Monday, August 14, 2017

Lesson Learnt

My friend, Shashidhar Byali has many anecdotes of his life as a sailor. The best ones to listen to are those of great challenges and ‘near or clear’ errors of judgement or delivery. Shashi tells often about a log book that had to be filled to record the happening. The most important detail was testing but important to be declared: lesson learnt!

'Lesson Learnt’ is a valuable tool used by various organizations. They are experiences extracted from an assignment that become guidelines for future assignments of same or similar nature. It is an effective evaluation of the occurrence with clear insights into the what, how and why of things that went right or wrong.

NASA defines ‘lesson learned’ as knowledge or understanding gained by experience. The experience may be positive, as in a successful test or mission, or negative, as in a mishap or failure. These lessons highlight strengths or weaknesses in preparation, design, and implementation that affect performance, outcome and impact.

Experience is a great teacher. However, we must remember that ‘lessons are not meant to be taught… lessons have to be learnt’. Hence we must define and declare the ‘lesson learnt’ from every experience. It will be the guideline for future initiatives and ensure effectiveness due to the learning gained from the understanding.

After each experience, whether success or failure
‘Lesson Learnt’ helps us be better for the future!

~ Pravin Sabnis

Monday, August 7, 2017

Reason eclipsed

Many years ago, during a training for an organisation, we were served lunch in their canteen. The person who accompanied us was courteous but did not partake in the meal. He sheepishly admitted that he would not eat as his mother had instructed him to abstain from food during the eclipse that was occurring that day.

He told us that during the eclipse, all water and cooked food would be thrown out as it would be contaminated. After the end of the eclipse, all would bathe and fresh water would be filled from the tap and used to cook fresh food. My colleague asked him, ‘Do you empty the overhead tank, the reservoirs and rivers as well? Surely they would be under great exposure to be contaminated.’

Even the educated succumb to the canard, because we think that it does no harm to follow a tradition with seems to do no harm. But our thinking is eclipsed in more ways than one. While fasting during an eclipse, or any other time, is not bad as long as our body can take it; surely throwing away edible food and water is not acceptable.

So often we base our actions on blind beliefs. Premises based on invalid references lead to the eclipse of reason. False notions and misplaced logic leads to wrong inferences. Most fallacies are propped up by the crutches of distorted scientific principles. After all, we so easily allow our reason to be eclipsed by blind belief.

Let’s keep unscientific blind belief at bay…
Reason should not be eclipsed on any day!

~ Pravin Sabnis

Monday, July 31, 2017


A dog-meal company was holding its annual convention. The Advertising Director spoke of an interesting new retail scheme that would ‘revolutionize the industry’. The Marketing Director extolled the company’s decision to introduce the latest state-of-the-art refresher-training program for ‘the best damned sales force in the business.’

Finally, the CEO rose to make his remarks, ‘we heard from all our Departmental Heads about their wonderful plans. I have only one question. If we have the best advertising, the best marketing and the best damn sales force in the business, how the hell do we sell less dog food than everyone else?’

The silence in the Convention Hall was broken by a small voice from the back of the room: ‘Because the dogs hate it!’

While packaging, promotion, positioning and projection are crucial to ensure value to the product, the eminence of the produce cannot be ignored. But so often we forget the main thing and focus on the marketing only. It is important to ensure the surface wrapper does not hold within a hollow or lesser core.

The core is the foundational part which is primary over the secondary enveloping parts. For an individual, core character is more important than clothing and other drapes. For a team, core synergy remains higher than aesthetics and apparel. For a community project, core purpose is greater than public relations or publicity.

Of course, the envelope can empower the core. But it is pertinent to note that the surface packaging cannot override the core. Otherwise, we will focus only on the surface and ignore the fundamental forte. Hence, we should focus on values, vision and purpose so that we, and the casing, remain centrally aligned to a strong core.

Focus on the core first and then the casing…
Sans strong roots, shoots struggle in rising!

~ Pravin Sabnis

Monday, July 24, 2017

Andrew's Law

‘Power of Positivity’ is my favourite training session. Besides insights into reclaiming instinctive positivity (that we are born with) and unlearning conditioning, I share two laws: Murphy’s and Andrew’s. Murphy’s Law is globally known (and has been focussed on in an earlier Monday Muse) but Andrew’s is personally known to me and all those who came in touch with him.

