Being ALIVE – Rajesh Ramakrishnan, MD, Perfetti Van Melle India


In the last week or so, I experienced a few interactions, which had to do with questions, such as what we would like to do with our life, how we would like to lead it, and so on. This set me thinking and I was reminded of a quote by Confucius:

We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.

If you think about it, that is so true. Most of us tend to go through life without putting too much thought into actually living it. What would it be like if we were to start our second life now and make the best of it?

In order to do this, we need to be ALIVE, that is, take the following 5 simple steps:

Acknowledge that we are indeed privileged to be where we are and that we actually have an opportunity to lead our life the way we would like to. For a large section of the population, life is about eking out a daily living and making ends meet. It’s a privilege that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Leverage every opportunity. It is important that we create opportunities for ourselves and also not squander away any opportunities that may get created. Not everyone is as fortunate to have opportunities landing at their doorstep.

Imagine a new reality. This is all about thinking of the impact that you would like to make — the legacy that you would like to leave behind in your work, in your community. Thinking of these gives a sense of purpose and direction to us. And a new meaning to life.

Vanquish all doubts. Every new adventure starts with a sense of fear of the unknown. It takes us out of our comfort zone. It lands us in situations that we aren’t used to. Doubts start creeping in about our ability to deal with these. We often debate about going back to status quo because it is comfortable. Overcoming these doubts is the key to success. As they say, dar ke aage jeet hai!!

Embark on the journey. Once we know what we want to do, and have removed all doubts, it is time to act, to take those first steps on this new journey. There will be obstacles and setbacks, but the key is to keep at it and keep moving. And the universe will conspire to make it happen.

Now something like this can be true for an organisational transformation or for a personal mission of climbing a mountain too.  Let me share what I mean through two examples.

At Perfetti India, we went through large-scale business transformation over the past 18 months. It was a difficult period, but now that all the actions have been taken, we are beginning to see the results. If I were to draw out the ALIVE model for this journey, it will look something like this:

A Acknowledging that all of us were privileged to work in an organisation, which has had a glorious run in India for over two decades, made us belive that there was no reason why we couldn’t regain our past glory. We had the opportunity to adapt to the changing times and do what is required to get back to growth.

L Leveraging all opportunities and even creating new opportunities —by actively seeking best practices, effective benchmarking and fully leveraging our entrepreneurial mindset— allowed us to bring in a great level of effectiveness and efficiency in our operations.

I Imagining the new reality was a key step in the whole process. Creating a vision for the transformation and ensuring that it was cascaded across all levels of the organisation ensured that people bought into the change and embraced it. This significantly helped in the implementation.

V Vanquishing the various doubts that people had was critical. it was important to tell people that it is a growth-oriented strategy and not a cost-cutting one. Celebrating small wins was a great mechanism to show progress, which helped clear doubts in people’s minds.

E Embarking on the journey one step at a time gave everyone a sense of progress and achievement. The actions taken and the results that we achieved were pro-actively communicated across the organisation. Success begets success and it soon turns into a virtuous cycle.

A couple of weeks ago, I trekked up to the Annapurna Base Camp with my friends. It was a fantastic experience and upon reflection, I realised that the ALIVE framework is equally relevant there as well.

A Acknowledging that I had the privilege of being able to go on such a trip with my friends from a health, time and monetary perspective made it all the more worthwhile.

L Leveraging the opportunity. Along the way, we created those moments to keep us motivated. We found joy in simple things – eating raw Wai Wai noodles spiced up with chopped onions and green chillies, singing songs while trekking in the rain, gorging on the simple yet delicious dal-bhaath and even watching the IPL finals in a tea house at over 10,000 feet!!

I Imagining the sight that awaited us at the end of the journey pushed us on. The route to ABC has several stone steps that made us go up and down them every day. As we plodded on, the one thought that kept all of us going was to reach the base camp and experience the majestic Annapurna in all her glory. That image was a huge motivator.

V Many times along the way, there were doubts that crept in – ‘What am I doing here? Why am I putting my knees through this torture? Could we not have gone on an easier trek?’ But we egged each other on, made light of our doubts, addressed some of the concerns and kept going.

E As we progressed each day, we gained in confidence, we celebrated our small wins. We felt we could do it, and then finally we did it. The journey itself was as much an experience as reaching the summit. It was tough, challenging, unpredictable, yet satisfying, rewarding and enriching.

It would be nice for us to take stock every once in a while, and see how we can start living our second life. And soon, we will discover the joy of being ALIVE as opposed to just living.


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