This article is directed mostly towards those readers, who have recently embarked on a career; it also has in it, several takeaways for those who are in business for long. The idea is to invite attention to creating a purpose for our lives.
Organisations are formed with specific objectives in mind. A handful are formed for achievement of a one time activity or transaction; most however are formed with no terminal point in mind. Such organisations journeys would be endless, with only milestones to plot on the way. No business organisation is formed with a defined deadline for its closure — the perpetuity of business remains the core objective of all entities. The objective of making profits (however vulgar they can get to be) is the raison d’etre, of all institutions) is very ethically enshrined in the entity’s vision and mission statements.
Motive must drive the deed. And should the motive be in the arena of the negative zone, it will surely perish by itself. Business entities must necessarily have the objective to make profit, so that it remains, both liquid and a “going-concern”. The management should not have to go back frequently to the shareholders, for fresh capital contributions to grow their business. The profits must make up for retention as equity to provide the base for future and expansion.
Just as it is important for a business enterprise to remain a “going concern”, it is of equal importance for any professional/individual to remain akin to the concept of ‘going concern.’ Let me elaborate this train of thought.
Parents (call them stakeholders, with no motive of seeking material profits or dividends for themselves) invest into the education and upbringing of their off-spring. They continue to hold hands (financially and emotionally) until the child (professional in making) is steady upon his/her own feet. They have the patience that entrepreneurs lack, to watch, wait and see, the seeds of their efforts germinate into producing young men and women. The capital input, alongside the cost of labor (physical and emotional) to turn their children into a significant factor of production is made by the parents.
After toiling for several years the parents reluctantly acquiesce, to the demands of the child, who forcibly releases himself, by withdrawing from the hands that held out the index finger to clutch, for the longest of times; this action is celebrated as the ‘dawn of maturity’ and ‘independence’. The sources of capital and labour are then not considered to be available.
The individual (child) by this time is expected to represent himself as a “going concern”, operative with revenues, without parental or external support. This may be an accomplishment of the parents, but the professional has now embarked on a journey of his own. There is a need to have objectives. The past cannot be corrected, but the future can be shaped.
Educational qualifications must be had with best possible grades. However, it is not enough just to have a bachelors or even masters; a university degree helps to move a closed door ajar, to a whole new world of opportunities; but to exploit these, a lot more is required, in relation to skill development and enhancement. Just as any business entity has a vision and mission, the child (professional) must have one for his/her own self too.
Those who take up their first job or first business deal/venture, must reduce in writing, what their vision is and how the mission will be designed to acquire the actualisation of the vision. Those who begin with clarity of purpose end up being successful professionals.
History is replete with examples of individuals who set up for themselves specific objectives and goals to achieve. Michael Heseltine, the Secretary of Defence in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, wrote his own vision/mission statement (set of specific objectives) on a piece of a paper napkin during coffee break, while studying at Oxford in 1956. He wrote all his major objectives, to be achieved, decade wise … and that he did with precision of his self-imposed timelines — the only exception was, that for the decade of the 1990’s, he wrote,”10, Downing Street” — he couldn’t make it despite being so close to it, due to his alleged involvement in the Harrier helicopter purchase deal — otherwise, he would have got to being a resident of 10, Downing Street. The precursor to all actions must have neatly defined objectives. It helps in keeping oneself aligned to a purpose.
Since “going concerns” do not make frequent Capital Calls, the professional for his/her growth must develop sustainability to pursue the objectives. In order to achieve reliability of unfettered growth, the young professionals must seek to continuously improve and upgrade, themselves; in other words, they must develop unique skills , just as a unique selling proposition (USP) that corporates, have to keep moving forward, horizontally and vertically, upon the organogram.
Youngsters should not wobble on the sea of life, as a rudderless vessel, for with certainty, it would start to list, if not navigated. A meaning, a purpose they must give to their lives, with objectives that are sublime and rich in character. No life can be Che Sara, Sara (what must be, must be); nay, you have to burn the midnight lamp to achieve what you are determined to get, as part of the designed objectives. Those who are working for others must consider the salary as dividend, which must also be distributable; some of the apportionment could be classified as expenses; while some portion of it must be invested into the future. This is re-ploughing profits into future growth.
The investment has to be in the form of continued education, involving purchase of books, paying participation fees for relevant seminars and conferences, etc. Setting aside a part of Salary or profits is retained earnings. This liquidity cushion is a source of comfort for any difficult times that may lie ahead. The personal objectives can range from how much savings you can have, by what time frame to how to further develop and strengthen the skill set.
Any door can either be shut or open; it is up to the person how he manages to unlock the potential of opportunities; if you sow thistles, you can only reap prickles, not red roses. The old adage is apt to the attitude of, he who saves well, need not ask his wages, implying the need to prepare the required quality to progress.
Life is not about sitting on the fence; one has to necessarily commit oneself to a set of goals and objectives. If you have a prodigious quality of mind, you will never be able to decide, what your aims, objectives, goals or even purpose of life is? (Thought borrowed from Mark Twain). No one should lose their life to indecision; while objectives can remain dynamic, but its core must not be subjected to regular fudge and mudge. A sage from ancient times had said, first say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. The motivation to do must come from the core of the set of goals and objectives; rivers need a spring too. No root of goals will ensure no fruits. All beginnings are the hardest acts. One must realise that well-conceived and developed targets and objectives make for half the job done. It is rightly said, burn more, and shine most. The alternative is to freeze. The objective if not acted upon gets into the cold storage of inertia.
As a comparison to corporate social responsibility, I have a recommendation to the young readers to develop a sense of individual sense of responsibility. That’s responsibility towards self, and then by the self, to the society. If you improve in all respects, the society would stand to improve too. Taking this point further, from your “retained earnings”, allocate a certain percentage towards a noble cause that would complement the overall upliftment of the society. A commitment to a worthy objective has inbuilt happiness that money cannot buy. Noble objectives direct good actions, these must be seen as an answer or an apology to any bad motives/actions or negative traits.
Those who can align their material and worldly objectives to the greater purpose of spiritual living are the most fortunate, for they tend to acquire material gains, not for selfish satisfaction, but for the good and glory of people around them. If the end is clear in setting objectives, there is very little likelihood of any derailment of efforts, even if the path is strewn with impediments and challenges.
Finally, keep in focus, the words of Michael Angelo, the master painter, as a directive about pursuit, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we must achieve it, but that it is too low and we reach it”.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist
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