At the start of my career, I was short-tempered. I’d lose my cool several times each day, so I’d look to my father who always had unlimited patience. I was in awe of his attitude and wondered where it had come from. I can only think of two occasions when I saw him losing his cool.
Seeing the value of patience, I decided to make a change and learn from my father. I went from having an outburst twice a day, to twice a month and now I’ll only lose my patience twice a year. I may have only achieved 10% of the patience he had, but I still consider it worth the effort — it’s helped me immensely both at work and in my personal life.
The first thing I observed in my father was his ability to mind his own business at all times. I never saw him interfere in the lives of others and this may have enabled him to keep his cool under all circumstances. We tend to lose our patience when we get involved. Impatience is simply a way of reacting to a situation that we cannot accept. There is no need to react if you do not get impacted by others’ incidents. In all our family matters, I never saw him talk about others or interfere in their affairs.
As a state employee, my father served in the telecommunications wing of the central government for over than three-and-a-half decades. He was a self-made man, working hard day in and night out. He taught me to always be on time for work and never make anyone wait. I learned that being organized means there’s little scope for losing your cool over things.
It’s easier to keep talking than to listen. But when you listen properly, you have the time to assimilate, understand a different viewpoint, and react more calmly. As a man of few words, my father exemplified this philosophy — and he was always a great listener. It makes for less impatience and more maturity in our interactions.
After his retirement from service and after my mother’s death, my father did not depend on anyone for his living. He cooked his own food, did his own shopping and maintained the house and the garden with his own hands. This meant he did not depend on others, and so did not lose his cool when others didn’t deliver.
Something that always struck me was my father’s ability to share happiness with others and keep sorrow to himself. I never saw him cribbing about anything, and I’m yet to meet anyone in my family who was not in awe of my father and his patience. His patience was like the endless water of the sea and I’m like a bird flying across to feel it.
Ramesh Shankar is Executive Vice President & Head of HR, South Asia at Siemens. He’s worked in HR for 36 years, and in his spare time he likes to write philosophical reflections on life and people on his blog, as well as in his self-published books. He lives in Mumbai, India. Learn more about working with Siemens.
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