Friday, August 20, 2010

Want to get rich? Stop picking one’s own pocket first!

My Japanese Guru, Akibasan, was invited to India to deliver a talk on ‘how a Nation can become wealthy’. He

arrived a few days earlier at New Delhi and was keen to visit the Taj Mahal. I was deputed to escort him to by road. I

felt India was a much poorer Nation, compared to Japan, and wondered what Akibasan might share at the conference.

We went to Agra and Jaipur and returned back to the hotel in Delhi. As I took leave of him, he enquired if I was

going to be attending the talk he was meant to deliver. I hesitated because it was meant for CEO and board of

Directors while I was a mere officer in a a Junior Grade in the Administration department. Sensing my discomfort, he

flashed out a special invitation bearing my name and asked me to be his guest.

“We are all born rich; but it is in our minds we make a choice to be rich or to remain poor!”

For a Japanese such as I, we do not have the yearlong Sunshine not do we make the choicest of Indian curry. We

do not win beauty pageants nor as we the envy of the world of a generation of technologists so fluent in English.

Most of our houses are smaller than your garages and we do not have the rich heritage of multitude of religions, local

dialects and festivals that find an occasion to celebrate each living day. It makes me wonder why, of all the Nations, you

should feel you are poor. On my way around to the Taj Mahal I thought hard and discovered why: I believe you are a

Nation that should stop picking your own pocket.

If you are shocked at my discovery, let me present you with some irrefutable facts:

You pay a committed sum as monthly salary to your employees as a ‘standard.’ But, as managers, you have no

difficulty accepting an ‘average’ performance. Why? Because you think it is difficult for an individual, unlike a

machine, to be consistent in their output. Yet when Chicken can lay eggs daily with complete consistency, you believe

human beings are incapable of performing with consistency. Instead you ask employees to be creative about doing

the basics and reward their inconsistencies.

Similarly, you feel justified in charging a ‘standard price’ to your customers. Yet, when your sales and service

personnel deliver substandard products and services, you expect your customers to tolerate your inconsistencies with

patience and understanding. By annoying many and pleasing some, you may mistakenly assume that in the end it

‘averages out’! so why make such a big fuss?

We in Japan made the same mistake.

We were fooling ourselves into believing that by maintaining an ‘average level of performance’ we can win over the

world. It is at time of the Second World war that we were surprised to find only 10% of our bullets and 30% of our

aircrafts as being battle worthy. After the war, we discovered the same to be true of out telephone lines and domestic

equipments. Japanese people, polite as they are by nature, meekly accepted ‘average products and services, until our

Ministry of Planning appealed to them to revolt. That made all the difference.

“ My message today is this: If you want to be rich, please stop picking your own pocket!’.

Stop averaging our good products with bad and settle for something in between.

A bad or rude behavior does not make up for serving with grace and character.

Overworking a few to serve the needs of several idlers is no passport to prosperity.

It is not merely enough to know how to count money.

It is even more important to know how stop waste and convert your efforts into wealth.

The question is how much of your money is invested in converting your impoverished minds into

asset generating wealth.

That meeting changed my entire attitude towards life, growth and prosperity thereafter.

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