One in hand or two in bush? – Four young men and a wheel of fortune help settle the argument

Caveat Reader One: The learnings from this story may appear to be a bit too late in the day for those who have put in more than 5 years in the cubi-cells and in on pay-roll, and more likely to be rewarding for young blokes who started doing their time in the recent past.

At some stage in our corporate journey we all struggled on deciding the best course to pursue. To be content stroking the bird of paradise in hand; or rush to the bush lured by the prospect of the proverbial pot of gold. The former may let caution squelch capabilities and deny us to leverage potential; the latter may be making us step into a mare’s nest and lose ground to greed.

It’s a real tough ask. An eminently capable and experienced jury will still be hung trying to examine the merits of either arguments. So I thought. Till I stumbled upon a simple story of four young, wise (Oxymoron I know, don’t throw the book at me) men in pursuit of the corporate world’s most eligible posting – that bestows upon them both earthly riches and early retirement. The story is short so without further ado, here we plunge right into it.

Long, long ago, four young men (Not any different from the current crop of management trainees, god bless them) after having passed out from a respectable gurukul (nee modern day B-Schools) stepped out into the big and cruel world that expects you to work hard and earn your honest pay cheque and obtain name and fame by walking the straight and narrow.

Not for our fab four (FF) such ridiculous notions and time-wasting tactics. They have learnt all that needs to be learnt, grasped all that was taught and are ready to face the world. “Present us with opportunity”, they cry in unison, “and we will shake it down to the core, milk it to the last drop and show the stuff we are made of”. “But do not ask us to roll up our sleeves, spit on our hands, put shoulder to the wheel and nose to the grind!” (They have a point or two here, imagine doing all of the above).

Being the smart ones they decided to find a benevolent mentor for themselves who will help them realize their dreams. So hither and thither they wandered in the wilderness (Corporate jungle anyone?), and very soon stumbled upon one noble soul (NS), who has been-there-done-that and led many a young and deserving soul that path. The following brief exchange took place at that moment:

NS(Smiling knowingly): What brings you to me?
FF (Chorus): You know, you been-there-done-that.
NS (Still smiling knowingly): I know. Still gives me immense pleasure, seeing bright young chappies hemming and hawing and haha-ing nervously, wringing their hands, shuffling their feet…the works.
FF( C ): So grant us our wish. Wave the magic wand. Lead us there and in double quick.
NS: I like you all, and wish you will succeed in equal measure. So here are four wicks of equal opportunities (Akin to modern day access cards). One for each. They open doors and hold the key to your future. Go north in the direction of Ichchapuri (A place that fulfills desires). You will realize your life’s ambitions along the way. You will come across various towns of varying prosperity and presenting opportunities in equal measures. Where the wick drops, you may pitch your tent there and hold on. Or you may want to proceed further to try your luck.

As is the wont with all such noble mentors, NS too was afflicted with dishing out unsolicited advice and true to form spoke of the need for assessing one’s strengths and building upon them; weaknesses and ways to overcome the same; being ambitious but within limits; re-skilling, up-skilling periodically to stay competitive; once in a while referring to basics…etc. The fab four being young men in hurry and having taken various subjects expounding such and more nuggets recently were impatient to beat it. NS, the wise man that he is, understood their impatience and gave them the wicks and his blessings.

NS: Go straight ahead. Don’t stop till the wick drops. Abheeshta Sidhdhirastu (May your desire be realized)

Wick One: The suburbs of Support Staffs

So the four proceeded. Soon they reached the borders of Ichchapuri and chanced upon a place, where the lot of the place were making wooden pillars that are used to prop enormous edifices (Support Staffs – the town citizens called them). Here the first wick dropped and from the hand that held the wick till then, the following words proceeded:

“The town looks prosperous and self-content. People are happy without the fear of the king’s men breathing down their neck, being so far removed from the capital. There seems to be less work and more people, so obviously one doesn’t have to put in extra hours. Time is money. Guess, this is a place that we should stick to. What say?”

“Stay back, if you wish. This may be good but not good enough. There are bound to be better places than this ahead. So long”. Thus spoke the other three in unison and left the first wick-dropper there to carve out a niche for himself.

Wick Two: The precinct of Palace Designs

After a few miles’ journey up north, the second wick dropped. Here the people were busy drawing circles, dishing out enormous scrolls of seemingly meaningless diagrams – pyramids, matrixes, upward arrows, downward arrows, triangles, and such. “This is what we should be”, “This is where we are”, “This is how we get there” “Vision, five years down the line”.…phrases such as these were emanating from few important looking people who were pacing up and down, stopping in tracks mid-way, looking up into the faraway skies, shaking their heads, snapping fingers. There were a train of followers behind each such pacer. Some scribes, some holding fans and pretty young things handing out tender coconuts to sip from. There was light music wafting in unseen hands strumming strings keeping the ambience light and somber.