So often, when we embark on a project and in the run-up we realise that disruptions lie ahead. In response, we postpone, procrastinate or we give up. Those who were associated with Andrew would hear a persistent and insistent refrain, ‘Don’t Cancel!’ That is the law that will be our lighthouse as the person is no more amidst us.

Andrew D’souza was full of enthusiasm and energy. He was passionate about planting trees, empowering education for underserved students, playing sports, team working with Rotary Clubs and other volunteer groups… but most importantly, he would encourage, support and team up with any positive program.

Andrew would urge, ‘Don’t Cancel!’ He believed that despite any concerns, a well-intentioned initiative should not be stopped. He insisted that instead of prejudging results, we must focus on efforts. Every time we cancel something we have started we create doubts in our mind and make it difficult to embark on a second attempt.

Andrew said ‘to cancel’ was to give up on your beliefs and faith in possibilities. He would point out the analogy of sports: playing for passion is elementary… victory depends on many factors other than capacities. Hence, he said, we should play to the fullest, instead of imagining defeat and giving up without playing.

Andrew’s successful chain of restaurants is called ‘A Lua’ - literally meaning the moon. The moon seems to wax and wane. The moon goes missing once a month and sometimes it is eclipsed. But it does not real disappear. It remains in its role that makes a consistent impact on our world. Andrew may be no more but his luminous law remains an immortal inspiration to take on challenges and not cancel our efforts.

Andrew remains alive with his stirring law…
‘Don’t cancel’ never mind the seeming flaw!

~ Pravin Sabnis

Monday, July 10, 2017

Unkindest Cut

In William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of senators led by Brutus, a close friend of Caesar. Caesar begins to resist the attack but resigns himself to his fate when he sees that his friend is amongst the plotters. Caesar's last words are 'Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!'

In the play, Mark Antony oratory cleverly exposes the betrayal. He describes the wound given to Caesar by his close friend Brutus as ‘unkindest cut of all’. He is playing on two meanings of ‘unkind’: ‘inhumane’ and ‘unnatural.’ When Brutus literally ‘cut’ his friend, a bloody deed was compounded with ingratitude. It wasn't the wound that killed Caesar, says Antony, but Brutus's treachery.

The most painful of insults, affronts, or offenses are often so painful because it comes from a trusted friend. It is pertinent to note that these ‘unkindest cuts’ are always aligned to back stabbing. While they may not be real cuts that exterminate, yet they kill reputation or relationships. The friends who chose to betray are eventually killing trust and the friendship born of it.

Some people are given yet another chance despite deceitfulness. But they repeat the untrustworthiness as they take relationships for granted. They may believe that the one who forgave once will forgive again. More importantly, they feel that the friend will never know about the unkindest cut! However, friendships take years to blossom but they can be smothered out forever by the unkindest cuts.

Friendship is felled where a betrayed friend is laid…
The ‘unkindest cut’ is always a double edged blade!

~ Pravin Sabnis

Monday, July 3, 2017


Pedro was telling his friend in a sad tone, ‘My father is critically ill and looks like he will not recover.’ His friend immediately shot back, ‘what about other fathers who are critically ill? Did you feel sad for them? If not why are you insisting on grief?’

A baffled Pedro said, ‘He is my father! As his son am I not entitled to sorrow?’ His friend continued his whataboutery… ‘What about other fathers? What about their sons? What about their anguish? What about…’

The above account is an imagined joke. But around us, we find the serious malaise of repetitive whataboutery. It is the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue. It is a diversion tactic used to put the other in a bad light.

The term, originally used in political discourse, is now used extensively in debates between conflicting sides. The user protests hypocrisy by responding to criticism by accusing the opponent of similar or worse faults. He refuses to act in one instance as similar action was not taken in other similar instances from the past. 

One wrong does not validate another. Hypocrisy should be exposed but crime cannot be defended. Whataboutery cannot be used to justify the unjustifiable. It is pretence for fairness but it seeks to defend the defenceless. The opposite of whataboutery is to maintain consistency in response instead of asking ‘what about?’

When we prop up a wrong to expose hypocrisy
We indulge in the absurd drill of whataboutery!

~ Pravin Sabnis

Monday, June 26, 2017

What’s your religion?

(an old poem written in 1990 that disconcertingly seems written for today)

One day,
we will be stopped
in our tracks
by a maniacal mob…
… and be confronted
with the Questions:

“what’s your religion?
Same as ours?
Or different like theirs?”

And our lives will depend
… on our answers
… and their religion!

~ Pravin Sabnis