holistic health

Leaks Vs the Floods

We are all used to looking at the big stuff – stuff thatdeserves to be looked at, because it is the big stuff that makes the difference. Nobody is supposed to sweat over the small stuff, and we are constantly mentoring our people in this way of thinking. And rightly so. Because this is the kind of thinking that will help you grow into senior positions, help us take bigger responsibilities, help us grow broader shoulders to take on more weight, broaden our thinking. If we focus on the small stuff, we lose perspective on the big picture. All good stuff.

This has occupied my thinking right through my career too. And this is what helped me grow. And not just in my jobs, but in life too. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember in my advertising days, we always focussed on the big clients as that is where the bread and butter came from. There were many smaller clients, who were far more interesting to work with, but we had to rightly focus on the big clients.

When we followed up on outstanding payments, we started from the top and spent maximum energy on them. We rarely went down to the last line of the outstanding statement, and invariably we wrote it off at the end of the year, as it was too small to spend energy and time of a senior executive.

In my couple of years in banking I saw the same principle, though with a slightly different perspective. We again focussed on the big stuff – credit card acquisition, account acquisition – but here the big stuff was related to revenue generation. So we always spent time worrying about revenue, as we had recruited a huge sales force, were spending huge moneys on their training and  incentives, CRM systems to monitor their performance, micro managing the entire system – so revenue and top line growth was very important and the focus. Also because when you focussed on top line growth, invariably the bottom line got taken care of.

So growth, growth, growth was the mantra – remember that this was a growth phase for the whole world, pre recession times. Competition was intense. You missed a breath and you missed a sale, all had to be sharp and on the ball and inside the ball, all moving very fast. The early bird catches the worm, and if you miss the bus, you get only the excreta of the worms.

Amid all this glorious rush and chaos, a not-so-senior person from credit cards operations did an analysis of the attrition rate of credit cards and told the business head that you need to focus on this, while you focus on the card acquisition numbers.  He was gently and lovingly dismissed with a benevolent grand pat on the back with the poetic words “Welcome the flood coming into the parched land…don’t worry about the small leaks at the other end of the village”. This seemed like good advice, and was taken as such.

These words have always remained in my mind. And they surfaced recently when I was talking to the benevolent, kind and so-concerned-about-his-people head of HR of Titan, Mr Ramdas, affectionately known as SRD. He lamented the fact that almost all his senior managers were negligent about their health, and whenever he tried to raise the issue, it was not a subject that folks wanted to spend time talking about. I was wondering if all the senior managers were silently saying “Welcome the flood coming into the parched land…don’t worry about the small leaks at the other end of the village”.

For most senior managers, working hard and getting revenue, growth and money into the companies (parched land) is a far bigger priority than worrying about their health (small leaks). Remember that they have all been mentored on ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ and for them when something like health is fine now (you have not been hospitalised as yet right!?), why bother about it, and worse, why think about bigger issues like holistic health, preventive screening, stress…all stuff that good human beings like SRD are worrying about.

Waste of time! I even had a HR head of another company tell me that this was not a priority for their management. I gasped in horror!

I wanted to tell them that all leaks, if neglected, will eventually develop to a flood at the wrong end. If you do not spend time watching the attrition rate of your credit card portfolio, it will eventually overtake your acquisition rate.

In the same way if you do not keep an eye on the leak of your health, it will lead to a flood at the wrong end. Premature heart attacks, uncontrolled hypertension, fluctuating sugar levels, obesity, sleep disorders, are all a result of those leaks turning into floods.

And if we are all so smart, we will plug those leaks now. By spending some time every year, every month, every day on our health – on our holistic health, so that we sail in the gentle lakes of good health.

Only sissies get stressed

This is the view of smart intelligent corporate CXO’s and the intelligentsia in general. Stress is for those who do not know how to cope with life. ‘They have weak life skills’, is the judgement passed by corporate HR honchos, when they see one of their wards ‘loose it’ at work. ‘Stressed out’ means you have to have a mental breakdown and get admitted to the hospital…unless this happens, you are fine and ‘coping well’ with life.

You don’t have to ‘loose it’ frequently, or have a mental breakdown to be stressed. Then what the hell is stress anyway?

I have been exploring this. Everyone knows about it, and have their favourite interpretation of it, but the knowledge of stress is weak, shallow, and dangerously far from the truth.

The most inspiring, easily understandable and readily palatable explanation has been given by Deepak Chopra. It helps that he is a doctor who went on to helping people change their life style using traditional health systems. His explanation is grounded in science and objectivity.

Stress occurs in human beings, when our mind and body goes into the ‘fight or flight’ (FLIFI) response. The FLIFI response is a survival mechanism that nature gave to us to ensure we stayed alive. This was first described by early 20th century American Scientist, Walter Canon. He wanted to understand why some people became ill and others even died under stress. He discovered that when you encounter a threatening situation, a part of your involuntary nervous system becomes instantly and automatically activated.

So if a wild animal came towards us and threatened us, then we will have to either fight it or run away. To help us here, a serious of events takes place inside our body in a burst….

