Telling the Talent Tale!


There used to be this fabulous guy, of all places, at the international arrivals airport hall of the Newark(New Jersey) airport who sang, yes sang -weary travelers towards the baggage claim area at 6 am.


Talent– what a word!


I love the word. So different and far removed from the over fatigued:-


” employees “

” personnel “

” human resources “


Talent! Just hearing the word makes you feel like doing chest bumps, offering the high five. Uttering it makes you puff up and feel good about yourself.


You love the word because the adjacent images that come to mind include Zakir Hussain playing(toying with?) the tabla, Yo Yo Ma on the cello. Gene Hackman in total control of a scene. Lata Mangeshkar in crooning glory. Pavarotti in full throttle. The quintessential Kevin De Bruyne sublime assist. And Michael Jordanparting the waters ” … and making that famous last shot that won the Chicago Bulls their sixth NBA Championship during his tenure with the team.


Talent! What a word!


To quote editor extraordinaire Tina Brown ” The first thing is to hire enough talent that a critical mass of excitement starts to grow “.


Coming to Your Local Cinema: The story thus far goes like this: We lived through the Age of Agriculture. Then the Industrial Age. The Information Age followed suit. And what has arrived on the Big Screen. The Age of Creation Intensification.


The white collar paper processing age is… long gone. Great products are not enough.(Not nearly enough). Great services are not enough. ( Not nearly enough). New bases for value-added are imperative- posthaste. And the revolution has only begun.


You are not going to make it in the next new forever changing dynamic with yesteryear concepts be it TQM(Total Quality Management) or Six Sigma or CI(Continuous Improvement) or any of those other New Nostrums that we so obsessively embraced 25-30 years ago. You are going to make it by providing ” Solutions “. ..” Experiences “..” Beautiful Systems “..” Dream Fulfillment “..” Design that WOWs “..” Brands that Inspire “.


And this ” new stuff ‘ is all about ” creativity “..” imagination “..” intellectual capital “. And that stuff is all about..Talent. The new technologies that undergird the white collar revolution may seem like a dehumanizing force; but, they herald the end of “grunge” work and thence a People’s Revolution. In other words, a ” Talent Revolution “.


Fundamental premise for all those who have already(or now willing to acknowledge it)- we have entered The Age of Talent. ” Okay, fine, ” I can hear you saying. ” Put people first. Been there and done that”. No..No..No!


The point being made is not about people being cool, people being important. It is that ..people(their creativity, their intellectual capital, their entrepreneurial drive) is all the hell there is.


Talent(if you are serious about it) is a 25-8-53 affair…25 hours a day, 8 days a week and 53 weeks a year. Historically, smart people have always turned to where the money was. Today, money is turning to where the smart people are.


So, time to go beyond the ubiquitous term ” we put people first ‘ which drops off every second corporate lip without hesitation. Putting people first is according a special meaning to the word ” first “. It means that ” getting the people things right”.. is alpha and omega ..and every letter, Greek or non-Greek in between.


Are you talent obsessed?

The Weight of the Wait !


Stop. Impasse. Status quo. As is where is. Inaction. Static. None of these words convey anything even remotely called movement, progress , action or resolution.


But the wait continues. So does its partners in rhyme viz anxiety, worry, tension. And what is the return on investment in this case. The IRR( the Internal Rate of Return as it is called) reads negative. It achieves nothing of any value. Unlike if you were to focus, take action, explore, learn.


It is said many lives are wasted by just waiting for something good to come from the horizon instead of going to the horizon and finding something good over there! Whatever happens, do not let waiting become procrastination. The full proverb goes something like this- “good things come to those who wait but only the things left by those who hustle.” The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations dates it to the early 16th century, some three hundred years before Lincoln’s birth.

Waiting is akin to wasting time. And time is a scarce resource. It is therefore both shameful and painful. Worry and waiting are never the substitute for activity. Imagine if we reduce our waiting and worrying time , the skills we could learn, the work we could ship out, how our mindsets and attitudes can get recalibrated for the much better.

