It was 9 PM when the phone rang.
"Hi daddy", I said, wassup?
"Where are you darling?"
"Still in the office dad. Came in at 7 this morning and still got stuff to wrap up."
I heard a split second hesitation, and then the words, which ring in my ears even today, 22 years later...
Dad was a Tata man through and through. Worked with the company for over 30 years and legend has it that all TAS (Tata Administrative Service) personnel were sent to him as part of their final internship - if you survived Jal Master, you were ready for the battles ahead. So went the folklore. I know that IIM-B students looked forward to his guest lecture visits there - he brought insights straight from the markets to the classroom.
There was an element of truth in what he had said, I had to grudgingly admit. But I found it difficult to break away from the cycle I had created for myself. It had been 5 years and I hadn't taken a day off - except when I had the measles.
It's Hard to Break That Cycle You've Created
Ten years after that phone call, things hadn't changed much. Except now, I was the boss. And I made sure of one thing - I expected people to come in on time and I expected them to finish their work and leave at a decent hour. Everyone except myself.
I thought I needed to be on call seven days a week and because a large part of my media career was managing news channels, I was, for the most part, on call 24 hours a day.
Come home...He's Not Looking Good
Until the day my mother called. "He's not looking good," she said. "Come home." I was Senior VP at National Geographic Channel at that time, and I'd already given in my papers and agreed on a 6-month notice period. My replacement had been hired, it was the handover period. I asked my boss to let me go a month earlier. He agreed without hesitation. I spent 4 months at home with my dying father - trying to make up for all those days, months, years I had had "no time" to go home. And I learnt four key lessons in those four months:
1. You're Not That Important
Don't be afraid to take those 21 days of holidays that is your due. No one is that important. The skies will still hold and you'll be surprised how little has changed when you return. Same shit, different day - as the media adage goes.
2. Be The Best You Can Be
If you're good at what you do, no one dares to hang around waiting to take your place. So just be bloody good at what you do.
3. Build A Good Team
Focus on building a good team around you - one that is able to function without you around. While heading STAR TV Ops, I was once told by a colleague: "You're making a mistake teaching your assistants everything you know. They'll just replace you someday, and at a lesser salary." If you're afraid that your organization will replace your decades of experience with a tyro just learning the tricks, you need to quit in any case.
4. You're Not Indispensable
No one's indispensable. No one. Not even you. The organization will find someone to fill in your shoes. Perhaps they will need two or three people to manage what you did single-handedly (think about that for just a minute), but you WILL be replaced, AND soon.
Conquer Your FOMO
Of course you have "no time". You have to "make time." For yourself, for your family, for your soul. Stop saying "I wish I could come on that trek with you." Actually, you can. It's just that, you won't. What's really holding you back? Fear? Of what? Of losing your job? Of not being missed at that man-com meeting? Of not getting that project you were hankering for? Conquer that fear.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Step out into the high mountains, with just your trusty feet powering you on and intermittent mobile signals. And you will realize that there's a whole world out there. A world beyond the four walls of your cabin, in that towering building overlooking nothing, on that 14th floor where you can't even open the windows. And that's when your soul will thank you, for taking the time - to make time.
Dilshad is an inspirational speaker and is invited by corporates and institutions to speaks on topics closest to her heart. Being a cancer survivor, her talks focus on doing what you always thought was "impossible" and turning that into "I'm possible" (with due credit to the great Audrey Hepburn!)