Story 20. Risk Taking.

This story has been on the editing board for a mighty long time as I could not make up my mind about posting it. I finally decided to post it after reading Wisewebwoman’s blog post on Risk Taking.

The reason I hesitated so long will become obvious as you read through the post. This will set the record straight for all those who have wondered as to why I took what was then perceived by them to be a very foolish risk. I never explained to them as to why I took it and today I can as, almost a quarter century has passed and most people involved have most likely either forgotten or would not be bothered any more.

For some new readers to my post, some background information is available on my post on Ambition.

After I was recruited straight off the campus in 1967, I worked for the same employer for 23 years and rose quite high there. During that period, I was part of a very dynamic team of people who built one division of that company into a highly successful market leader which attracted the best employees possible. During that period, a merger of two compnanies of disparate cultures also took place and that resulted in some very peculiar cross divisional postings of people. One such was posted as my direct boss who did not simply have a clue as to what our division was all about and thought that the route to increased profitability was to form a cartel with our competitors. He either could not or would not understand what it meant for people like me who by that time had put in around or more than half our life times in the process of building that organisation.

By this time, I also had access to the strategic approach that our parent company in the UK had developed which too was different to my idea of what it should be for the Indian arm. My attempts at trying to change their minds failed and it was another disappointment.

I was unhappy for the first time in that company with the immdediate and even long term prospects looking bleak and started to look our for other employment. I confided in just three persons about that decision. One was my late wife who encouraged me to do what I wanted to do, and one was my mentor from who I had taken over at his superannuation and other other a long standing friend from Mumbai / Pune. I secured two offers by late 1989, one for a position in London and one in Singapore, both with multinational responsibilities. When my friend came to know that I had made up mind, he and his elder brother who I had a great respect for visited me at Bangalore and made me an offer that I could not refuse and which made Urmeela happy too. They offered me a contract for five years which not only bettered what I had been offered by the overseas employers but also a chance to continue living in India which would have helped my son’s education.

By early 1990, I had lined up three options and had to make up my mind about leaving what by then was my second home and a whole lot of people who I had enjoyed working and growing up with. The risks were enormous and I was unable to take the final plunge and submit my resignation. When my annual appraisal exercise was concluded in January 1990, and I saw that my immediate superior did not have the same opinion of my performance as I did, I went back to my mentor for a consultation. We met a few times and when my prospective Indian employers sweetened the offer further, I took the plunge and submitted my resignation.

It was heart breaking and many of my well wishers were of the opinion that I was being irrational and stupid for taking such a big risk. I can still feel the unease that I felt for the first few months with the new employers, but I settled down comfortably in the new environment and successfully completed my contract and retired. I have no doubts that had I continued in the earlier company, I would have been able to retire when I did at an age when most Managers were hitting the home stretch.

Since I had a safety net built, my son had finished his studies and had started on his own career, I was able to take a few more risks with other employers without compromising on my integrity or self respect and continued as either a Consultant or a hands on Manager on and off till 2002 when I finally stopped such work due to having to take on care giving responsibilities. I was again dragged into corporate life with some Board level appointments for two years but they were in Pune itself and did not take much time away from my primary focus of giving care to my late wife.

To paraphrase Wisewebwoman, I never would have known about my own ability to adjust to different corporate cultures, if I hadn’t taken the chance on breaking off with a 23 year old relationship with my first post MBA employer. In retirement, I have no regrets whatsoever now. I however wonder often as to what would have happened had I not taken that big risk in 1990!

Taking risks.

My arms have been twisted by Jean from “Transforming Stress Into Personal Power” into writing on this topic. I wonder if it is because she thinks of me as a staid, risk averse person. In any case, her post is worth a visit and the comments there are very interesting too.

To start off this post, let me take you to my post “The Wildest Thing I Did In my youth”.

I quote from that post – “In my case, to rank one as the wildest thing I ever did in my youth would be an impossibility. There were so many!”

So, leaving my youth aside for the purpose of this post, let me take you to two huge risks that I took, which in retrospect, paid off.

The first one was when I was 47 years old, on the fast track in my career, in a senior enough position in a multinational company of repute, with all attendant power and pelf when I quit. I quit to register my protest with the direction the company was taking in India and to save my personal life from deteriorating into a meaningless one. I had spent half my then life with the company and that the resignation was received with total disbelief is an understatement.

I left to work for an Indian family owned company, and most people thought that I was daft. Subsequent developments proved to the skeptics that I had taken the right decision. I did have butterflies in my stomach for the first couple of years and there were times when I wondered whether I was indeed daft. That phase passed and I never had to look back, ever again.

The second big risk that I took was a little over two years ago, when I decided to invite my then 92 year old father to come and live with me. Our relationship had been on an arms-length basis for decades and he had lived his life the way he wanted. He had had no touch with the realities of the life that mine had turned into. While I had a very good idea of his values and behaviour patterns, he had had none of mine. I had a lot of deeply held resentments against him. Some of my relatives thought that I was daft explicitly, and some must have thought so without expressing the thought to me.

The initial period was rocky, but manageable. After my wife passed away, he started off on power plays and the relationship went from good to bad and back to good and bad a few times. On some occasions, others in the family, primarily my sister and her children and my cousin had to come to sort matters out, but for the time being, particularly after his recent hospitalization and recovery, things are placid. I am satisfied that I have done my duty, and that too, without compromising on my values or life style. I have had to compromise on some matters, but on balance, I am satisfied that I did the right thing and can continue to be satisfied with the outcome.

On both occasions, my late wife was party to my decisions and a solid support. Had it not been so, I would have not taken either decision. In the second case, my son too had to be part of the decision and he too had to make adjustments along with me. I am sure that he would agree that in retrospect, the decision has worked out as well as possible under the circumstances.

Again wiser by hindsight, the grass just grew by itself!

So Jean, enough? Or would you like me to dredge up some more from my trove of memories?