece. All those fine moments that do not have a price tag. Moments that bring peace, without you even realising it.

My concept of fun has changed over the last decade. Mad weekend partying has given way to silent nights spent in sound sleep. I had a crazy number of friends in college. That number has now dwindled to those I can count on my fingertips. I guess I’ve traded quantity for quality. Or maybe I’m just getting older and can no longer keep up.

I have a Facebook account, but rarely check it. The people I want to stay in touch with call me or text me on my phone. Moreover, I’ve never been a fan of posting random pictures of myself. I’m not comfortable posting pouty selfies against picturesque backdrops or sharing images of myself eating a meal or exercising or doing any of the things that people take pictures of and share. I guess that makes me boring in a way. But I’m okay with it (another thing that’s changed).

These days all I want to do is read, eat, write, exercise, sleep and pray. Not necessarily in that order. These are the moments I cherish most. I’ve gradually come to the realisation that the finest moments are the ones you don’t talk about, the ones you prefer not to share. You want to hold them close to yourself as long as possible. Because once you share, they somehow don’t belong only to you any longer.

Some moments are to be cherished. And the finest ones are like a prayer. To be embraced when life is anything but fine. It brings to mind a quote by Erlend Loe, “I don’t want all that much. But I want to be fine. I want to live a simple life, with many good moments and a lot of fun.”

Have a blessed week ahead !

Talent vs. Ego

Working in a creative agency is like riding a ferris wheel. It has its highs and lows. I remember being told on my first day that I should soon learn not to sleep. All things considering, this was sage advice. Amidst crazy deadlines, understaffing, cut-throat competition and what-have-you, catching that shut-eye has now become a luxury more than a necessity.

The good part is that if you love what you do, you soon learn to roll with punches. And that’s what we learnt to do. I love my job. But doesn’t mean that everyday is magical. Some days I literally have to drag myself out of bed and out the door.

The best part of the job is the creative aspect of it. The brainstorming, ideating, developing concepts, then seeing them take form on paper or whatever the medium of choice is. There are few things as exhilarating. The worst part of the job is the politics that go along with it.

Enter the so-called ‘suits’ of the advertising world who believe they are God’s greatest gift to mankind. Put on earth for the sole purpose of critiquing what they can’t create. The point here is that some critique because they genuinely believe that something can be improved. On the other hand, the ‘bad suits’ will pompously critique for critiquing sake, while shoving their own superior knowledge in your face, which by the way has come from the all-knowing oracle ‘Google.’

Most will be able to put together thousands of powerpoint/keynote slides with insane statistics that will be copied and pasted from decks developed by previous unimaginative suits. This type will never back down even when you gently try to explain your point of view with substantiated facts. The righter you turn out to be, the wronger they will try to prove you. Until out of sheer frustration, you are forced into an uneasy truce to ‘keep the peace.’

Most of these would be in managerial roles with important sounding nomenclatures  like ‘Bespoke Managerial Consultant’ or ‘Director of Market Strategy & Development’ or ‘Creative Evangelist’. The problem begins when their egos get as inflated as their titles.

There is always a tug-of-war between the creative team and account management/ client servicing. And that’s a given in most agencies. But the gap gets wider when talent is pitted against ego. For instance, once a painstakingly developed idea gets the nod of approval from the client, there is no shortage of people waiting to take credit for that particular piece of work. The irony is that, most often, these egoistical credit seeking individuals would have had nothing to do with the the idea in the first place.

God forbid that the campaign should win an award. That’s when the real war begins. More often than not, the unshaven nerdy dude who slaves away for about a thousand hours a week in a hole of a cubicle, is forgotten while his boss, and the boss above him and his mother, are seen accepting the award on behalf of dozens of nameless faces who actually put in the blood, sweat and tears to create something they believed in.

The consequence is that talent begins trickling out. And while the agency in question may try retention tactics, it soon becomes a case of old wine in a new bottle. History repeats itself one more time. And then another. Until there’s no talent left at all.

All you have now are a bunch of suits who in turn recruit some more suits. While they may still rope in the ‘big’ clients (by virtue of being suits), there is no talent left to service them. It is only a matter of time then before clients start pulling out and working with smaller agencies who are hungrier, work harder and deliver better.

It’s a problem when talent is not recognised and creativity not given its due. It’s a bigger problem when talent clashes with ego. Because when ego wins, everyone loses!

The Box of Dreams

Box_of_Secrets

There was once a village brimming with dissatisfaction. Brothers fought with brothers. Neighbours bickered constantly. Husbands and wives wouldn’t stop arguing. Co-workers refused to get along.

