Making it Happen with Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, GoI

The theme for the 42nd National Management Convention, the annual flagship event of AIMA, was “Making it Happen: Leadership in Times of High Expectations”, and speakers from different spheres of life shared their views with participants through interactive sessions.

Below is an excerpt from an inspiring speech by Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore (Retd.), AVSM, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India at 42nd NMC

Rajyavardhan Rathore speaking at AIMA's 42nd NMC

Rajyavardhan Rathore, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, Govt of India, speaking at AIMA’s 42nd NMC

“Thank you so much! Today the theme is management, high expectations and I am certain that everybody here is an expert in management in various fields of life. You have overcome hurdles, problems, found solutions with out of the box ideas or building on foundations and that’s how you are here today, that’s how your company or students are doing well, that’s how your parents are proud of you and so it’s an honour for me to come and speak to you.

I remember when I was a very young cadet in the military academy and we were given very thin précis on tactics and one of our cadets asked in enthusiasm that if this is all about the tactics then what if enemy gets hold of this and our instructor said this is just a foundation, you need to build on this, these are just the basic principles and rest would be left to your imagination and your ingenuity. So today my talk is no way going to be like précis to you where it’s just words on the foundations and basic things that I in my bit of experience in the armed forces, sports and in politics, whatever I could hear, listen, experience, I am just going to share with you and I am sure you are going to build on it. It’s just the basic foundation that I will speak on.

Moving on to high expectations the question arises, higher expectation goals, is it your own target or is it a target set by somebody else? Whenever it’s a target set by somebody else, it’s a difficult target because the pressure comes in. And there is difference between pressure and high energy. When the target/ goals are your own, however high they are, there is bound to be high energy in you to achieve it and whenever the target is set by somebody else and you don’t feel a part of those targets, then there’s going to be pressure and no high energy. So this is the basic question that comes to mind, what do you mean by high expectations? Is it a dream or delusion? A dream is an aspiration. I dream to become something, to achieve something. I dream to run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds. I dream to finish the half marathon. I dream to run the Sahara cross-country. Dreams are always aspirational and therefore you will always thrive to achieve them. Delusions, I don’t want to describe but you would understand best that there is a major difference between delusions and dreams.

I have 450 gram panchayats and each gram panchayat is about 6-7 villages so there are 19 lakh voters in my constituency. When I went for my first election and during that twenty-day hectic campaign, I visited each gram panchayat headquarter and wherever I went there was a very simple demand by each of the people there. They said that after we elect you, please do come back to visit us. Now at that point of time, being a soldier, being a sports person, being committed to words that you say I felt how is it that today in our democracy we have come to this stage where all that people are asking is to just come back and visit them once. So at that point of time, I announced a certain program and now I have already started the process of doing that and I realize why the members of parliament never went back to the villages.  Every village has a long list of 30 things to do and they are angry because for a number of years nobody did that and then there is a certain difficulty in a village life which none of their representatives came to address and so there’s anger. I take with me the local government officers so there’s anger directed towards them which has to be controlled at a point of time. There I also came to know who is or isn’t doing their job well depending on how these officers have been interacting with the constituency there.

It’s a very interesting  phenomenon and I very candidly tell them every time, look I can’t do these 30 things altogether but I can promise you one thing that in every gram panchayat of my constituency at least one work will start. The colleagues who were going with me and were much more experienced initially told me to keep saying yes to everything but I felt that if I am truthful to them I am sure they will understand. And I very frankly said that look I cannot do all these 30 things together but if there are things which do not require much an effort, two to three things perhaps or one big thing in every village I will start that I promise and I will make it, I will confirm it that I’ll do it. That used to be received by a big applause and I was surprised.

Delusions and dreams! There has to be a difference. So we come back to the same starting point, a high expectation is not a high expectation if it’s your expectation. Now when it is your expectation, you want to do it. But how do you go about doing it? I am sure all of us here know how to set and achieve our goals; there’s a team and individual skills involved. Finally, it boils down to exactly that. So first and foremost is, setting the target. Suppose we’re doing a long term target like I want to win the Olympics medal. Now, what do I do with it? Firstly, I need to get hold of a gun then I need a sponsor, a coach. Now once you start setting targets. You say I want to run hundred meters in less than 10 seconds so where am I now. Let’s just take you back a little bit.

