India has what many nations simply cannot have. Take for example, land. We have abundant land – hundreds and thousands of times more than many other countries. We have the largest number of young people in the world. We have weather that gives us the capacity to work round the year. With all this, theoretically, we could become world-class in anything we do. But then, there is an inherent requirement; becoming world-class has to be a goal in itself. Whether it is a “for-profit” organisation, an educational institution or a government department- an aspirant must be driven by a higher sense of achievement that surpasses mundane considerations.
Typically, orga-nisations that have pursued this path anywhere in the world have been driven by a deep sense of leaving a legacy behind. The sense of legacy stems from a sense of history. People who create legacies think beyond themselves, beyond generational gratification and fleeting success.
For them, a call germinates deep within, becomes a mindset which proceeds to stay for decades.
In creating a world-class mindset, the one critical requirement is to build aspiration and humility at the same time. Leaders, who are power-driven in a narrow sense, sometimes have aspiration but forsake the capacity to be humble. Such people easily forget the fact that humility yields greater power, just as in silence, we are better heard. Without humility, we cannot listen. When we do not listen, we fail to know where we truly stand. As a result, we cannot make progress. Worse, we go backwards in time.
For building a world-class organisation, one must have a long view of time. It is like training from one’s childhood to be an Olympic winner someday. An Olympic athlete focuses on a distant goal. You want to achieve that goal, but you know you do not want to trip up, you do not want to fritter away your resources and you do not want to aimlessly settle for whatever comes. You know that a lifetime is available to you; you deal with yourself patiently, steadfastly, with solidity borne out of self-confidence. Because, no one ever became an winner of an Olympic gold overnight.
People who build something world-class have to be inclusive in their definition of success. If success is purely personal, it does not become memorable. The memorability of any success can only come from our capacity to take everyone with us in our journey from less to more. People who can do that are emotionally self-confident. They do not need many external endorsements. They can discount meaningless praise, sycophancy and actually have the courage to take criticism. These people are ruthlessly self-critical but boundlessly self-confident.
Our view of the future needs to be significantly “maximalist”, inclusive and abundance-oriented. Where we need to create an ocean, we build a pond. Where we need to soar into the sky, we circle the courtyard of a closed mind.
History tells us that nations that have become world-class have always skipped a few steps. People who tread step-by-step do not become excellent in what they do. It is true of individuals, institutions and nations. To skip a few steps, we need to shift our attention from the problem to the opportunity. Problems tend to suck as much energy as we are willing to give to them. Feeding problems is a national occupation for us. We must, as a nation, learn to feed the opportunity and not the problem. Sometimes, we feed the problem for the sake of self-preservation; we become afraid of taking positions into the future because we are afraid of letting the past down.
Being world-class always precedes the ambition to become world-class. That ambition cannot be a sectoral ambition; it cannot be in pockets. Very significantly, it cannot be a partisan dream. It has to be a national aspiration, like an anthem it must be on everyone’s lips. Only then, does the world get to know about it. The world likes to be notified when a nation wants to excel. They say when you are driven by pure intent, the entire universe conspires to make it happen. The purity of intent, in this case, calls us to rise above ourselves.
For hundreds of years, we could blame foreign subjugation that suppressed the intent. Today, six decades after India attained independence, nothing stops us. It is our own selves, which comes between who we are and who we are capable of becoming.