Saturday, September 11, 2010

Passion and Obsession

This is an excerpt from a speech by the CEO of Coca-Cola, Brian G. Dyson. “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - Work - Family - Health - Friends - Spirit, and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls -- family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

This is a story I heard in the Belur and Halebidu temples of Karnataka. “A sculptor was once working on a piece of art, which had to be placed on a tower which is about 30 feet high. It took him days to sculpt the rock. One day when the sclpture was almost complete, he noticed a tiny mistake he had made. Disappointed with himself, he started working on a new rock for the same sculpture. His co-worker was puzzled by this behaviour and asked him “the mistake is too tiny to be noticed from 30 feet below, who would know that there is a flaw?” For which the sculptor replied “I will know” and continued working on the new rock.” These temples are epitomes of Indian architecture and the attention to details of the sculptures were just mind blowing.

These two stories carry two different messages which I think is very essential for this generation corporate employees. The first one talks about work-life balance and the latter about passion in work. Does this seem contradicting? I think not. I know a friend who is passionate towards football; he screams when his team scores a goal and becomes silent when they concede one. He plays the game with same passion; he is passionate about his work; he is passionate when he discusses current affairs; he is passionate when he discusses world history. Again, I have not seen a long lasting effect on him just because his team has lost or won. That for me is the difference between passion and obsession. Don’t work just for the money; work is not everything in life.

This is a real life example to show these subtle differences. I was part of team developing software for a semiconductor packaging company. The hierarchy of the development team was a project manager at the top, a technical lead below him, two module leads reporting to the technical lead and ten developers under the module leads. I was one of the module leads. Bala, the project manager is a no nonsense guy and an example of a true professional. He is very passionate about his work and expects similar commitment from his team. Inspired by the leader, the team too stretched from the usual working hours quite often. The application we were developing was very ambitious and challenging; we knew it would be quite an achievement at the end.

One of my close friends, Vimal’s marriage was around the corner at the time our development was nearing its peak. I had applied for just a day’s leave while many of my fortunate friends could afford more days to help him out. The day before the marriage Bala called me into a meeting room and asked me if I could attend the marriage in the morning, come back and work during the day and go back to attend the reception in the evening. I had some valid reasons why I couldn’t do that. Then he told me “I had to miss the marriage of my paternal aunt’s son the week before since we had work. Vinoj (our technical lead) had postponed to visit his mother-in-law who was diagnosed with brain tumor because of work. I want you too to be an example for the team.” I calmly told him “Bala, everyone has their own priorities. Work is yours, friend’s marriage is mine. I am sorry I will not be able to work on that day”.  I still think I set the right example to my team

[The project was a great success and has become a show case project for winning many clients.]


  1. \\ Work is yours, friend’s marriage is mine. I am sorry I will not be able to work on that day”.\\
    nice post.

  2. you definitely have set the right example!
    the incident you'd quoted for work- social life balance is classic.. thumbs up man!

  3. Yes, I also remember your time sheet entry for that month:

    1. Friend's marriage
    2. Sick Leave
    3. Outing with Family
    4. Doctor's Visit
    5. Visiting your pal's who gave birth to baby and what not!!!!

    Glad to know the project was such a success [ off course in my absence! ]

  4. Thanks athai. :)

    Thanks Rasmi.

    Thanks Pitha. Sweet memories :)