Our Over Dependance on Past Decisions than we would like to Think or Admit


We are over protective of our lineage, of our past and what has transpired. We are over dependent on past decisions than we would like to think or admit. Attribute it to the trap of what Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman articulated in his seminal book ” Thinking Fast And Slow ” of System 1 and System 2 Thinking. System 1 thinking is a near-instantaneous process; it happens automatically, intuitively, and with little effort. It’s driven by instinct and our experiences.


Begrudgingly we must acknowledge that NASA is the epitome of ultra progressive, non linear, uber innovative thinking. That said, it is intriguing to note that NASA’s Solid Rocket Boosters were designed using a 4 Feet & 8.5 Inches width. What sets the cat amongst the pigeons is that this is the exact width( 4 Feet & 8.5 Inches) used during the Roman Empire when they patrolled the vast amount of land under their control using their two-horse Roman War Chariots.


If you go back in time, the obsession with the 4 Feet & 8.5 Inches width applied to trains, wagons, tractors and what have you. Today we have trains running at well over 350 kmph, but we still have tracks the width of which were determined by what was prevalent in the two-horse Roman War Chariots.

We have scaled the zenith of space technology. Yet, what seems ridiculous is the fact that in each incremental decision people have weighed the options available and then decided to simply stick with what was there before. In other words, they stayed caught in a groove. The path of least resistance.


The takeaway is that we are more dependent on our past decisions than we would like to think or admit. Once a path is set, we often walk down it blindly, failing to question why it was put there in the first place and whether a better path might exist.


If you want to create the future, you need to dodge the traps keeping you fixated on the path that you are already on.

Because NOTHING Matters; no, really!


If I have stated the obvious in the caption above, I am not contesting that.


Some years ago, George Gallup, Member, Advertising Hall of Fame, had quoted ” Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted “.


Amidst the acerbic cancel culture that we not so grudgingly seem to have invented, you will find a large number of nay sayers for anything that you ship out be it a book or a post or a product or a service or a suggestion( mind you all these are acts of courage as you brave the risk of rejection)…and unfortunately, they fall into the bracket of conformist criticism, the kind of criticism which tells you that you have no right or business to do what you are doing and you should go back to colouring between the lines or let the sand slip through your fingers. The only thing you do at such times is ‘ do nothing ‘.


The ultimate disappointment would be to reman in a state of impasse for fear of being criticised or rejected. You rather show up and ship out in the quest to move people and enrich their lives.



Criticism is a dream slayer, the speed breaker that comes in the way of your voice, your idea, your product or generosity. That said, not all criticism is unhelpful. If you are able to distill the conformist criticism from the constructive criticism( which comes with the generous intent and suggestion of improving your work or product or solution), you are well on your way.

The (Con)sistency of resentment!


Our load bearing capacity is indeed Machiavellian. Especially when it comes to resentment, anger, envy, jealousy, bitterness. All these come with an adhesive that seems to have more stickiness than is needed. We can choose to lean against it and close the door on new thinking, new possibilities, new optimism and new connections.


One thing you have to doff your hat off to for bitterness and resentment is the consistency that it brings along. It tails you like a shadow, is never-ending, almost impregnable and it will show tenacity and persistence as long as long you want it to. It is the same old, same old, with nothing novel to offer. Impasse and status quo are its pillars.



Bitter can never be better. It is a Con job! Better implies that what we have right now is imperfect. Better requires change, and change is scary. Better might be in the eye of the beholder. Better is an assertion, one that requires not just the confidence to say it, but the optimism to believe that it’s possible.



A Strategic Plan called ” Doing Things “


The justified attribution for the caption of this blog should go to Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher, who once remarked: “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.”


I am not discounting the need for planning here. That said, it does become a kind of rabbit hole where what is sought is the ideal time, the perfect situation, an in-depth analysis and the most conducive environment, before you get around to doing things, which in most cases does not happen because the planning for perfection is never the springboard for getting things done.


If you maintain a journal or a to do task list or your old project reports or business plans and you go back in time and look at them, a feeling of nostalgia does take over for a bit. Some of them are brilliant to say the least. But, when you introspect, you realise that most, if not all, have remained  just on paper and you did not do anything as planned.