I saw the shooting range for the first time when I was 28 years old. I had been a good sportsman and had a very high level of confidence. So when it came to taking on to the Olympic sport, I said 4 years, in 4 years I’m going to do it, because Army doesn’t give you much time to pursue things which are non-professional and sports is non-professional. So with great difficulty, I convinced my senior officers to give me four years’ time, and nothing happened in those 4 years. But I realized I did start moving closer to the goal and in the 5th year, I won.

 So you set your targets, interim targets and then you start moving ahead. Your progress needs to be measured, it should be measurable. I believe that you need to have critics and good friends around you. You need critics so that they can actually put the spotlight on you and say you are going wrong and you need to have the ability to sit and listen to them. Rather than get angry and annoyed that you’re anti-me and you are discouraging me. I don’t think it will come as a surprise to most husbands that my biggest critic is my wife. I guess that’s the same everywhere in every household. But I listen to her and how much I hate it she does make sense some times. Well, since she is not here I can say sometimes. So it’s important to have critics with you who can actually show you the direction and say you are not going right and you also need to have friends who can cheer you up in difficult times. And the best friend of yours is you yourself. At times when nobody else is supporting you, at least you need to have the ability to build faith in yourself and say I can do it and I will do it, I think I’m good, I think I’m strong.

Now how do you create this energy in this whole process?  So initially you have set a goal for yourself and you started working hard towards it. At times there will be pressure, there will be critics not good ones and sometimes you will feel that perhaps you’re at the wrong place. In those 4 years that I just mentioned to you, at one point of time I thought, I have bitten more than I can chew. I was pushed to a corner. I felt everything going wrong in this world is firstly with India, in terms of sports, and then with me. I realized my professional career was in doldrums because the army in its very systematic manner after a couple of years said please give us a certificate saying that if you don’t get promoted you will not go to the civil courts because you asked for 4 years. So that was a huge pressure for somebody who wants to excel, who wants to achieve and I did give that. It pushed me into a corner but also spurred me on further. I have this firm belief that whenever one is pushed into a corner whenever you feel that things are now absolutely destroyed nothing is likely to happen that’s probably the time you can be most powerful if you build that energy inside you.

So I at that point of time wrote an email to a person abroad who was well thought of and had great ideas. I wrote to him that nothing seems to be working; the government doesn’t seem to be promoting the sports as it should; there is lack of resources; no corporate is interested in anything other than cricket; there are no coaches; there are no friends who are funding me etc. Then he wrote me a wonderful email, saying ‘what you are complaining is about circumstances. Circumstances in your life will keep changing and it’s not your circumstances that shape your future. It’s your decisions in those circumstances that shape and define your future’. So when the chips are down when things are not happening, your decision is the most powerful decision that will give you the fuel to carry on towards your expectations.

I must here mention that normally in sports we try and be extremely positive. Everything will be good, everything is great. In the sport of shooting you have limited energy inside you, well everyone has limited energy, and our idea used to be to conserve that entire energy towards positivity. So no negative thoughts, it’s a waste of energy. You have to push that negative thought out. It takes a bit of energy out of me, so no negative energy. No negative thoughts, sorry. No negative person. We had already identified by that time who all are negative persons so if a negative person is coming you will change your direction, or you put on your music or you pick up a book and it should look as you’re totally immersed. So no negative person, no negative thoughts, only positive energy and that’s how you keep moving, you concentrate all your energy on a desired direction and you keep moving ahead.

There was one of the top shooters from Kuwait Fehaid Al-Deehani and he told me that at times I think negative. I asked why? Every one of us is thinking positive, how come you’re thinking negative. He said at times I get too confident and when I get over confident I think negative. What will happen if I lose? This guy is going to beat me. He said then I get pepped up to start working hard again. Another example was a Russian coach that I had. He says a sportsman and anybody who is performing right at the top is like a violin. A violin is so finely tuned instrument that only at the best time, only at the finely tuned time, does it give you the right music. Similarly, every manager has to have his team finely tuned out so that when everybody’s tightened or loosened at the perfect angle, will they give the perfect tune. You need to create that sort of environment where your violins in your industry are all finely tuned.

