Yours sincerely

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What are the attributes of a sincere person?

Of all the qualities that help human beings create their own future, irrespective of how their past has been, ‘sincerity’ is of paramount importance.

During the first year of under graduation, thanks to my poor communication skills, I was a laughing stock amongst my batch mates.  At college, my Professor threw my very first weekly assignment at me and shouted, “It is an insult to say you are a student of English literature.  Education is not your future.  Discontinue and take up your family business”.

Two years later, at the end of my fifth semester the same lecturer collected all my assignment papers saying he will use them as examples of ideal assignments for future batches.  Around that time one of my speeches in the morning assembly session in the college on “Our Duties to our Nation” got me a raving feedback from many.

Yes, there were a set of people, including the lecturer who reprimanded me, who helped me in this transformation, and I am grateful to all of them.  The primary reason for my turnaround, however I believe was the sincerity with which I changed myself.

Let’s together explore this wonderful human attribute of being sincere!

Foremost of all, sincerity pursues excellence as naturally as a river empties itself in the ocean.  Being sincere is being honest and committed to a purpose, a goal, a vision, a way of life, belief systems, sound values and principles.  A commitment of this nature comes from within.  It can neither be enforced nor can it be thrust upon anyone.

Because it is voluntary and natural, sincere people are not influenced by how others perceive them.  For such people, sincerity is not an ornament they display to please someone, or seek favour or approval from anyone.  It is their second nature.  In fact, even their own position or status does not influence them.  They are sincere, just for the sake of wanting to be so.

I remember reading a recent interview of the music maestro A R Rahman.  In the interview, the Oscar winning music director was referring to the practice of thorough rehearsals he has with his entire team before every live stage performance.  He said he was inspired into this practice by the Bollywood playback singer Lata Mangeshkar.  Rahman recollected that once when they were to perform together in a live show, despite being an acclaimed singer Lata Mangeshkar insisted and rehearsed with his orchestra with utmost sincerity and dedication for more than an hour.

Two, generally sincerity comes with a unique combination of simplicity and sophistication.  Sounds ironical?  Well, products conceived by Steve Jobs are sophisticated and yet simple to use too!

I experience this many a times in business seminars.  If the speaker is thorough about the topic I have seen that their communication, both oral and via visual tools, would be simple, straight forward and easy to understand.  You will hardly ever find them using industry jargons or complex theories to explain the most profound thoughts.

Three, the reason they do in a simple manner is – sincere people want their purpose to be achieved.  They do not look for self-aggrandizement.  They do not try to show off, ‘how much I know’.  Many a times they see themselves as messengers between their purpose and its implementation.  India’s late President Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam is an apt example to remember in this context.

Four, this simplicity leads to such people having an uncomplicated way of organizing themselves, doing things.  Look for people around you, who you think are sincere.  You will find they will have little or no fuss about or around them.  This will reflect in the outcomes they produce too.  It could be maintaining their kitchen, car or for that matter how they handle a small piece of paper that is given to them.

I recollect an incident that happened several years back.  As part of my role as HR in the company that I was working for, it came on me to decide between two fresh MBA graduates for a Sales Trainee position.  Between Allan and Godwin (names changed) who were classmates from the same college I decided to hire Godwin.

To cut a long story short, when a protesting Allan asked for the reason I explained, “Allan I agree you have better academic credentials than Godwin.  And probably yes as you argue, you have better communication skills.  But when you both showed your original and photocopy of all your certificates for my verification, Godwin had kept both the originals and photocopies in the same sequential order.  It was easy for me to cross check and complete the process in quick time.

Yours, on the other hand, were a complete mess.  Worse still, when I was trying to sort them right in front of you, you did not move even your thumb to help me out.  Yes, it is my responsibility to check, but wasn’t it equally your responsibility to give it in an orderly fashion?”

I continued, “Allan I was hiring for a Sales role wherein the first expectation a customer will have is – does this sales person understand my need?”

Between Allan and Godwin, in my view, the winning competency was sincerity.  True, such behavioural differences are not too vast, but they are wide enough to give you a winning advantage; like the split seconds difference between the one that came first and second in a 100 meters dash!

Five, the reason why they are organized is that such sincere people are meticulous, diligent and hardworking.  They focus their attention on the current task that needs to be accomplished.  They do not rest on their past laurels.

Mahatma Gandhi, by the time he landed in India in 1915 from South Africa, had already become famous for fighting for just and humanitarian causes.  But to him that was past.  Now that he is in India, to set a vision for himself, Gandhiji travelled the length and breadth of this vast nation.  He connected with the humble and the mighty, the poor and the rich, with people literally from all kinds of background.  Based on his experiences he formed perspectives, goals and ways of achieving them.

If an entire nation and its leaders, for the next 3 decades listened to and obeyed Gandhiji’s words (to a significant extent), it was this kind of homework that earned him the respect.  This kind of diligence that he practiced in everything he did helped the Mahatma to tune to the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people and command their respect and love in equal measure.

Being meticulous is made possible because they hold on to their sixth quality eternally – that is, they are compulsive learners.  As you know, keen learners cannot be lazy wanderers about their life’s pursuits.  Learning demands tremendous amount of interest, focus, energy, time and enthusiasm.  Sincere people, with an intent to perform, back their talent with continuous exploration, learning and update themselves constantly.  Such people never feel arrived, they always keep perfecting.

I remember reading an interview of the then Indian cricket team test captain M S Dhoni about Sachin Tendulkar’s net practice before a test match.  Dhoni said that the entire team had to wait for more than an hour to get back to their hotel rooms after the mandatory net practice hours.  Reason?  Sachin was still perfecting certain strokes as he felt inadequate for the forthcoming test match.  It is important to remember that this incident of wanting to perfect happened when Sachin was at the end of his 20+ long years of a highly accomplished international career!

The question does arise, so is it all about only themselves?  Not really!

The seventh quality of sincere people is they develop people around them.  They are never an island.  They are a fountainhead of help and support to fellow human beings.  They know no hierarchy.  They just look if the person has a passion, desire, is she or he really in need of help and will their support make a difference in the other person’s growth.  They provide that encouragement by sharing their experience and expertise with their fellow travellers.  They are compulsive givers.   Sincere people find the same joy in others growth as they see in their own growth.

Being sincere calls for discipline and self-control.  Hence the eighth quality such people display is – they keep away from things, circumstances and people that distract them from their larger or next goal or accomplishment.  They are good at not only choosing what they want but also what they do not want!  They are devoted to their purpose and nothing else distracts them.

A powerful tool they use to avoid such distractions is their sense of humour, at times even at self-depreciating level.  They skilfully avoid traps laid for them.  I recollect watching a video that was circulated in social media recently wherein in a nonchalant way Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India waded a tricky question posed to him by a representative of international media about two world leaders in a live program amidst the very same leaders.

The epitomizing ninth quality of sincere people is they know and act with a sense of, “I have control over only the process for which I will give my best.  As far as results are concerned, I will accept as they come”.

They do not ask questions like if I act sincere, then am I assured of greatness, becoming famous?  They separate a process from its results and just go about focusing on that on which they have control.  As mentioned earlier they are sincere for the sake of wanting to be so.

It is true that by being sincere we will reap lots of rewards.  However, as time passes by we will realize that like many other virtues, being sincere is a reward in itself.  So, let’s pursue our life’s pursuits – sincerely…

And for all that we know, we may be shaking hands with our own higher selves on the other side!

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