“Success is not about how accomplished you are but how exemplary you are in serving others,” reiterated my mother, who left several years of her entire voluntary retirement savings as a scholarship to help the needy students. When I left India to pursue higher education, her recommendation of non-stop focus on learning to serve ricocheted in my scholar-practitioner pursuit of continuously improving myself. I say, “scholar-practitioner” pursuit because theory and practice should also continuously complement each other unlike how they fiercely compete.
Implementing the scholar-practitioner mindset required me to progressively elaborate and integrate many aspects. My actions included 1) extending beyond pursuing a doctoral degree with a quest for post-doctoral publications leading to frameworks relating to the transformation of middle-management, 2) ceaselessly broadening my knowledge with certifications on multiple project and product delivery frameworks to strategically plan and execute along with lean and design thinking for operational excellence, 3) started my own training (Agile Training Champions) reaching out to deliver training and events at a small-scale and coach others, and 4) simultaneously volunteering at community organizations and working on stretch initiatives at workplace to make things better improving productivity and increasing throughput.
As I grew up in career, I managed to integrate work and life rather than get lost in work-life balance. Yes, I was promoted in my employment, received emails from many customers for successful project, product, and program launches, received appreciation from students and faculty for the classes and corporate trainings, and even recognized with the prestigious awards. I felt accomplished as I supported charitable and non-profit community organizations besides helping people in many business units beyond my PMO (project management office).Nonetheless I felt a portion of what my mother defined as serving others was missing. And, the search began!
As the saying, “where there is a will, there is a way,” goes, I found one answer to missing piece of the “serving others” puzzle when I attended my son’s parent-teacher conference. This is when I realized that I didn’t focus my energy on the younger generation as much as I should have leading to me to start the projecting leaders of tomorrow (PLOT). In PLOT, I introduced the principles of project management and agility, outside of software development at a personal level, at high-school and middle-school level students who benefitted from stakeholder engagement techniques, risk and quality management tools, and prioritization of their school work along with extracurricular activities in preparation for their gainful employment. Thanks to the numerous PLOT learners and their testimonials, I learned about the schools’ lack of structured curriculum to introduce the project management and agile principles which led me to write and publish my book on “Organized Common Sense.” I felt that I found my cause to serve youth through PLOT but felt I could do more to integrate productivity with happiness. And, the search continued!
There was a popular Hindi movie called 3-Idiots that emphasized the notion of “Achieve excellence in your dreams and success will come looking for you.” I couldn’t agree more because the result of all my life outside of work led one of my friends, Jim Hannon, to support me with the Agile Innovation Lab he had started. Sharing a similar quest to solve a challenge with the right framework rather than always depend on one framework alone, I took Jim’s suggestion to explore the personal agility from Peter Stevens enrolling in the Personal Agility Recognized Practitioner. The personal agility program discussed numerous things that complemented my thoughts and approach. The concepts of breadcrumbs to review and align where we spend time and the stakeholder canvas to engage the right stakeholders at the right time were great. But my euphoric moment came at the very beginning when Peter introduced “What Really Matters”. That brought me back to my original question – what really mattered to me in serving others! And, the search narrowed!
I began wondering what really mattered to me when I meant serving others! At home, I always start with, “What is a ‘successful today?” and I noticed that there was not anything that I had specifically to serve someone every day. There were bigger things for the week or month to support a networking event, do a webinar, blog, check-in on a friend, etc. However, there was nothing on daily basis! I was ecstatic at my realization, “do something small every day instead of deferring to do something big every month!” We eat food every day and not every week or month! Why should, “what really matters” be different! And, the search yielded!
Right around this time, I had a school friend in India who was in critical care in an unconscious state with medical bills mounting up for his family! A group of friends decided to donate what we can to support! I did that too on one day but my “what really mattered” for the following day was void! I started a GoFundMe campaign the following day, wrote blurbs in social media another day, published a call for action in my social chat groups instead of responding to forwarded messages, called people one after the other, responded to people, created thank you video, etc. Not all required giving me money but giving a portion of my time! Finally, thanks to the support of so many donors, I was able to collect around $1750 USD (Approximately India Rs. 1,25,000) that supported my friend’s family with his medical bills. My friend is still in emergency care and is in an unconscious state. What really mattered to me is that this money mattered to my friend and his family more than any framework can every quantify! And, I celebrated my small cumulative daily wins with my friend and his family. And my search said, “Don’t let what you can do every day be stopped because of what you want to do for a week or month!”
Thanks Jim Hannon for introducing me to Peter and thanks Peter for introducing me to the personal agility.