Self Development
Playing Field is the Same, It is How You Play the Ball

by DP Sabharwal
It is quite natural that different people respond differently to any given situation, existing in the same area where people are working with same tools, accessories and necessary wherewithal. How one looks at it and goes to handle it, makes all the difference.
‘Hi Dear, bad news. One more Hindustani gone.'
‘Who is this fortunate guy to get over the rigmaroles of this torturous life?' was the response I got when I informed a friend of mine about the untimely demise of a friend of ours.
To get ahead with the rest of the story I have to take you back to the year 1969 when we were on the verge of passing out from the engineering college. As happens on such occasions, one tends to become sentimental. So were six of us from the mechanical stream, forming a really close and well-knit group along with a lone spark; a guy from electrical branch. Since Amitabh Bachans' film ‘Saat Hindustani' (Seven Indians) was released that very year, our group was nick-named ‘Saat Hindustani' by our batch-mates as well as the juniors. After passing out from the college, we went in different directions. Fortunately or unfortunately, none of us went abroad for studies or a job and subsequent settlement. As a result we somehow maintained contact with each other, meeting once in a while at marriages or other important occasions.
Some 25 years later, one of these ‘Saat Hindustanis' had departed for heaven above and now ten or so additional years down the line, another one had made the irreversible journey and I was conveying this news to the left-over bunch of so called ‘Saat Hindustanis.'
Next I called up another one from the group and before I could finish, he spoke, ‘Oh No, how could it be! A chap like him should not have had such a massive attack.'
Another call to the third colleague and what I heard was something like this, ‘So Oncle (the departed friend's nick-name) has once again taken the lead. It is really difficult to beat this guy!'
The response from the fourth friend was perhaps the best of all, if it can be so called in the given circumstances. He said, ‘Let me guess who it could be. One already out of the group and it can neither be you nor me. That leaves only four..."
The four colleagues I have just mentioned about were all in their mid-fifties and towards the pinnacle of their careers. One was a Rear Admiral in the Indian Navy, another a Senior Vice President of a multi-million rupee organization, third one an industrialist who keeps trotting the globe like an enthusiast person taking morning rounds in a small park  and the fourth one an entrepreneur in a field which very few engineers dare to enter. Well go through the responses once again before I proceed with the point I wish to make.
The news of ‘death' conveyed to my friends was the same one but the response of four colleagues was entirely different. Do you see something wrong in it? Well, nothing at all. As regards the news of death, well it is natural since deaths do occur, in fact by thousands everyday. But it is the other aspect, the reaction to it or how do we receive it, well that is the point to ponder!
Death is a metaphor that I have used to come to the point I wish to speak about. In our day-to-day life including that at job we are often faced with situations that are routine in nature. It is like the game of cricket. Every batsman on the crease gets a ball thrown at him by the bowler, be it a pacer or a spinner from within the specified distance of the pitch. Now whether the batsman scores a century while at the crease or gets out the first ball is all a matter of how he plays the ball. It is as simple as that! The playing field is the same for all. It is an individual's frame of mind, aptitude, attitude and the rest that decides the outcome of his innings in the middle. Well, if this complex issue has to be described in most simple terms, it would be something like ‘how he or she looks at the whole picture.'
Yes, it is an individual's response based purely on his mental frame of mind at that point of time: how the mind sees, receives and perceives the message through any one or more of the five senses such as sight, touch or hearing. It is the very first impression that invariably decides what the situation is like, a routine one, a tricky one or a difficult one. The subsequent responses are based on this formed impression.   
Thus ‘any situation' can be seen as a routine one by one individual and as a problem by another person. The situation remains the same, but it is the perception that differs. If the situation is familiar, it is no problem. However the moment the situation is a bit unknown or slightly tough or tricky, it becomes a problem.  Now, there are two rather simple ways to look at such a situation and prevent it from becoming a problem.
Not the First Time - It is very rare that the situation you have come across is unique in nature and has never occurred earlier. Such a probability is extremely low and is worth neglecting.  You might have come across a similar situation in the past and might not be able to recollect and connect it with the present one. Ok let us consider the other possibility that such a situation has never ever crept up before you. Never mind, but the fact is that such a situation would have cropped up earlier somewhere and some one would have definitely solved it successfully. Only thing, you are not aware of it. All that is required is to dig out and come out with the ways to solve it.
Consider the job interview. It might be your first one. But thousands before you have gone through the process. Your ignorance and lack of confidence can be tackled through reading of magazines, journals and periodicals related to your area of interest and field of work. Such a step would not allow the situation turning into a problem (of not getting selected). On another front, let us say you have been asked to increase sales by fifty percent or maintain plant and machinery (maintenance engineers) in failure-free mode. Well no doubt these are seemingly daunting situations but such situations have arisen before and people across the globe have solved them. All that is required is the knowledge as to how others did it. You don't have to fret and fume nor do you have to waste your valuable time for re-inventing the wheel!
Fine Tuning    It is quite natural that different people respond differently to any given situation. The reactions of four friends in the anecdote mentioned above prove the point. To extend the same to a day-to-day situation let us go through a simple exercise. A group of say four-or-five of you enter a new workplace or the lobby of a hotel or a restaurant for the first time. After you have sat down and made yourself comfortable, write your observations in one or two sentences. The matter written by each one of you is going to be different. In the case of a restaurant, while someone would be focusing on the interiors, the other would have noticed the calmness or the noise, the third one would have noticed the aroma of the served food, while yet another would have been impressed or otherwise with the dress and mannerism of the waiters. The simple fact is; the responses would be quite different and it is quite likely that the taste of food would have a bearing on your observations. Someone happy with the first observations would find food tastier!
Same is the case with work-problems. The situations one sees are the same for everyone, existing in the same area where people are working with same tools, accessories and necessary wherewithal. The difference is how one looks at it and goes to handle it. While the work environment parameters are the same for everyone, the solutions that emerge invariably are not. While someone is successful and as a result walks away with accolades, the other guy fails and has to hear harsh words and face the associated unpleasant music as well. The difference between the two set of people, those who succeed and those who see situations turning into problems is a simple one: that of fine-tuning. Remember everyone knows the basics of turning the knob (handling resources, both physical and human), it is the fine-tuning that one has to learn to turn noise into music!
A Final Word  There are only seven colours in the rainbow (described by the acronym VIBGYOR, if you remember) but the shades that are created form these colours are numerous and in fact endless. The same is the case with situations we face in our daily life, which in fact are limited in numbers. It is only when we see them in different shades that we feel lost and flabbergasted and start seeing them as problems. Learn to identify the shades with the original colour. That way you shall be able to deal with the situation and stop it turning into a problem.
Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.
A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at