Sunday, February 04, 2007

The non-business business


Think for a moment! If you were to do a business, be in a profession or a job that you loved, something that was a passion and you considered worth doing; would you ever think early retirement or rush home early from work? ‘Doubtful’ is a certainty, to say the least!

A few years ago, I perchance drifted across a book titled ‘To Sail Beyond the Sunset’ in which Robert Heinlein’s character, Jubal Harshaw, said something that left a lasting impression on me, and ergo, naturally, on the way I look at life. Jubal says “Happiness lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing. One man may find happiness in supporting a wife and children. And another may find it in robbing banks. Still another may labor mightily for years in pursuing pure research with no discernible results.”
“Note the individual and subjective nature of each case. No two are alike and there is no reason to expect them to be. Each man or woman must find for himself or herself that occupation in which hard work and long hours make him or her happy. Contrariwise, if you are looking for shorter hours and longer vacations and early retirement, you are in the wrong job. Perhaps you need to take up bank robbing. Or geeking in a sideshow. Or even politics.”
So I settled on Public Relations. Not before completing various stints dealing in chemicals, stocks, exporting saddlery (would you believe?), and finally PR. But then, this article is not about me, its about The Non-business Business.

What is it that the profession of PR provided that the myriad of other professions could not? What was I searching for, that was also the search of every Jubal?

I began dealing in chemicals because I was a Chemical Engineer and I thought it came naturally to me. So it did, I understood the technicalities of the subject and also liked it, but it was monotonous, repetitive and required little else than the skill of a door-to-door salesman (not that I think that’s an easy job at all though, only that I was not cut out to ringing doorbells!).

Then, with an attempt to bring back the excitement that was lacking in the first business venture, and because of my interest in Finance, I looked at the ever changing, dynamic and exciting world of stocks.

Enter Stock Broking. The new age, online stock exchanges in India had just started and it required both acumen and understanding to be able to broker deals. Soon the business was grasped and volumes at our counters soared. But equally realization dawned that all you needed to do to be a stock-broker was a good number of contacts, a skill to understand what the market movements meant and to recommend based on your collective understanding, added with a good dose of instinct.


Despite financial success, I had not found the profession I really wanted to pursue. It was then that I then turned to my childhood love for horses. I have always loved the animal and am passionate about everything to do with the stallion. Since becoming a jockey was out of question (The only job where you can be too old and too tall even when you are just 6 ft and 29 years old), I migrated to a city which specialized in making saddlery for horses. For three years my routine would be the same. I would carefully select the leather which would be used for the horse riding equipment, have the embellishments for the saddles designed with care, and have my contractors craft wonderful equipment for riding the even more wonderful horses. Sadly, in all my years with the business, the only time I sat on a saddle was when it was placed on a testing horse (a wooden piece on which we used to fit the saddle). My love for horses was too strong for me to continue something that was so near, and yet so far from the magnificent equine.

So, I was hunting for my dream profession yet again. After one brief stint with a dotcom, I settled onto PR, which is actually the subject of this story. I have been here for the last 6 years and, to say the least, I can easily continue for a few decades more in the same profession. I stay back late nights, come back early morning, think about the clients business even when I am eating, bathing or (perhaps!) sleeping. I love what I do. It excites me, and I seriously think our organization will make a difference to this world and I already am of the firm belief that we are making a significant difference to our clients (otherwise, they would’nt be our clients for 2 years in a row, right?).

The business of PR is about consulting. We consult our clients on their business, how to make it better and how they can make a difference in the world – and, to me that sounds extremely exciting.

When I analyzed my life keeping Jubal’s statement in mind, I saw through what made ones profession completely satisfying. I saw what made one love what one does (or not, as the case may be). And, trust me, I have been through enough professions to know.

In most cases, professions are entered by accident. Almost everyone, other than the lucky few, has suffered (or is suffering!) the ill-advise of friend, uncle or parent. You have a great future as a doctor, engineer, or stockbroker, says a father’s friend, little realizing what your real passion is. Or your life goes to the ruins because a suggestion of someone who knows of your passion for archeology, but little realizes that what kind of life a professional archeologist leads. The instances are too many to even attempt to think about.

So what do you do? How do you find what I found? The job that is not a job; the business that is not a business.

Always keep your eyes & ears open and absorb every thing that comes your way. Everything has a purpose, and when that one big thing that comes your way, it could very well become the purpose for your life. Stay tuned to all channels and become a sponge. Then there are simple rules that help you find your right profession. And from here on, you only stay in the same profession if the answer to every question is a big YES.

20 year rule: Simple questions always have complex answers. Ask yourself whether you want to be in the profession 20 years from now. While many may answer an immediate yes, you probably will have to dig deeper in case you want a more real answer.

12 hour rule: The next step is fairly easy. Ask yourself if you want to do that thing you do; stock broking, astrology or saving rhinos in Africa, every day of your life, 10 to 12 hours each day.

Pride Rule: Do you feel good about what you do? Does what you do make you feel proud? Do the people who matter to you really feel proud about what you do? Would you feel great telling a complete stranger (or your nearest relative!) what you do? You may run a Laundromat or be walking dogs; the question is the same.

Rule of Passion: Can you feel your skin tingle with excitement when you talk of your job/profession? Is your passion for your profession contagious? Imagine a scenario two decades hence and ask if you see yourself having the same spirit and zest for the profession as you do today.

Rule of Good: This is a simple rule that asks, Do you think that good things happen as a consequence of what you do? Is Good a main product or is it a by-product of your business or job? Just to clear up the air a bit, if Good is the main product it is a positive sign and as a by-product means you must start hunting again.

I guess PR and the way Blue Lotus does it, satisfies all the above criteria and more, and the only reason that I know for sure that I have found my final resting place many years before I actually reach there.

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