God soon grew fed up with the lot of them and sent his favourite angel in the guise of an old man to resolve their issues. The old man mingled with the villagers and was soon tired of their constant moans and complaints. None of the hapless villagers had anything good to say about the other. The streets, houses and even the village pub were rife with criticisms, complaints and arguments.

The old man was so bored of this, that he decided this was as good a time as any to execute his mission. So he summoned the village elders, and called for a meeting in the public square.

At the designated hour, the entire village turned up in full force. It had been a long time since they had all gathered in the square. The last time had been to lay to rest the head of the village, who had met his end at the hands of his own son.

The atmosphere was thick with curiosity, as the villagers tried to guess what the reason for this sudden meeting could be. The old man made his way to the centre of the square, and gestured the mob to keep silent.

He then asked, “Can any of you tell me why you are so discontent? What causes you to be so unhappy?”

The villagers began talking all at once, such that it was impossible for even a single one to be heard coherently. The old man raised his arm, and said, “Please be quiet.” He pointed to a youth, who was reclining in the corner and asked, “Would you answer this question?”

The youth quietly replied, “We are dissatisfied because we haven’t been able to fulfil our dreams. Our unhappiness with ourselves, causes us to vent our frustrations on each other.”

The old man was silent for a minute. He appeared to be deep in thought. When he spoke, it was as if he were choosing every word carefully. He said, “I have the ability to give three villagers a chance to fulfill their dreams. Who among you would like to fulfil your dreams?”

Who would pass up an opportunity, when presented like this? There was a cacophony of noise as they began speaking over one another. The villagers started clamouring to the centre of the square, almost causing a stampede, in an attempt to gain the old man’s attention.

Fearing that another quarrel would break out, he commanded them to stop creating a ruckus. He then said, “I will choose the three lucky villagers, because I do not want to be the cause of any more quarrels among you.”

He selected a 20 year old youth, a 45 year old woman and a 75 year old man. He then asked them to come the very next day at the break of dawn to the square.

The three excited villagers couldn’t sleep a wink that night. After all, their most cherished dreams were about to come true.

At the crack of dawn, the lucky three made their way to the village square. The first light was cutting through the trees, creating an aura of mystery and hope.

The first thing they noticed was the old man, who stood in the center of the square. In front of him was a big box. He saw them approaching and smiled.

He then began to speak. “Today, you will have the chance to make the best of your dreams come true. Each of you will place two of your most coveted dreams in the box. The box will be shut. I will then summon the eastern breeze and open the box. The breeze will scatter your dreams in different directions. You will have to chase and catch your dreams. Once you catch your dream, it is yours.”

The villagers thought hard about their dreams and finally placed two each in the box. The youth dreamed of a beautiful wife and a successful business. The middle aged woman wanted a grand house and a super-fit body. The elderly man wished to relive his youth and to win a million in the lottery.

The old man, true to his word, shut the box, then opened it and whistled to the eastern breeze. The breeze swooped down and scattered their dreams.

The Youth

The youth gave chase like a man possessed. With the vigour of the very young, he ran, climbed, swam and committed feats worthy of a champion athlete. But his dreams still eluded him. Exhausted with the effort of it all, he stopped at a river and bent down to drink from its cool depths. As he lay resting, a dream floated past him. He put out his hand, but let it go when he realised that it was not his dream. It was the dream of the ‘grand house’. He made a last ditch effort to find his dreams, but was too weary. His final thoughts on the subject were that this was possibly a hoax. He then gave up.

The Middle Aged Woman

The Middle Aged woman couldn’t prance like the young boy. She shuffled along at first, then broke into a slow jog. Years of neglecting her body, had taken its toll. Despite going over some serious ground, she still couldn’t locate her dreams. She grew breathless, and took a break at a nearby well to quench her thirst. As she was drinking thirstily, a dream wound its way to her. Without giving it much thought, she put her arm out and caught it. Alas. It wasn’t her dream. It was the dream to relive youth once again. Tired and somewhat demoralised, she made a feeble attempt to pursue her own dreams, but soon grew bored and gave up.

The Elderly Man

The seventy five year old took off at a slow pace. His steps were unhurried as he tried to catch a glimpse of his dreams. At first, he couldn’t even see his dreams. The breeze had carried them far away from his line of vision. But he kept moseying along slowly. He would take short breaks to replenish his limited reserves of energy. He walked. And he walked. And he walked. But, still no dream in sight. Tired and thirsty,  he stopped at a lake to soothe his parched throat. As he rejuvenated, a dream passed him by. He captured it, almost reflexively. It wasn’t his dream. It was the dream to have a fit body.