“This is it” said the second of the FF, “Look no further”. “Bah!” Cried the other two. “Stay put, if you want to! Visualize what it can be, if stage 2 is such”! With these words the other two continued their journey.

Wick Three: The place of Poets & Laureates (P&L)

The third wick dropped at a place which was next door to what seemed the palace of the king of Ichchapuri. Fresh flowers adorned the whole place. A million fragrances filled the air and cool breeze greeted one on arrival. Smiling faces donning the best silks and brightest diamonds can be seen all over. These had big rooms for themselves, with servants flitting in and out with lip-smacking dishes, the choicest of sweet meats, tall golden glasses filled with cool fruit juices.

Angelic looking young people of the fairer gender lay around the place. Thick and soft carpets were laid on the ground and on wall were nailed encomiums and certificates from the king and of various foreign dignitaries. The protagonists seemed to be enjoying hookahs and beetle leaves and scribbling intermittently. From the few lines one sang aloud, one is sure that the output is sure to be music to the palace inhabitants’ ears. “Diamonds”, “Riches”, “Surplus”….words as such peppered those few lines.

“This is winner”. Said third of the FF. “Can palace be far behind”? retorted the last of the FF. “All the best” said third and slipped into the place like fish to water. “Lucky Me” proceeded the fourth.

Wick Four: What lies within

Soon the last young man entered a huge palace. Huge place, high ceiling with chandeliers of the finest crystal hanging. Heavenly beauties were wandering carelessly, holding scents, finest clothes, jewelry in golden plates. Dreaming of the enormous riches and comforts that are about to embrace him, the young man started harboring grandiose delusions. Soon lost in thoughts, he forgot the directions the mentor have and began to go round and round in circles.

And wandering so, he chanced upon a huge hall into which he confidently stepped in. Greeting his greedy popping eyes was a sight he never imagined in life. A man about his age was sitting behind a huge desk, with a fast rotating wheel on his head.

Quickly, he went over to him and said, “Who are you and what is this wheel around your head? Whoever you are first tell me where do I find a place that I should be checking in?”

The minute he uttered those words, the wheel attached itself to him and started whirling fast.

“Man, holy whatever! What is this? It pains me beyond endurance”, cried the fourth. “I got it in similar situation” said the de-wheeled person (DWP), “when someone as greedy as you comes with the magic wick without dropping it and speaks to you, will you be relieved of this mis-fortune”.

Fourth: ”How long have you been here?”
DWP: “Since the time Quality Circle was sweeping over the world! I was desperate to strike fame and rich quick and obtained the magic wick from a mentor and ended up here, just like you”
Fourth: “ How do you manage food and water and weekend parties with a wheel whirling around your head all the time?”
DWP: “Anyone who comes this far is free of hunger, thirst, old age, disease, and death but he suffers pain all the time. The King, to warn premature claimants to curry his favor prepared this device and ever since no one dare approach this place, except with the help of the magic wick and rising through the ranks. Now I will have to take leave, its been a long time since I breathed fresh air or spent a dime from my pay packet. Good bye”.

He walked past the doors dropping his magic wick behind. Falling to the ground, it burnt the following words onto the doors of the hall:

“Executive Assistant”


4 Comments Add yours

  1. sukesh says:

    I really like your story-telling VAK. MBA jivitham meda intha rayagalava? Power neeku mari.
    Chevullu baganey unaya? Inka nopp-edthunaya?

  2. ID says:

    Hi Arun,
    Nice read. This reminds me of a simple story told by a friend of mine. I believe there are only 2 species in corporate world! Only donkeys and donkey riders! Donkeys will always be loaded with work and be under the illusions that he is indispensible! Where as donkey riders are exactly like your P&L. So you know who will have the last laugh!

  3. Kishore Parthasarathy says:

    Good one Arun (BTW, you had narrated this story to me while having one of our long discussions on brandstock). Among the 4 FFs who do you think would have achieved the corporate nirvana(corner office)?

    1. ivak99 says:

      You sound more like Betal, while asking that question! Am afraid, if I venture to answer that Q; I may have to start all over again! Still will risk it, for as PGW says you cant make an omlette without breaking an egg! My bet is on the P&L guy! Not so much because of his abilities but what the other 3 lack. EA for obvious reasons wont make it. The more privy you are to the master’s dirty linen or cupboard full of skeletons, the least likely you are to be awarded with a plum post with some power. They are a debilitating cocktail. The Palace designer (aka strategist) neither can win the trust of the support staff (builds castles in air and we have to suffer carrying these stones and casting those pillars cos of his grandiose/nefarious designs) who always scorn at him for loading them with humongous work; nor can he gain the respect of the king who always is wary that he may build a better design for someone else..(remember the fate of shahjahan’s architect?)..the support staff is just that..carry the palanquein never aspire to sit in one or step into the palace…so P&L it is with his ability to say the write words at the right places that will turn music to the king’s ears, is best suited to be led by the king to sit on the elephant! (Gajarohanam, if you know your history right). Swasti!

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