If your own value framework and that of the organisation that you are in is in conflict – don't think, quit. There is nothing more harmful to the human mind than this situation
“Yes, I have seen God. He bats at number four for India”
Arguably the best compliment ever to anyone, by anyone, in any arena. That the arena was the world of cricket, and the person who said it was Mathew Hayden – the meanest of gladiators in the fierce pack of wolves that the Australians were in those days – must have made the unassuming recipient, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, uncharacteristically proud. God folds up his whites once and for all in November and bids adieu to what was his playground for more than two decades – international cricket in all forms.
The lines that are credited to Sunil Gavaskar – “…quit when people are still asking “why”, and not “why not…” were actually uttered by Vijay Merchant many years ago. They stand true in all situations. Yes, all. Yet, we have often felt ourselves thinking that we might have outlived our welcome, trudging (seemingly) meaninglessly through life, worrying about people around us, their comments, their feelings, their pity (!), their apparent intolerance towards us, their (at times, covert) advice...
Many would say the same about Sachin – our God. His 40th century took ages and came about in a setting that could not have done anyone of his stature proud (sorry, there IS no one of his stature, but you get the gist!). Bangladesh’s cricket team, notwithstanding their Test playing status, could be anyone’s starter, or the main course, or dessert, or anything in the middle. But it was still a record, and it made a billion people breathe easy.
The last two years have not seen the viciousness with which he used to tear into the opposition in his heydays. He did not fill bowlers with the sense of doom that they used to feel when he walked quietly into the middle; there were hesitant shots and bouts of uncertainty; the batting average is less than one third of what the Don himself retired at. Yet there is no clamour as there was when Kapil kept getting hit; he remained quite oblivious to the world in search of a personal milestone; even when Sehwag kept putting his spectacles off and on, making one of himself in the process. Some people choose their terms, for most they are chosen by others.
I’m sure God has HER own share of bad days and bad patches – 11th September and 26th November are clear examples of the former and the German holocaust serves as the biggest reminder of the latter – and SHE can’t retire. But the point remains as to what IS the right time to say goodbye. Transpose to the corporate situation – retirement is usually decided by law and contract, so that’s a no-brainer there. What about saying bye and quitting – whether from a team, a project, or the job itself? When do you think you will stand up and say – enough is enough?
Everything started well enough, you came here with big dreams in your eyes, a spring in your step, a song on your lips. Slowly, you realize that things are not what you thought they would be - there is pressure, there are rules, someone else actually makes all the decisions, people don’t always listen to you, some actually talk ill of you behind your back (and that too, to your boss!). Heck, what’s suddenly changed? Nothing. What you’re feeling is the gap between YOUR visualization and the reality that EVERYONE faces.
So why doesn’t everyone quit at the same time? Why do some people stick on longer? Are they more resilient? Are they just stubborn? Do they lack courage, or are they just plain foolish, not to mention that you think that they can’t-get-another-job-for-their-lives? Let the reasons be, they could be safe in their comfort zones, under-skilled, under-confident or over-age. The fact remains that they seem to be hanging on to something that has long ago stopped giving them joy.
Use the following yardstick to judge for yourself whether it is time to quit the organization that you’re working in now:
Value Dissonance: The first and the most important, is there a value dissonance? If your own value framework and that of the organisation that you are in is in conflict – don’t think, quit. There is nothing more harmful to the human mind than this situation. Sachin had some great values - determination, grit, passion, humility, to name a few. I’m confident that many others in the team would not share these values in equal measure with the Master. He stood tall in the dressing room because his set of values was not in opposition to the overall values displayed in the team.
Be bold, take them on: Quitting is the easy way out – anyone can do it. Do you have it in you to still give it one last shot, do you want to show the not-so-flattering finger to your detractors? Sachin started Test cricket at the young age of 16. While our biggest challenge at that age was to stand straight (no trembling knees, remember) in front of the girl we thought we loved and get two straight words out (no stuttering), he was facing the likes of Imran, Waqar and Wasim at their lethal best out there in the middle. A bloodied nose from a sharp rising delivery in an innings did nothing to break his resolve of doing well in hostile conditions. He went on to make a 50 against the same attack in the next innings. The kid had come good. You can too, all that it will take is resolve.