Part 1 FLIFI response

Your heart beats faster >>> your bloody pressure rises >>> you consume more oxygen >>> you expel more carbon dioxide, you breathe faster >>> your breathing becomes shallow >>> your heart pumps more blood >>> you sweat >>> one part of your adrenaline glands pumps out adrenaline and nor-adrenaline which constrict blood vessels >>> another part of your adrenaline glands pumps out cortisol - a stress hormone >>> your pancreas releases more of the hormone glucagon >>> your pancreas releases less insulin >>> as a result of the increased glucagon and decreased insulin, your blood sugar rises >>>  You reduce the bloody supply to your digestive organs and increase the bloody supply to your muscles >>> and this helps you fight or take flight >>>

In our life today in an urban setting, it is very unlikely that a wild animal will attack, so the flight or fight response is rarely useful. But it is, if in the unlikely event that we are stuck in a building on fire, or if we are startled by a car racing down a road and we have to jump out of the way, or if someone tries to mug you in a dark street, or if you are a soldier in a combat situation.

The same FLIFI response activates in us when we are chasing a deadline, or stuck in traffic, having an argument with our boss or spouse, and in a hundred other situations. This is the ‘wild side’ of our lives, with no wild animal chasing us but just ourselves, and the FLIFI response fully on. Walter Cannon goes on to say that if the neurological response are severe and unrelenting, damaging bodily changes can occur.

If the FLIFI response is unrelenting and occurring continuously in our body, here are the effects of it;

Part2 FLIFI response

>>> You reduce the bloody supply to your digestive organs and increase the bloody supply to your muscles >>>  your pituitary gland releases less growth hormone >>>  You produce lower levels of sex hormones >>> Your immune system is suppressed >>> making you vulnerable to diseases >>> accelerating the ageing process >>> leading to tissue damage >>> leading to degeneration of the body and its organs.

Clearly the FLIFI response is being activated in us constantly, as we are all running to stay in the same place, because of the fast pace of our lives and work. In this scenario where we are continuously stressed (FLIFI), the resultant effect on the body is just too dangerous.

This will explain, why seemingly ‘healthy’ people, who have passed all medical tests with flying colours suddenly drop dead. This will explain why those with no genetic pre disposition are diagnosed with cardiac problems. This will explain how perfectly ‘normal people’ are suddenly diagnosed with cancer.

And all the above is completely avoidable, if we go about life with awareness. Awareness of the FLIFI response, will allow us to avoid situations that lead to the FLIFI response.

Stress is not just for the sissies…even the brave hearts get stressed.

Corporate India is dumb

I have been in the corporate world for over 2 decades. And then I got out of it.Looking at it from the outside gives me a great perspective of the world. Having been in it for this long, also gives me the right to be judgemental also, and I think that the corporate world in general and Corporate India is specific is dumb.

The rate of growth in corporate India is astounding. If you are in the corporate world in India, this is the best place to be, as nowhere else in the world will one find the vibrancy, opportunities to excel and growth prospects, like you will find in India. But in spite of all this, it is amazing how dumb corporate India is.

Corporate India is populated with the brightest minds in the world, minds that will flip any situation around and deliver success and growth. These minds are better than the best in the world. And if this bright mind is contributing to the 'dumbness' of corporate India, it is because this 'dumb' mind is ignorant.

I am talking about their capability to look after themselves, look after their health.

These bright minds are so intelligent and sharp enough at delivering profits, growth, innovation, etc., but they do not show the same intelligence about their own being. It is sad to see how ignorant they are about themselves, their state of health, and what constitutes good health.  And the penalty is severe....death.

In the last 18 months, corporate India has lost some gems, all in the age band of 40 to 50, an age when one is most productive.

What precipitates this is the fact that companies tend to shy away from ‘forcing’ employees to look after their health, saying this is a personal issue. Their role seems to end when they give their employees a generous insurance policy, and a mandatory free medical check up once a year. There should be nothing personal about health, when it comes to employees. Their health should be of deep concern to companies.

The airline industry demonstrates this, by insisting that all pilots should be in good health to fly aircrafts. This is because pilots carry a huge responsibility, and they need to be in good health to carry out their responsibility. The question s we need to ponder is this: are pilots carrying more responsibility than senior management personnel of companies?

And it is very clear that senior executives in corporate India are ignorant of what constitutes good health. They get clean chits at their medical checks, even exercise every day, and think they are in good health, and this is what happened with Ranjan Das of SAP. These senior folks do not realise that they are more than just a bag of fluids, tissue and bones. They are a mind and a soul too, and they have no clue about the role played by their mind and their soul plays in their existence. And for a super intelligent corporate world – this is dumb!

Corporate India has to start to wake up to this very urgently, and put in measures to ensure that these senior executives look after their body, mind and soul. Looking after ones health should become mandatory, should be built into the KRA’s, should reflect in promotion and increment discussions, and should become an ‘official’ issue and not personal. This is one of the ways CEO’s will demonstrate responsibility to their shareholders and to the employees, besides the families of the employees. And the ultimate beneficiary of this approach will be the companies, their share holders, employees and the families.

So will corporate India stop being so dumb, and realise that they can move towards this win-win-win situation. I truly hope so.