Your plans are like dopamine- it energises, excites and gets you invested and moving. That said, they are also like impediments wherein you get mired in the default of what is planned with no room for looking around corners and adapting to new situations or opportunities. Therefore Planning = Shackles ? Well, probably.

The game changers in the world, the ones who made significant dents in the universe, the people who created global brands, movements and organisations were everyday people- college dropouts, frustrated, angry employees, teenage rebels etc. Did they have a hard bound script and a plan in place? No way. What they had was the willingness to listen to the whispers of possibility and the gumption to embrace uncertainty, the chaos of the world. Now that sounds like a plan.


The map is certainly not the territory. And the greatest journeys, discoveries, adventures and inventions are rarely mapped.


So, whats your…plan?


A Forbidden Fruit Called ‘The Hero Trap’


For decades, the over riding three-act structure default in Hollywood movies has followed a pattern of ‘ Set up, Conflict and Resolution  ‘, where the resolution is left completely to the seemingly Herculean abilities of the hero | heroine to resolve, overcome, destroy, make good, vanquish, discover, progress, unearth, overcome, accomplish etc as the situation warrants.


A lot of us suffer from what we call the ‘ Hero Trap ‘- an over reliance on our ability to handle something that becomes infuriatingly urgent which could have easily been avoided had it not been the temptation of the short term hack.


A project gone sideways, the end of a rocky relationship, the loss of a crucial game etc all leads us to think about what happened at the last moment, which is where we miss the wood for the trees. Actually, what is overlooked is what happened in the beginning or the middle, where the patterns could have been picked up, where one could have distilled the signal from the noise, when you had a stronger chance to make things better.

As it is said, New Year resolutions never really work. Though habits and systems do, more often than not. Hacking on the short term is short changing yourselves. Spending time on avoiding that and investing it in solid practices and habits is probably the best work you can do this year and probably the rest of your lives.


That way, we avoid the H(ero)iccups!

Idle Worship!


Yes, this is different from the ‘ idol worship ‘ that we are so used to hearing. Though phonetics will continue to play its part.  And so would ‘ herd mentality ‘ or is it ‘ heard mentality ‘?


I was intrigued by this line from a 2012 New York Times blog quoted by the essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider, providing a memorable self-description ” I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know “. He continues, and I can imagine, reluctantly to add ‘ I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy…every morning my in-box was full of emails asking me to do things that I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve “.


This thinking runs starkly counter to the ‘ hustle and be productive ‘ culture that we are outrageously immersed in.


ESSENTIALism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Sounds blasphemous in this day and age. The art of separating the trivial many from the vital few. A few years ago, I came across this fascinating book and after a gentle outreach and gracious response from Greg McKeown, the author, had me falling for the content Book, Line and Sinker.


There has been always something obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that the moment you stop running for even an instant, you will be flung flat on your face. Arbeit Macht FreiMeaning work sets you free. These words first appeared in an 1873 German novel. And later got adopted by Nazis as a slogan. The mantra of work as freedom or a magical route to happiness has proved incredibly resilient.


A study called “Slack Time and Innovation” shows that even companies like Google, 3M and Wella encourage their workers to be innovative besides their strongly innovation-oriented work environments, by providing slack time. As Paul Graham, Y-Combinator founder, wrote: “Microsoft and Facebook both got started in January. At Harvard that is (or was) Reading Period, when students have no classes to attend because they’re supposed to be studying for finals.”


Many innovative ideas seem to be generated as side projects by employees and students.


Tim Kreider has an explanation- Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as Vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets…it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.


According to award-winning author and innovator Phil McKinney, slack time allows the brain to roam freely, decreases stress, provides an opportunity to refresh, and, ultimately, creates  a better work environment, making people happier and more productive.


How about maintaining a ‘ ledger of slack ‘ ?

Expect unexpected outcomes !


Guaranteed delivery. Within 48 hours or less.


