By | Raja Jamalamadaka | Industry speaker | Neuroscience coach | Marshall Goldsmith awardee | Author | LinkedIn Top voice | IIT | Harvard
Last week, I visited Chennai for some personal work. At the airport, we were received by a cab driver – let’s call him Ramesh. As is my wont, I got talking with him to understand him better. Ramesh came from a poor family. The financial challenges in his childhood forced him to drop out of school in his second grade (standard 2 in India). He tried various options to support his family before taking up driving as his profession. Despite his challenges, Ramesh appeared fairly cheerful. I asked him for his role model.
Pat came the response “Mr. Jack”. I had heard of Jack (not his true name) – he was a well-known CXO at a top technology organization.
“Why Jack ?”
“I once attended an event where Jack was the keynote speaker. He spoke so well. I still remember his key messages–
1. Always maintain integrity. Integrity is saying what you do and doing what you say.
2. Be humble and serve others. Spend 10% of your time and money on helping people less fortunate than yourself.
I was so impressed that I have tried my best to live these two messages.”
“How?” I asked.
“Out of every hundred rupees that I have earned ever since that session, I have given ten rupees back to support poor kids at the local community school so that they don’t suffer my fate. Money aside, I spend 30 minutes everyday at the local hospital taking care of the needy.”
“How do you know you are humble and are practicing integrity?”
“From whatever I understood, integrity is all about doing the right things when no one is watching you. No one sees me contribute money or serve the society – yet I do it with all my heart. Regarding being humble, I try my best to see a reflection of myself in others and others in me all the time. I am much more accepting of others due to this approach”.
At the end of the day, I was convinced Ramesh was truly living those values – his actions reflected them. I was mightily impressed and thanked him profusely. I assured him that if I were to ever meet Jack, I would narrate this story to him.
That night I got to know from my industry friends that Jack would be flying out of Chennai the following morning – a few hours before I was scheduled to fly to Pune. I was determined to relay this story to him. I didn’t know Jack personally – but I had heard of his accomplishments. He held engineering and management degrees from top US Ivy-league universities.
The next morning, I saw Jack at the airport. Before proceeding to meet him, I closely decided to follow him. An entourage of people saw him off at the airport – Jack’s genteel mannerisms and mature demeanor shone through. Once inside the airport and all by himself, Jack settled down at a restaurant and ordered coffee. Since it was peak hours, the staff took some time as they served guests ahead of him in the queue. This delay ticked off Jack – he mocked the staff for terrible service. He left without tipping.
The queue at the security check was long. As I waited my turn, I saw Jack jump the queue and surreptitiously place his bag on the baggage scanner. Someone in the queue objected softly but Jack simply ignored him. There was a sly smile on his face as he saw his act succeed.
Inside the lounge, I saw Jack leaning on his chair with his feet on the table – as he sipped his favorite wine. I asked the staff why they didn’t object.
“We did. Within five days of the complaint, he used his influence and got one of us thrown out of the job. We never spoke after that. He is one of the most arrogant personalities we have known but we have to put up with him – he is a famous corporate boss and is a regular visitor of this lounge.”
An hour later, Jack boarded his flight. I didn’t relay Ramesh’s story to Jack – I didn’t meet up with him.
For years, I equated education with literacy (college degrees). Jack and Ramesh helped me understand the true meaning of education. Jack was, without question, the more “literate” of the two. But Ramesh was the really “educated” one.
I was left with a thought –
“To be successful in life what you need is education, not just literacy or degrees”
I would love to hear your views. Please leave a comment in the comment box below so I can learn from your experience.