Change: Can you make some changes and carry on? Most of us can’t lead life, at least not our corporate life, on our own terms. To compound the problem, this is true in all situations. This means that wherever we go, there will be something that we don’t like. We could keep running forever but we’ll tire pretty soon. Beside, rolling stones and moss and all of that holds true anyway. Sachin almost had to withdraw from active cricket because of an elbow injury. He underwent an operation, and took the famous short-handed pull out of his repertoire of strokes. Simple, if you love what you do strongly enough, you will find ways to carry on; which brings us to the next point...
Passion: Do you love what you do? This has two connotations - do you love WHAT you do, and do you love doing what you do WHERE you do it? For many of us, (and I know that the younger generation will be far more adventurist) we are what we are. An accountant of 20 years is unlikely to pick up the guitar for a living, an HR professional of similar vintage is unlikely to land on the pro-golf circuit - most of us are slaves to our vocation. But do we like the place that we do it in? Sachin had it all going for him – he loved cricket, he loved Mumbai, he loved India. So if there is something about the place that you are in right now that does not fundamentally agree with you, it’s time to start thinking. The good news is – there are very few places that won’t agree with you, if you try hard enough. Remember that most places are alike, and all that you have to do is to make up your mind to succeed – no one could ever keep a good man, or woman, down forever.
Growth vs. ‘Growth’: Are you growing? Often, people confuse growth with promotions and increments. While these elements of professional life are necessary as motivators as well as social gratification, they are not the end. Growth means learning, becoming better than what you were yesterday, lack of intellectual stimulation and so on. Sachin needed newer challenges to keep going, new bowlers to match wits with, new pitches to tackle, new countries to visit and win over. You need that too. And when the going gets monotonous, as it often did for him when he was on top of his game, he would suddenly invent a new shot- the sixes over the slips or the keeper on short rising balls. One needs to keep reinventing the reality around, which is the only way to grow.
Finally, follow your heart: There’s only so much you can analyze. You only live once (that you know of), and it is important that you do what you’re happy doing. That little voice inside you will always guide you to what your heart desires. If you’ve had enough, if you think you don’t want to go on any longer, if you feel others can do a better job, if you want to pursue something else really really badly, go ahead - don’t kill that little voice forever. What is important, however, is that you choose your moment. Sachin chose the biggest stage – home ground, his first and last Test with his mother watching from the stands (she wouldn’t even watch him on TV, her own superstition), a landmark number that will remain in people’s memory for long, riding off into the sunset while some people were still eager for more magic flowing from his willow. There are still die-hard fans who want him to continue, to dominate the cricket pitch as naturally as he did, as only he could. For him to choose his moment of adieu is but natural, he has led a life that presupposes destiny.
After the last hurrah in Mumbai in November, the world will not hear the Sach-in, Sach-in chant that united the countrymen of a glorious nation torn asunder by differences in wealth, caste, region and political leanings. Fans will no longer line up outside Lords at midnight to see him play (prompting some European visitors to ask whether Lords had now started hosting rock concerts as well). Sachin himself will find it hard to adjust to a new role, he’s not as slick as a Ravi Shastri or a Sunil Gavaskar to go behind the microphone, not as articulate as a Navjot Sidhu to coin a new language and regale listeners with his brand of humour and the further that he stays away from parliament, the better it will be for him, we know, but find something he will - something that sits in well with his competencies, his values and his view of life.
Flashback 1986, Ian Botham comes back to competitive cricket after a three-month ban - first ball, takes a wicket and equals the world record for maximum Test wickets. Graham Gooch walks up to him wonderingly and asks, “Who writes your script, mate?”. Well, we will never know the answer to that one, but we know that Sachin has always, and will always write his own script.
The thing is, so can you...