The Amazon Prime culture we live in has made us scapegoats for instant gratification. Blink and you have it. As someone said, instant gratification takes too long.


What you sow or will sow is in your control. Showing up consistently with authenticity and shipping out your work or art for the minimum viable audience that you cater to is in your control. Planting the seeds and letting it grow beneath the invisible surface is in your control. And the rewards that you end up seeing, a lot of times unexpectedly, makes it all the more worth it. Yes, they may not happen overnight or in an instant, but this kind of magic happens all the time.


This runs counter to the Amazon Prime culture that we live in. We crave quick, tangible results, delivered right to our doorsteps in 2 days or less. But the ground reality hums a different tune. And most certainly it is not linear to be given a cause and effect label. It is mostly chaotic. And a lot of times invisible. The silent, diligent work you do, the relationships we establish, without any expectation of outcome or returns, the value we provide seamlessly often are the triggers for the defining moments that we get to gratefully encounter much later.


Sowing the seeds without the expectation or the understanding of when, how and if they will sprout is an endeavor worth investing in. Trust the dynamics, the slow, invisible growth that are happening below the surface. In doing so, you open yourself up to the magic of unexpected outcomes. The pleasant surprises that silent followers and admirers bring in. And the significant impacts that you never saw coming.

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”- Brian Tracy

Celebrity Branding and The Creativity Drought: An Appalling Trade Off!


Before anything else, here are some staggering mind numbing stats:-


In 2022, BCCI sold the IPL broadcast rights to Disney owned Star India for five years at Rs 48,390 crore, at triple the value that it sold in 2017( Rs 16,347 crore for 5 years).  Reliance-backed Viacom18 bagged the tournament’s digital rights for Rs 23,758 crore, and is airing it for free on JioCinema – a move that experts have seen as a way to get more viewers to its platform before it can start charging them.


According to media planners, Star’s ad rates for IPL 2024 remain in the range of Rs 17 lakh – Rs 18 lakh per 10 seconds for both standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) channels. The standard inventory price for IPL 2024 Video Ads on Jio Cinema is INR 200 per thousand impressions. The minimum billing for the video ads is INR 5 lakhs.


We are well and truly into the unabashed frenzy that the IPL( Indian Premier League) season brings on in India.


That said, this rant is not about the colossal amounts being invested into live cricket played in India. It is more about those stakeholders( read brands and advertisers) who these rights acquiring broadcasters and streamers hope will underwrite their investments by pumping in sponsorships and advertising money. That they are doing exactly as envisaged is unquestionable though what is questionable is the audacity of the brand owners and creators to take the audience’s common sense for granted.


To begin with the brutal obsession with having celebrities to endorse a brand is mighty conspicuous. Here are a few that sticks out (puts you off is more like it) for their brazen audacity to be below mediocre.


The Pan Masala brands are having a field day. Pan India I reckon. That they make every nook and corner of the country welcoming fields of spittoons is a different matter. Certainly not waving the flag for Swachh Bharat Mission.


Let me begin with brand Vimal Elaichi. Earlier the brand believed in Three’s Company when it came to celebrity endorsement: SRK, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. They get off their vehicles only to casually echo ” bolon Zubaan Kesri “. And go of. Oh, to have the luxury of time. Inspired by freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak I guess. Now they believe that it takes two to tango. Leaving SRK and Ajay Devgn to do the (dis)honors and battle it eye to eye amid badly morphed body double with a hoodie. Not to mention the low res stock shots of the London Bridge to convey the brand’s attempted association with ‘ sophistication‘. And the frequency of the ads lead you to believe that it’s Only Vimal, to borrow an earlier campaign strap line from the yesteryear Reliance’ fabric brand called Vimal. Vimal E Lie Chi!