So you need to manage the expectations. At what point of time should you take it easy,  at what point of time should you feel the pressure so that you have the desired energy to keep moving in the right direction. Then the point comes that what are you working for? Initially lot of us work for something that really motivates us and gradually we get diverted towards fabulous cars, big parties, there are a whole lot of distractions in life or too much of rest. So we need to keep clear in the mind what are we working for. And I must confess I have been a victim of this as well. After I started shooting everything went great but somewhere in 2008, I totally burnt out and wanted to get the Olympics over with. I didn’t feel like going to shooting range. My son, who was at that point of time eleven or something, wanted to pick up a gun and shoot for the sports and he used to go to the shooting range and shoot on his own. The shooting range was right behind my house so he used to shoot on his own. I would never go out to even watch it. I used to hate the sports so much at that point of time that my wife would go and coach my son, whatever little she knew. My mother would go and coach or just be with him for whatever good it was. And then the two ladies of my house said ‘Look enough is enough, go teach your son’. With great reluctance I went out and started coaching him. Obviously since he was young I brought him down to the basics and then I realized how simple the sport was. I had in my mind complicated it so much. In my mind I complicated it so much that it became a maze that I couldn’t go through and got lost in it. And now getting outside everything, for him I simplified it so much that it became so simple to me how to hit a target. And when you hit a ball from the sweet spot, there’s a different sound. It’s a great satisfaction for those 2 to 3 seconds; you feel good and sometimes talk about it. What a lovely shot it was! That sweet spot is what inspires you in your life. So when you want your company to achieve something, it is that sweet spot you are working for.

I remember Geet Sethi’s book, I forgot the title of the book but he made a very interesting point in the starting. Normally in stories when you are young you read stories about winning the princesses’ hand and there is a demon you have to fight. So what thrills you? Is it just winning the princess’s hand or fighting the demon and winning the princesses’ hand and then moving on to another demon. So it’s about the next challenge you win and you move on to the next challenge so that’s the sweet spot that you are looking for. Like a sportsman you know one match is over. I remember Abhinav Bindra saying that I have zero energy after a match is over. I hate the sport after the match is over for one day. I said and then? He said then I go back to it again. I want to get back to next match again. It’s always the same. You win something and then it’s all past.  I don’t even remember where my Olympic medal is, probably in a box somewhere. Nobody is interested in it, that’s over. You won the challenge, now you get on to the next challenge. That’s the sweet spot of your life.

In this whole process you will have a team with yourself. The first most important person in the team is you yourself. Right in the beginning I mentioned that it’s how you talk to yourself. So there are two ways of communication. One is what you communicate to the outside world and second is what you communicate to yourself. Now most of us would feel that communicating to the outside world is important. Of course it is. But I feel communicating with yourself is even more important. What do you talk to yourself on a daily basis? I go back to those four years, to that advice I got that it’s not because of circumstances but the decisions made in those circumstances. And then I put it up on a full scale sheet of an A4 size paper, printed about 20 copies of them and put them in every room of my house. So wherever I go I keep seeing it that whatever I need to do, I need to do it myself. And I need to take decision and not repent the circumstances. So communication with the outside world is critical, very important but communicating with yourself even more so because that will keep you going. You are your best friend. If you don’t talk to yourself then nobody else will.

When I was in class eleventh, I wanted to become a cricketer. So I started looking for a guru but I couldn’t find one at that point of time. Though in Kendriya Vidhyalaya we had basic sports teacher and he was always enthusiastic about sports. I picked up a book called The Art of Fast Bowling, by Dennis Lillee and it became a bible to me. That book guided me how to eat, how to train. In my school bag I used to carry more shoes and sports equipments than books. So in the afternoon during the lunch break when all the students would go to have their lunch, I would put my sneakers and go for a run. People at that point of time called me mad but I said I need to use my time and I tried to follow everything mentioned in the book. It helped me move ahead in the life.

Similarly when I had to get on to shooting, again, there was an immense knowledge available at places. I just had to find the right person and follow. When I hadn’t had a coach and didn’t win any medal, I picked up the articles or interviews of the Olympic gold medallist. And I am talking about the year 2002; I haven’t won any medal till then, I went to Bisley which is the Manchester commonwealth games village and i have been reading articles by the gold medalists. Richard Faulds was the Olympic medallist at that point of the time and I read his article and picked up a line from it which says ‘In my mind I make shooting very simple and sometimes things click’. In the commonwealth games Richard was there, in a way he had taught me, and I defeated him there. So it’s a sense, a belief that you are building in yourself by various things.  You acquire knowledge and then the most important is to put it into action and that’s where a lot of us don’t put our efforts. We have a lot of knowledge, we don’t put into action.