Once he had had enough of a rest, he began walking again. He had hardly traversed a hundred metres when he came across two dreams stuck on the branches of a tree. He couldn’t climb, so he picked up pebbles and tried striking the twigs, hoping that they would loosen their hold on the dreams. After a good hour of continued effort, the dreams floated down. He captured them both. It was the dream of a beautiful wife and the grand house.

As he began walking again, he realized that he was able to pace faster this time. His body was getting fitter with every step. He gradually began jogging, and came across an undergrowth thick with shrubs and bushes. After a whole lot of prodding and pushing, he came through to the other side, only to find that another dream was caught in his sleeve. The dream of winning the million dollar lottery.

Ecstatic and joyful, he began making his way back to the village square. As he was about to reach the village square, he caught sight of the woman and the youth, treading cautiously, looking weary and disappointed. He then noticed that following them was the dream of a successful business. He attempted to attract the attention of the boy and the woman, but they were so lost in their own thoughts that they didn’t notice him. Or the dream. He finally snatched the last dream as well.

The three of them had finally reached the village square and noticed that the whole village had gathered there.

The old man asked them if they had managed to capture their dreams.

The youth was the first to speak, “Old man, why did you con us? What is the meaning of this? I couldn’t find any of my dreams. This is a big hoax I tell you.”

The middle aged woman was next, “I managed to catch only one dream and it wasn’t mine.”

The elderly man said, “I’ve had a most interesting adventure. I went in search of two dreams and caught five. This was a great idea, to be sure.”

The whole village began talking excitedly. They wanted to know how this could happen. Hadn’t the old man said that all three would be given a chance to fulfil their dreams? What was the meaning of it all? They told the old man that if he didn’t have a good explanation for this farce of a game, they would imprison him.

He sat down, smiled mysteriously and began :

“The world has changed. The trouble with youth today, is that they have become too cynical. They read books, watch television, listen to the experiences of people older than them and think they know everything. They don’t want to experience for themselves.

The youth in the beginning was full of vigour and energy, but when his dreams were not in sight, he gave up quickly. He was quick to dismiss the whole thing as a hoax. Young people have stopped believing in the magic of dreams and think about everything too practically. They will make an effort, provided they are able to see the results soon. If they do not obtain results in a short timeframe, they abandon the effort and their dreams.

The dream of the grand house did come to him. He could have captured it, but he didn’t. When we are chasing our dreams, our tunnel vision, sometimes causes us to lose sight of other opportunities and blessings along the way.

On the other hand, the middle aged woman, weary with lugging her share of life’s baggage, still made an attempt to capture her dreams. Her lack of enthusiasm and vigour caused her to accept just about any passing dream. With a result, she got a chance to relive her youth and live her life all over again. Certainly not the dream she wanted, but one that she captured unknowingly.

Sometimes, in life, when our trials cause us to scramble around with no direction, we reach out to grasp at a passing straw. This straw may well be what it takes to get us to other good things in our life. In this case, the woman can relive her whole youth again and do everything differently if she wants to. 

The elderly man has lived a fair deal of his life witnessing happiness, sorrows, life, death and has experienced its various nuances. He had nothing to lose when he set out today. He kept going steadily, took time to re-energize and never gave up. When he didn’t see the dream he was looking for, he grabbed whatever he could in that moment. Though he kept pursuing his dream, he never passed up opportunities along the way. 

He was told that he could capture only two of his dreams. But he refused to listen and captured all except the chance to relive his youth. Sometimes, you may listen to people who do not have your best interests at heart or do not sufficient knowledge to know any better.  They may tell you that you are only allowed to do this or that. But nobody has set any boundaries here on earth. You can dream big, dream small and also enjoy the opportunities and blessings that come your way.”

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“At the end, the dream of a successful business was right near the youth and the middle-aged woman. The elderly man tried to bring it to their notice but they were so lost in their own weariness, that he ended up catching that one as well. 

There are times when our dreams are so close to being realized but we are so bogged down in the wearisome task of daily living, that we don’t notice this. Thus, it frequently happens that someone else takes advantage of the opportunity that should have been ours. 

The only dream that the old man didn’t capture, was the dream to relive his youth. But, why would he now want to relive his youth? The life he leads hereon in his grand home with his beautiful wife, a successful business,  super-fit body and a million dollar winnings will be better than he could have ever hoped for in his youth. 

Sometimes our life gets redirected. We may not get everything we had initially set out to gain. But what we do get may be better than what we had planned for ourselves.”

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