Sometime back we had to tolerate both Big B and Ranveer Singh mouthing the goodness of Kamla Pasand Pan Masala while gyrating( their version of badly choreographed dancing as they send out ‘generational messaging‘) out of tune. Now it is a bunch of ex-cricketers( some of whom like the conveniently altruistic Sunil Gavaskar, apart from Kapil Dev, Chris Gayle, Virender Sehwag) batting for the brand for a few dollars more. As I say this, I am also quite keen to know which is the studio that does this brand’s pathetic VFX, especially when the much touted pearls of garbage are willingly solicited into the palette from the terribly designed pack. Kamla Na Pasand should be more like it. (But then, when current day cricketers are blatantly encouraging online betting in the My 11 Circle ads, the past is taking a cue from the present and cue not I mean why not?).


To show uber premium and luxury, I just realised( some of these ads are so educational I tell you) we need to show a few horses casually striding across a hillock for their morning stroll, a master( Hrithik Roshan) in triple breasted suit under harsh sunlight with expression actually giving away his ” what the hell am I doing in this ad “, (other than making a big sum of money) and Siggnature spelt with 2g’s(in these days of 5G and beyond). Every time I see this ad, my Dil goes Bagh from here. Then I remembered it’s a premium product from Dilbagh Group. So, it does make (no)sense.


Hrithik also hams his way through the Mountain Dew ad and the viewer is left with no clue as to what he is doing and who, why and how is he saving his friend, so terrible is the creative execution. My fear remains solidly intact even though it is told that ‘ dar ke aage jeet hain ‘.


Some guys come with strings attached. Not sure if the pun is intended or not. Well, I don’t care. An actor whom I like Saif Ali Khan, strums the guitar for a few seconds, claps to himself in appreciation( the audience couldn’t care less you see) and presto you are a Raj Niwas Elaichi brand ambassador. Easy does it. Sorry, I forgot to mention- there are the ubiquitous dancers in the background doing their usual floor test too. ” Soch Jo Kare Raj? “- Mein tho soch mein pad gaya! Time for our country to go ” Soch Bharat? ”


I am sorry I am breaking the pecking order here a bit but this ad comes in purely on utter demerit. Wild Card entry if you will. And I am totally tamed to include it. I saw it last night. This was for the Real brand of juices where Kareena Kapoor is sashaying across the kitchen badly lip syncing a terribly composed jingle. The horror doesn’t end there. She opens a refrigerator which has only Real juices stocked top to bottom, end to end. I am sure that, the same home has bespoke refrigerators for all the other things that ordinary mortals like you and me use. I am left wondering ” is this for real?


Now that we are solidly on liquid territory, it’s time to bring in Deepika Padukone and her struggle to advocate for the Bisleri brand. And the audience is supposed to #DrinkItUp. And why? Because she is wearing an outfit that will reinvent the concept of pixel. What else can be the motive? Bling put to shame exponentially.


I was caught up in Envy when I saw  the ad of Shahrukh endorsing Denver. I almost went and bought one thinking that it could be the Scent of My Success as well. Then gave up. Sent the thought packing back. But there is a message in the bottle( or aerosol can) here- for all the aspiring Bollywood bound hunks- you know what to pray sorry spray if you are seeking success.


If you want to distill staleness from freshness, look no further than the Kartik Aryan endorsed Dabur Red Bae Fresh Gel. I am sure he himself is clueless as to why he is blowing a flying CGI kiss to the audience holding onto the toothpaste pack. I am sure I am not the only one seeing red here.


There are many more ads that can effortlessly stake dubious claim to be on this demerit list, but I am sparing the effort. And to think that all these ads would be created by agencies and brands who I am certain have incredibly talented people in their midst, beats the hell out of me. If this is a contagion, we need to quickly create a vaccine to stem the rot.


I am not getting into what might seem like a moral science discourse on how these celebrities unabashedly peddle tobacco, betting, alcohol and what have you. The very same select few whom millions look up to. I reckon when it comes to big bucks, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere.


Sum summarum, my conclusion is that the bigger the star doing celebrity endorsements, greater the level of abysmal creativity and mediocrity. Thoughts?


End of rant! Socho, kitni badi baat hain!


BTW, all these ads are being experienced in between the ‘ expert commentary ‘ mouthed by self anointed experts like Murali Kartik, Deep Das Gupta, Anjum Chopra and the likes. Mediocrity is indeed infectious.