Another aspect is creating repo in your team and that’s something which is great in Indian armed forces. Be it active areas or peace areas there is always an environment of great camaraderie and there’s an effort that goes into it. I sense that corporates are doing a lot these days. A cricket team can get together and huddle and pep up each other. It’s the same challenge. It may not be scoring more runs; it could be something else in your industries. So you all need to huddle and pep up yourself. That camaraderie needs to come in as well.

The slowest member of the team is the speed of your team. So when a team has to perform you not only have to focus on your best performers, you also have to focus on those who are not doing so well. When I joined the army I thought my studies are over in class eleventh, in fact one of the reasons for joining the NDA was to not give twelfth board. So I got into the NDA. I reached there; saw guns, ammunition, war, thought only these types of things to talk now, studies are over. And when first test result came I was right at the back. The list of the weak students came out but my name wasn’t there, one teacher was allotted to every 20 weak students. I said at least they realize that I have the potential and it’s just by mistake that my name is there. Then another list came out, that was one teacher one student and my name was there.

And then when the final exams came, like I mentioned right in the beginning, I measured my movement, the parameters were very basic and simple. We used ball pens at that time and I decided to finish one refill in three days and no extra scribbling here. Mathematics was my weak subject, so I mugged it up so much that when exam came you tell me the answer and I could tell you the question, you tell me the second step and I would tell you the fourth fifth step whatever. So the slowest member of the team became faster. The slowest member has to be trained and you got to take him ahead and when you do that, one there is a sense of confidence in the weakest member and the camaraderie sets in. Then the whole team can move ahead.

The aspect of discipline cannot be enforced. I’ve been asked at times how I switched from army to politics, from a disciplined force to dash dash dash. So I said interestingly army has set defined rules and if you violate them there is an army law which is very harsh. So there is a very strong stick to discipline you which is good but in politics there are no set defined rules and yet we manages rallies of five lakh people. There are party workers who would do anything once given a task.  There is a sense of Discipline which is self imposed. And I think discipline that is self imposed is the most effective discipline.

 And that’s where your problem starts, finding the right person who is self-disciplined and self-energized. Another aspect is how long you pursue your goals, how long you can go on when there is difficulty? Is there a hunger in your stomach to achieve it? Also when you achieve a small target and if euphoria hits you, if that satisfaction hits you, then probably that is the level that you would stay. And that is where I differ from a lot of people who say one must always be satisfied. I don’t know how it applies but I feel you must always be hungry to achieve more if you want to go ahead. So avoid that euphoria, stay focused, so that you can continue to move on and hit the big target. And when you hit the big target, like I mentioned right in the beginning, you fought one demon, you won the princesses hand, now go on to next one. That’s what life is all about!

And finally, what if you don’t? So this thought came to me a long ago, that I have given an adverse career certificate to army and I have taken on something which 99% of people said was impossible. Nobody in India has ever won Olympic medal you are getting on to something which is not possible, Indians don’t win in sports. Every time there were problems, hurdles. So I had this image in my mind that I was here and my target was on the other side and I would visualize hurdles being put in front of me but I will continue to go into that direction in my life. If you put a hurdle, I will go around it or go over it, if you put more hurdles I will continue to go into that direction. My path will become longer but I will continue going in that direction because it satisfies me. The journey needs to be satisfactory and to be the powering emotion for you to move ahead.  I can say that in my life I moved in that direction and I came this close but I will continue to move in that direction.

I was reading a book by his holiness Dalai Lama; a lady comes to Dalai Lama and says you must be under so much of pressure. He asked why? She says because everyone is expecting you to do a miracle and probably cure them or to do something good for them. He asked again but why the pressure? She says wont the pressure be there what if you fail, you not only fail yourself but you will fail everyone. Then he gave a very simple and powerful answer, he said ‘but at least I tried’. So when you try you are doing your bit to move in that direction.

Another I am quite a movie buff not because I’m from commission broadcasting but I look for these motivational things. In a movie ‘The Last Samurai’ there is a scene where samurais are going for final assault on the European troops or king’s troops and the samurai warrior asks tom cruise who is there with him, he asks ‘Do you believe in destiny?’ because they know there is no way to defeat the enemy but they are still going for the assault. Tom Cruise says ‘I believe what a man has to do a man has to do it and wait for the destiny to reveal itself’. So keep going and work hard. At least you will be satisfied that you are moving in the right direction and I believe that once you sincerely move in a certain direction and you are committed and  you are hungry to achieve, everything else will start following in place and your expectations whether they are high or low for others would always be achieved. Thank you so much.

Watch the full session here:

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